:: The New York Dolls :: Gothic Theatre :: February 26 ::
By Tiffany Childs
It’s been said that New York Dolls are ‘The Beatles of Attitude.’ With their androgynous looks and ever-famous lipstick-scrawled name, New York Dolls breezed into the music scene more than 37 years ago. And even though they broke up 33 years ago in “a haze of smack withdrawal and managerial anarchy,” it turns out they never really left us.
As a band in the ’70s, New York Dolls didn’t really get a whole lot of appreciation. They seemed to come a little too early for what they were doing. However, today, the list of bands influenced by the Dolls’ brand of strutting rock and roll attitude covers everyone from The Sex Pistols to Guns N’ Roses. Recently The Marquee spoke with one of the only two original members still alive – front man David Johansen – about the long love affair our music world has had with New York Dolls.
“It sort of makes me chuckle that hair metal bands and punk rockers think of us as their inspiration,” Johansen said. “We think of our music as akin to folk art. You know, where people make things because they want it and not for a market? A lot of bands see something that worked and then try to copy it. That just makes music seem like a desk job to me because you don’t have a personal relationship to it.”
Folk art may seem a funny way to classify the Dolls, but coming from what was a veritable hotbed of creativity in the Seventies, the East Village, certainly makes their point valid. “The music in our day was lots of solos — drum solos, guitar solos, bass solos. We just thought it should be concise. And since there wasn’t an alternative to that, we created one,” he said.
It was really just that simple and the group’s outrageous glam looks were natural as well. “We all already looked like this. We had it in common and that’s why we were drawn together,” Johansen said.
The music came from their varied inspirations. “We took music from all over the place, put it together and that is just what came out,” Johansen said. It sounds like a relatively painless process considering New York Dolls were creating a whole new genre of music. But Johansen was quick to correct me. “It was like a battle to make music 30 years ago. There wasn’t any place to play. So, you know, we had to cut down the trees, clear the fields and set up the stage before we could even get in front of an audience. Now it’s all set up already and you just have to show up,” he said.
Just as the music world has changed over the years so have the Dolls. Although they had a “reunion” in 2004, released a new album titled One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, and continue to tour, only two of the original five members are alive. But, that doesn’t seem to affect the group negatively, according to Johansen. “As a person, you’re constantly evolving anyway, so it doesn’t matter if the members stay the same or not. At the end of the day you’ll all be different people than you were yesterday. With the group now, everyone already knows what they’re doing so we can just let things happen naturally, rather than try to steer it. In the band there isn’t really a driver. We’re all hitchhikers on the trip this time,” he said.
It just so happens that these particular hitchhikers have been traveling all over the world recently and part of the spoils of those trips is a live album, Live At The FIllmore East, that is scheduled for release soon. “The album is sort of a documentation of where we are right now. We just did this live show that sounded really great and decided to release the material,” said Johansen.
As for any new material in the works, Johansen tells us there is a vague plan to make another album. “Music is always percolating in our heads, but it doesn’t come out until it’s extracted. It isn’t laziness really, more of trepidation. It’s like starting a whole new life when you release a new record. You’re thinking, ‘I’m already living the greatest life possible. How can I change it?’ But, then you make the new music and you realize this life is actually better than the last one,” he said.
Whether they see it as better or worse, one thing is certain, the high energy and fierceness of a live New York Dolls show is something that is just as fun, anarchic and sleazy to watch today as it was 30 years ago. Perhaps most of that reason is that the Dolls always had plenty of personality infused in their shows and still do. As Johansen said, “Most of the time we come off the stage going, ‘That was f’ing great!’” And the fact is, usually it is.
:: The New York Dolls :: Gothic Theatre ::
:: February 26 ::
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