If I’m being honest, I sort of backed into my appreciation for the New York Dolls. Obviously, by the time I’d first laid ears on them, they were already ancient history, relatively speaking, but still a major influence on everyone from the Sex Pistols through my then-beloved KISS. I believe it was my grade school pal Brad who first played me some tracks by them during the same summer he was helping doggedly indoctrinate me into the faith of punk (and pointedly away from the yawnsome likes of Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, et al.) I certainly dug “Personality Crisis,” “Trash” and the like, but found the other platters Brad was spinning by British punk bands (ironically all `Dolls acolytes) to be far more exciting. To my ears, the New York Dolls just kinda sounded like sloppy hair metal.
Of course, there wouldn’t have been a hair metal without the New York Dolls. From a historical perspective, it’s striking to survey how the New York Dolls went on to crucially influence entire genres of music that initially had nothing but antipathy for each other. I mean, think about it — both The Smiths and Motley Crue cite the New York Dolls as a major touchstone, but can you name two bands more at odds with each other in virtually every possible capacity?
Anyway, I believe it was “Chatterbox” from In Too Much, Too Soon that thoroughly won me over. For my money, that’s still their finest hour.
In any case, I’ve always been a massive fan of the photograph Bob Gruen snapped of the band up top. That’s David, Johnny, Syl and the rest of the boys hanging off a VW Beetle dressed as gangsters — as ya do, I guess — tearing east on 14th Street with guns blazing. The plot of real estate they’re pictured in front of, incidentally, is now the south-facing facade of the noxious Zeckendorf Towers.
With this shot in mind, I was pleased to find this documentary Noisey’s Found Tapes put together of Bob Gruen’s comparatively primitive and crazy rare video footage of the New York Dolls. Even if you’re not a fan of the band (give’em a chance — you will warm to them), these films are worth it for the vintage shots of NYC alone.
Crank it up.