They did it. They were glamorous. They were, are, the New York Dolls.
Formed in 1971, and after a break-up period, are still going strong today. Decidedly American,the band was "protopunk" and a harbinger of what was to come... the punk era. They painted a new picture. Straight men, out of New York, wearing dresses and high heels. Girls still wanted to f*ck them. They fascinated their audience and the press. Johnny Thunders, however, he wasn't wearing no dress, thank you very much. Though his hair and makeup did make him look a bit like "Glam, Italian, Junkie Barbie".
The original lineup was David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets, soon to be replaced by Sylvain Sylvain, bass player Arthur "Killer" Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. Their first gig? A homeless shelter, Christmas Eve 1971. That very night a new style was starting to inspire audiences and musicians alike and the punk era was being ushered in, unbeknownst to anyone. So said rock critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, "doesn't really sound like anything that came before it. It's hard rock with a self-conscious wit, a celebration of camp and kitsch that retains a menacing, malevolent edge," (The Rolling Stones meets the Shangri-las?). And so was their fashion, from 1940's dresses to spandex, the Dolls had edge-o-plenty.
Their first big break was when hipster Rod Stewart invited them to open for him in London. After a gig in the glam rock capital of the world, Billy Murcia died of an accidental drowning under the influence of drugs and booze. Sex, drugs and rock and roll has it's price. He was replaced by the impeccable Jerry Nolan.
A sensation in London, the Dolls were victims of the glamphobic USA (a style to which we have now warmed up to, thanks to David, Johnny, Arthur, Sylvain and Jerry). My continued claim that edgy fashion is a fear of most Americans, was, in the early 70's, an understatement. To say that men in tight shiny pants, halter tops and high heels were received graciously, outside of fashion circles, rock and roll and the big cities is, again, an understatement. Picture David Johansen, in his girlfriend's dress at a truck stop in Central Florida in 1973? Pretty scary. We can thank the Dolls for pioneering style and pushing limits that needed to be pushed.
Hey, thanks, guys!!!