Jun 302009

It’s a provocative statement. I know. Fact is I like about 1/2 of that first album. But I’m calling Bullshit On The New York Dolls‘ legendary status.

Let’s face it. The Dolls were a product of a place and time and heavy shtick. And ya know what, I dig the shtick but when all is said and done, the music is moderately interesting at best.

Rolling Stone called “Personality Crisis” the 267th best rock song of all time. Really?! Granted this was 2006 and doesn’t include anything the Raconteurs did but…

K-Mart Stones in drag, man. And yeah that’s cool but c’mon, legendary? Bullshit.

Here’s the greatest thing The Dolls ever did:

I’m not talking about the album, I’m talking about the image on the cover. I maintain that without this cover, The New York Dolls would not have attained legendary status. And though this doesn’t have the balls, it did come 2-3 year before.

What say you?


  27 Responses to “Bullshit On: The New York Dolls”

  1. I love precisely four Dolls songs: “Personality Crisis,” “Trash,” “Frankenstein,” and “Looking for a Kiss.” Everything else I find simply unnecessary.

    It doesn’t help that they were one of those bands Rundgren just didn’t understand as a producer. But, on the basis of the first album, I like the idea of them better than the actuality. All the makeup and dresses in the world doesn’t change that they sound kinda tame on that album. At least the Stooges got to make Funhouse, an album where they sound just as unhinged as their reputation suggested.

  2. One more thing: I think for bands like the Dolls, you had to be there. They’re definitely important. They just haven’t aged well.

  3. I think that the NY Dolls concept was great but the execution was ho-hum.

    I’m with you Sammy about their image being the best part of their legacy, although I would argue that the picture of the band where Johnny Thunders is kneeling/nodding off and he’s wearing those toy cowboy pistols is even better than the one you posted.

    I would trim the fat from Oats’ playlist by getting rid of Looking for a Kiss and Frankenstein. That said, I really like Personality Crisis and Trash a lot.

  4. sammymaudlin

    I like the idea of them better than the actuality.

    Precisely. The idea of them over promises and under delivers.

    They get a lot of cred for being “proto punk” and I can kinda hear that and the irreverent drag helps but I don’t really hear anything that the Stooges didn’t do better (in spirit) or The Flamin’ Groovies (in sound) weren’t doing years before.

  5. BigSteve

    I’ve always liked the second Dolls album better than the first. I bought the second one on a whim when I saw it as a cutout LP, and believe me it was a cutout not long after it was released. It took me a while to learn to like it. I think the covers on it give a clearer picture of where they were coming. I didn’t hear the first album until years later, and it’s so weirdly recorded I still don’t like it much. Shadow Morton’s production of Too Much To Soon is clear and punchy. I wish the songs on the debut sounded that good.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    All I know about the New York Dolls is based on one of their recent “comeback tour” gigs, and they stunk.

    And if shit like *this* ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct9aBySJkRQ ) is why I’m supposed to like the original, “classic” Dolls, I still don’t get it. I, too, call BULLSHIT on the New York Dolls!

  7. Sammy, thanks for reminding me how much I love that first album. It’s not perfect, production-wise, but most of the tunes have power and groove along with attitude and moodiness. A real winner for sure, and I appreciate you reminding me of it.

    I agree with you that the second album is more hit-and-miss, but as you say, it has some fine tunes as well, especially, as you point out, Puss N Boots and Chatterbox, a song which you’re right to suggest really does show Thunders about to break free of the band. It’s true though that the production on that album is a problem also, and “Stranded In The Jungle” comes across as bit too Rocky Horror.

    And bakshi, you’re right too–amazing how well the comeback tour worked, given that most of the band’s key members are dead. Those rotting mofos really do bring it. Okay, sure, they’re going to be blown away by the Michael Jackson reunion tour that’s on the way, but he’s one a kind.

  8. Job well done, Sammy!

    I thought they sucked way back when, and since they’ve gotten back together, they suck even more. Take the whole catalog and put it out on the curb. Nothing lost whatsoever.

    Hope all is well. I’m just dicking around, cleaning records, which is fun because it’s one of the few times during the week that I actually listen to music. I listened to an old Yardbirds LP today, “For Your Love”, and know that it was an absolute joy to hear “I’m Not Talking” once again. What a fucking powerhouse of a track! Few cuts have a guitar sound as great as that!

    Talk to ya soon,
    E. Pluribus

  9. sammymaudlin

    Do we have a consensus of sorts here? No one willing to go to bat for the legendary New York Dolls?

  10. 2000 Man

    No. I’ll go to bat for them. I really like that first album, and if Jetboy doesn’t rock your roll, then phooey on you. So what if it’s sloppy and a bunch of artistes thought they were cool? That kind of sloppy noise fits right in around here, where the earth and stuff on it are brown and the sky is always grey. I’m glad they played them all the time here in Cleveland when our radio stations were good. They fit right in with The Dead Boys and Rocket From the Tombs.

    Their “reunion” sucked balls, but not as many balls as The Stooges reunion sucked.

  11. That’s right, 2000.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    Although the transvestite schtick did wonders for the New York Dolls among those with less-discriminating tastes, I think it hurts how high-brow types like ourselves now hear the band. Take off those stupid clothes and the makeup and that first album is a fine, dumbass, poor man’s Stones album – easily as good as anything by The Flamin’ Groovies and better than 10,000 garage-rock albums that have been released since 1983. They’ve got enough panache and enough loose ends on the debut album to make it work.

    This is not to say that either band is great or lousy, but that both bands (New York Dolls and Flamin’ Groovies) had some energy and balls. I also like the fact that they made it happen with some severely limited musicianship. I’ll stand up for that first album, but I’ll stop short of OVERrating it, as has been done by all the tightasses who feel liberated by seeing David Johanssen in fishnets. Did those same tightasses get stoked by Buster Poindexter or his Folk Historian schtick? Again, this is a band whose Look ultimately works against their humble charms. The second album, by the way, isn’t horrible either, but whoever made the Rocky Horror Picture Show comparison was right on!

  13. BigSteve

    I don’t think it’s true that the Dolls weren’t doing anything not already done by the Stooges or the Groovies. I think they had a completely different sensibility, a different sense of humor for example. There’s an early 60s/girl group thing there that the other bands didn’t have, noit to mention the whole glam/genderfuck thing.

    I also think they’re a band that’s hard to judge in hindsight, because they were so ahead of their time and their influence went underground and viral to an extent that it’s hard to see what the music that followed, sometimes years later, would look like without them.

    At the time they seemed to have come from another planet, but subsequent bands took little pieces of their sensibility to the bank over and over.

  14. all style no substance but that’s ok its rock and roll. musically, i could care less about them, but from a standpoint of fashion, attitude and depicting what a preverse monster NYC was in the 70’s, i think they are a solid success. their music just isn’t that good.
    based on interviews in 2 documentaries i’ve seen, Dee Dee Ramone obviously idolized Johnny Thunders, and it doesn’t make any sense. Dee Dee wrote dozens of awesome songs, and The only Johnny Thunders song your average punk can name is Chinese Rocks, which was written by Dee Dee Ramone.

  15. saturnismine

    rth piling on another indie / hipster / post-punker sacred cow?

    gee, what a shocker.

    thanks to BigSteve, Mod, 2k and Mwall for adding an even handed point of view.

    of course the dolls weren’t the stooges or the stones. but they had a pretty funny shtick, and they uncorked a heavy handful of TRULY GREAT rock and roll songs (named above a few times), which is more than I can say for lots of the acts you guys repeatedly laud and analyze with great interest, as if their work is as important as “leaves of grass.”

  16. sammymaudlin

    The pro-Dolls team finally shows up. I think a Dolls vs. Groovies showdown is apt and any single Groovies album released before The Dolls has more great songs than all of the Dolls output for all time. Says me.

  17. BigSteve

    You know, I haven’t heard them in years, but I’ve got to say that the pre-Slow Death Groovies albums always left me cold. I just didn’t get it at all. And this is coming from someone who thinks Teenage Head and Shake Some Action are absolutely essential.

    Also I thought I’d mention that I recently replaced my copy of the first self-titled David Johansen record. The production is very much of its time (1978), a polished hard rock sound with a bit too much guitar wankery — the influence of Rock & Roll Animal in a studio setting I think — but it’s got some really good songs on it. Johansen kind of lost his way after that.

  18. That Johnny Thunders version of Chinese Rocks is one of the strongest anti-drug messages I’ve ever heard. It’s not the lyrics but the fact that the beat in the chorus drags like… well, like it’s being played by a bunch of junkies who are so far gone that they’re no longer in possession of whatever modest skills they once had.

  19. pudman13

    I say you’re completely loony. The two original Dolls albums are about the most exciting and enjoyable straight-ahead rock and roll albums ever made by anyone, and encapsulate all of rock and roll history, from the 50s to girl groups to the Stones to heavy metal to punk. After seeing a few of you completely misunderstand them here, I’m not sure I can ever trust your taste again. So there. And the reunion albums are great too.

    The real problem is thunders and Nolan and the druggie glorification. Foo on that, but the music stands up ragardless.

  20. I always got the feeling that you had to be there (and I was not)I give them credit for “influence” more than “meat”

  21. I think the Dolls had a sort of “kill your idols” attitude about the Stones, which I admire.

    Production on the first record kind of dulls the edge of their sound, but I love the guitar riffs they developed.

  22. In the words of the great & powerful Mr. Moderator, “Fuck You!”. They were a great band. I listen to their music regularly (without quibbling over the production deficits). The drag thing was NOT coming from any Bowie-type “gender bending” or “Rocky Horror” angle. It was a goof, by a bunch of wise-ass NY kids ( though it DID help ’em get laid). The songs are fun & they rock (& roll). 1/2 of what they did was triumph somewhat forgotten (at the time, & without the usual white-boy, scholarly preciousness & lack of humor)R&B, Girl Group, & Blues music.

    All this “sacred cow” slaughter could be better aimed at people who actually ARE sacred cows to the world at large, & not bands that most STILL don’t know, & who never saw much in the way of compensation at the time for their efforts.
    I’m taking back my final caveat in that old “Why The Beatles Sucked” thread. Now, I say FUCK THE BEATLES! They did suck! AND they pulled off the biggest Rock & Roll Swindle of them all: convincing people (including themselves, in at least two cases) that they were geniuses. Fuck ’em! I listen the The Dolls & The Groovies WAY more than I listen to The Beatles now. Or XTC. Or Elvis Costello.

    Wanna talk gimmicky? What about The Fabs’ haircuts & suits? The “cute” little movies built around them? Ehhh, what’s the use? Everyone has already drank Big Gulp sized helpings of that Cool Aid.

    And I don’t begrudge The NY Dolls, The Sex Pistols, or The Stooges for their “reunions” either. They got fuck all when they 1st did what they did, why not get paid for some of their past efforts when the opportunity arises? As if most musical performers don’t do what they do primarily for the money…Feh! on this thread; seems of as little real substance as some seem to feel towards the music of The New York Dolls. Now, get offa my lawn!!!

  23. pudman13

    Dude, defending the Dolls was cool, but you should have shut up before you mentioned the Beatles.

    I’m with you on the reunions, though.

  24. I’m sorry. I like The Fabs just fine, I just felt like taking my little rant to a ridiculous extreme,though I really don’t hold them, or anyone else, up as a sacred cow. They’ve got plenty of bullshit to answer for themselves.

  25. saturnismine

    atta boy, bobby.

  26. Mr. Moderator

    Did I say that, bobbybittman? 🙂 Killer rant!

  27. jeangray

    What??? We’re not allowed to dis the Beatles around here?????

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