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Who Are The New York Dolls and Why Should You Care?

Unveiling the Iconic Legacy of the New York Dolls: A Glam Rock Revolution

The list of bands influenced by the New York Dolls is extensive. Ramones, Blondie – hell – anyone who performed at CBGB‘s OR Max’s Kansas City during the mid-1970s was most likely in the crowd when the New York Dolls took the stage during the early 1970s . Comprised of members such as David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Slyvain Sylvain, Arthur “Killer” Kane, and Billy Murica (*who was later replaced by Jerry Nolan) – the New York Dolls helped create the foundation of punk ethos due to their unapologetic attitude behind thick lipstick and high heels.

Formation & Debut

Formed in 1971, the New York Dolls quickly gained attention due to their wardrobe and raw sound. Influenced by the local New York art scene, the Dolls would embrace the theatrics dressing in drag while dishing out an energetic sound which contributed to the development of punk rock. Their androgynous and gender-bending aesthetic challenged mainstream norms and inspired a generation of artists to embrace individuality and nonconformity.

The New York Dolls’ self-titled debut album, released in 1973, is a seminal work that combined elements of glam rock, punk, and hard rock. Tracks like “Personality Crisis” and “Trash” embody the band’s rebellious spirit and androgynous image, while “Pills” and “Jet Boy” showcase their high-energy and irreverent attitude. The New York Dolls’ debut album remains a significant and influential work in the history of rock music, known for its confrontational style and non-conformist approach.

New York and Beyond

Now, in New York City specifically, the band’s influence could be felt in the burgeoning underground music scene, where they were revered for their raucous live performances and provocative persona. They inspired a wave of musicians and fans who sought to push boundaries and defy the established norms of the music industry. As a result, the New York Dolls became synonymous with the raw, gritty energy of punk rock, laying the groundwork for the thriving punk scene that would emerge in the city.

The band’s impact was not restricted to New York, as their influence rippled across the global punk rock landscape. Their music and attitude resonated with disaffected youth, inspiring countless individuals to pick up instruments and form their own bands. The legacy of the New York Dolls can be seen in the countless punk rock acts that followed in their wake, carrying forward their spirit of rebellion and authenticity.

Where it All Went Wrong

By 1975, Thunders, Nolan, and Kane all had drug problems, and tensions in the band started to form. Malcolm McLaren, yes the soon-to-be manager of the Sex Pistols, steps in to try and help, encouraging them to dress in red leather outfits on stage in front of a communist flag which went as well as you can expect.

Eventually, in the middle of touring in Florida Jerry and Nolan left the band after an argument and the band eventually broke up until 2004. There is a documentary specifically about this moment when the band got together called New York Doll. One of four I’d recommend to anyone looking to find out more about the New York Dolls.

In the end

Overall, the New York Dolls were pioneers of punk rock whose influence extended far beyond their hometown. Through their music, style, and attitude, they left an indelible mark on the punk rock scene in New York and beyond, shaping the genre in ways that are still felt today. Their fearless embrace of individuality and uncompromising approach to music continue to inspire new generations of musicians and fans, ensuring that the legacy of the New York Dolls remains as vital as ever.

*How Billy Passed

And I would be remorse if I didn’t mention how Jerry Nolan would replace Billy Murica, the first drummer for the New York Dolls. In 1972, and on tour in England, Murica would overdose on heroin. Noticing Murica wasn’t doing well, the people around him tried to help by putting him in a bathtub and force-feeding him coffee which resulted in asphyxiation and his death.

This was before the New York Dolls recorded their first album in 1973.

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