Friday, April 27, 2012

213 New York Dolls- The Missing Link

Album: The New York Dolls
Artist: The New York Dolls
Year: 1973
Genre: Rock

  1. Personality Crisis
  2. Looking for a Kiss
  3. Vietnamese Baby
  4. Lonely Planet Boy
  5. Frankenstein (Orig.)
  6. Trash
  7. Bad Girl
  8. Subway Train
  9. Pills
  10. Private World
  11. Jet Boy 

If you're going to trace the evolution (or atrophy, depending on your perspective) of Rock and Roll it seems like there's a big leap from The Rolling Stones and bands like them to The Sex Pistols and punk in general. There's a gulf of some kind between Jagger/Richards and Rotten/Vicious. The missing link that helps connect the two bands is a concept known as protopunk as performed by artists including The New York Dolls.

The Dolls aren't a punk band but they're a step in a punk direction mainly through their vocal stylings which are best described as "enthusiastic". The Dolls realised that attitude was as important as musicianship when it came to expounding lyrics and if you couldn't hit all the right notes with something approaching an acceptable tone, it was fine to approximate them with the right level of commitment.

Consequently the vocals on The New York Dolls are genuinely and truly awful. That's not to say they're bad they're just not polished or honed in any way. Some singers enter a studio after "warming up their instrument" for a while by singing "me me me me" a lot and performing other vocal gymnastics, David Johanson just wanders up to the mic and yells a bit. They're punk vocals sitting on top of a band performing some fairly standard rock and roll. It wasn't a huge step for a band like The Sex Pistols to realise that if the New York Dolls could get away with vocals that were amateurish the rest of the band could pull off the same trick as well.

The New York Dolls broke up (all punk and protopunk bands do) which presents the question: what does the lead singer of a protopunk band do when forced to forge a solo career? Amazingly David Johansen reinvented himself completely as Buster Poindexter, a tuxedo wearing, martini sipping, lounge singer who is best remembered for bringing bringing Hot Hot Hot! to the world in 1987 (You know the song, it goes "something something something, something something something feeling hot hot hot! something something something something something something feeling hot hot hot! etc etc). Whether or not you hate that song (or The New York Dolls) there's no denying Johansen is a natural frontman.

If you can overlook the vocal stylings, The New York Dolls are a logical missing link between rock and punk (and a completely illogical link between rock and latin-tinged, eighties, dance anthems). Personally I don't think Rock needed Punk so any steps in that direction were wrong ones. I much prefer to step back into full Stones territory.

Highlight: Lonely Planet Boy
Lowlight: Pills

Influenced by: The Stones
Influenced: Punk

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "THIS IS NOT PUNK. The Dolls were a very good glam METAL band. So many people think that this is punk and that The Stooges are punk. The first punk rock band in America was The Ramones."

-Contentious statement. I think that argument is still raging unresolved.

So do you like to play with Dolls? Let me know below.

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