Every July a festival of medieval music is celebrated at the site of the ruins of Bauska Castle, located on the outskirts of the Latvian city of Bauska. Imagine the castle in full glory, music being played on lutes and recorders and dances being choreographed to the sound of the instrumental music. Now, put the New York Dolls on the stage in their trademark full girlie dress, rocking out on somehow self-amplified electric instruments, being branded as sure heretics in medieval society. A humerous anachronism, right?
While my list of 60’s bands remains at home this new category will work to replace it temporarily. The point of it is simple. I will profile a band of my choice for your reading and listening pleasure. Hopefully, I will start to dig deep into some unknown bands so you can get a good grip on a lot of different types of music. So, imagine you are at Bauska Castle, dressed in medieval garb expecting to hear some good, mellow, medieval music, and, instead, are introduced into the world of different music and artists. In this case, keeping with the theme of Halloween, it is The New York Dolls.
Glam Rock is an interesting genre of music that focused on the performance, more than the music. Long hair, lipstick, face-paint are trademarks and theatrical performances, like those seen from Arthur Brown, are musts. The New York Dolls do not get enough credit from the music world. They were glam-metal/punk and this style of dress and music was a huge inspiration for those who followed them, including, Kiss, Blondie, The Ramones, The Clash, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper; need I say more. Bands like them and performers like Marc Bolan and Arthur Brown were huge inspirations on this odd musical movement and the sounds that came from it.
The Dolls original formation is quite interesting and I have a great fun fact for you. The band’s original line-up consisted of singer David Johansen, guitiarists Rick Rivets, who was replaced by Sylvian Sylvian (Mizrahi) after a few months, and Johnny Thunders, bass guitarist Arthur Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. There first ever performance occured at the Endicott Hotel which is between 81st and 82nd St. on Columbus Avenue, New York City’s west side. Around Christmastime 1971, workers at the hotel were organizing a party for the residents when they heard the Dolls jamming across the street and asked if they’d play in exchange for free food. The Dolls said yes and the band started.
You can hear some elements of the rhythm and blues of the Rolling Stones combined with the dual-influence of classic American girl-group bands and the post-psychedelic anarchic bands like the Stooges, as well as glam-rocker original Marc Bolan. Sound like a weird combination. It is, yet, sometimes things like this turn out to sound good. The Dolls were lucky enough to be skilled and ended up creating this odd harmony of hard rock/punk that people did not know what to think of. The guitar was slashing, Johansen’s voice was okay. In 1973 a Creem Magazine poll declared them the best and the worst band of the year, yet, they still toured successfully, and, even though critics disliked them they are now looked at as one of the original punk rock bands. Funny how opinions can change over time.
Here is another fun fact. Do you know who produced their first album? Todd Rundgren, former Nazz guitarist and promoter of his style of wierd power-pop solo work.
So, check out the Dolls and enjoy their interesting music this Halloween. I will be visiting my brother and parents in Cornell this weekend and will be back to the blogosphere on Monday, but, for the time being you will most definitely see a visual music tomorrow, and, who knows, maybe it will be Halloween themed.