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New York Dolls Profile -A Brief Biography of the New York Dolls


New York Dolls Profile -A Brief Biography of the New York Dolls

New York Dolls

Photo © Nicole Lucas


New York City, 1971

Original Lineup:

David Johansen - Vocals
Johnny Thunders - Guitar
Rick Rivets* - Guitar
Arthur "Killer" Kane - Bass
Billy Murcia - Drums

*Rivets was replaced by Sylvain Sylvain just a few months after the band's inception, creating the original lineup as it was best known.

Sylvain and Murcia, played together in a band called “the Pox” in the late '60s. After the band broke up, the pair started a clothing business near the New York Doll Hospital - which would spawn the name for the future band. In 1970 they formed the Dolls, with Thunders on bass. When Sylvain left, Murcia and Thunders created the New York Dolls.

The Sound of the New York Dolls:

The New York Dolls created a sound out that an amalgam of everything they'd grown up with (like vintage R&B, blues, soul and girl group music) and everything that was happening around them, including the early punk sounds of the Stooges and link url=http://punkmusic.about.com/od/mc5/p/mc5.htm]MC5, glam rock and British Invasion rock and roll.

With the fury of Thunders on guitar and Johansen's wit and charisma as a frontman, the band was a force to be reckoned with, getting an early break when Rod Stewart asked them to open for him in London.

Albums and Malcolm McClaren:

Shortly into the band's early success, Murcia died at 21 of suffocation after passing out from drugs and alcohol.

Murcia was replaced by Jerry Nolan, and the band recorded their 1973 self-titled album and 1974's Too Much Too Soon, shortly after which Mercury dropped the band.

Dealing with drug abuse and watching their careers dry up, the band recruited Malcolm McClaren as their manager. McClaren dressed the band in red leather and had them play in front of Communist flags, trying the sort of stunts that he would later make work for the Sex Pistols. His stunts failed with the Dolls, though, and they soon broke up.

Thunders and Nolan - Post Breakup:

After the breakup of the Dolls, much of the lineup went on to produce more influential music. Thunders and Nolan went on to found the Heartbreakers with bassist Richard Hell (of Television).

After the breakup of the Heartbreakers, Thunders kept recording, making music with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and Wayne Kramer of the MC5.

Thunders died in 1991, of an alleged heroin and methadone overdose, although rumors have persited that he may have been murdered. At the time, he also had leukemia.

Nolan died just a few months later in 1992, following a bacterial meningitis-related stroke.

Buster Poindexter:

David Johansen went on to do a variety of solo projects after the breakup of the Dolls, but wouldn't really reach commercial success until he adopted a fictional persona - a parody of a lounge singer known as Buster Poindexter.

As Poindexter, he released the song "Hot Hot Hot," a song he would later refer to as "the bane of my existence." To date, it's still his biggest commercial success.

He also pursued an acting career appearing in a wide range of TV shows and movies, from The Adventures of Pete and Pete (where fellow punk pioneer Iggy Pop also had a recurring role), to HBO's OZ.


In 2004, Morrissey, citing being a long-time fan of the band and former head of the Dolls UK fan club, organize the reunion of the three surviving band members. This spawned a live album and the film New York Doll, about Kane's view of the reunio. Unfortunately, this reunion was cut short when Kane died unexpectedly of leukemia.

In 2005, Johansen and Sylvain announced another reunion, touring releasing 2006's One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. This is the current incarnation of the Dolls, with another album, 'Cause I Sez So slated for release in May 2009.

Current Lineup:

David Johansen - Vocals
Sylvain Sylvain - Guitar
Steve Conte - Guitar
Sami Yaffa - Bass
Brian Koonin - Keyboards
Brian Delaney - Drums

Studio Albums:

New York Dolls - 1973
Too Much Too Soon - 1974
One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This - 2006

Essential Album:

New York Dolls

The band's self-titled debut, New York Dolls would be more influential to the U.S. punk scene than anyone would realize at the time. Although the album did see moderate commercial success (hitting 116 in the Billboard pop charts), it would be years before the importance of songs like "Trash" and "Personality Crisis" would be revealed. These were songs that grabbed hold of trashy T-Rex-influenced glam rock and beat it soundly about the midsection with the raw punk fury of the Stooges.

New York Dolls would go on to be a staple in the record collections of countless punk bands to follow, and is a record that still sounds fresh today.

Live Review

New York Dolls, November 16, 2006, St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit

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