Ahhhhhhh Woooooo! Yeah Yeah Yeah! No no no no no no no no no!
-opening lines of New York Dolls
The New York Dolls won "Best New Group of the Year" in the Creem Magazine Readers Poll . They also won "Worst New Group of the Year". Mercury Records found some middle ground in their Billboard Magazine ad:
"A band you're gonna like, whether you like it or not".
The New York Dolls combined Jagger's swagger with Bowie's omni-sexual wardrobes; 1950's doo-wop with 1960's garage rock; the Velvet Underground's New York City street poetry with the Stooges deliberate amateurism. No wonder only the critics got them when their debut came out in the Summer of 1973. Too bad nobody else did.
Made up of musicians from various New York City boroughs, The New York Dolls took their name from The New York Doll Hospital, which was across the street from the boutique where guitarist Sylvain Sylvain worked. They played at the Mercer Arts Center in Lower Manhattan where they attracted a local glam scene.
Critic Robert Christgau says singer David Johansen's trashy clothes was a big part of the band's appeal:
The man was a thrift shop genius. So ( bassist) Arthur ( Kane), who was tall and ungainly even without his platform shoes, would squeeze his torso into a child's dress or put on a crotch-length hockey jersey over white tights; David would wear a shorty nightgown instead of a shirt, with fishnet stockings showing through the rips in his jeans; Syl would turn into Liza Minelli doing a Charlie Chaplin impression
Rod Stewart hired the band to open his London concert in 1972. Drummer Billy Murcia died after an accidental overdose and was replaced with Jerry Nolan just after the Dolls received a $25,000 two record deal with Mercury Records.
To much of the band's consternation Todd Rundgren was hired to produce the first album.
"Get the glitter out of your asses and play!" Todd would bark from behind the sound board. Johansen later called Rundgren an "expert on second rate rock 'n ' roll". Still, Rundgren did his best to capture the band's live sound and the result is a street-wise rock n romp classic highlighted by "Personality Crisis", "Looking for a Kiss" and "Trash".
40 years later the New York Dolls debut is hailed as one of the most influential albums of all time: "one of the building blocks of the late 70's punk movement"; #213 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list; and Morrissey's all time favorite album.
But will they ever have to answer for Poison?