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NEW YORK DOLLS

Current Members

Past Members

Biography

The NEW YORK DOLLS, were thought of by many to be the original Punk band, making their impact felt a full three years before Punk gripped London. Guitarist JOHNNY THUNDERS (real name Johnny Genzale) took his first steps into music with the 1967 act THE REIGN which saw a teenage Genzale alternating between guitar and bass. A demo was cut with Thunders on guitar, Don Bruce on vocals, Frank Sardelis on bass, George Boyd on keyboards and drummer John Pisapia. Genzale met his idol ROLLING STONES guitarist KEITH RICHARDS at a bar in New York which fired the youngsters imagination enough to visit London during 1969. Upon his return to New York Genzale had transformed his image with long teased up hair, copious amounts of make up and very often wearing the contents of his girlfriends wardrobes. It was was this striking persona that drew the attention of Brooklyn born drummer Jerry Nolan, previously with the CRADLE, a band fronted by a young SUZI QUATRO, and a member of Brooklyn street gang The Young Lords.

Before the unit properly gelled Genzale had been jamming as bassist with guitarist Sylvian Sylvian (real surname Mizrahi) and drummer Billy Murcia, both erstwhile members of THE POX, trio fronted by Mike Turby of THE ORPHANS. When THE POX folded both Sylvian and Murcia diverted into the fashion industry, working in a building titled 'The New York Dolls Hospital'. It would be a name they would remember.

By the tail end of 1970 Genzale had shifted over to guitar as the prototype band THE DOLLS emerged. The band came to an abrupt halt however when Sylvian took a trip to London. Shortly after Genzale came into contact with guitarist Arthur Kane and guitarist Rick Rivets (real name George Fedorick). Within the space of a few rehearsals Genzale and Kane had swopped instruments and Murcia had joined the action on drums. Genzale, after briefly toying with 'Johnny Volume', formally adopted his new stage name. The pseudonym was actually inspired by a character in a DC comic book.

Upon his return from London Sylvian discovered that Thunders had not only adopted his idea for a band name but also his former drummer. Matters were resolved when Rivits was ejected (later creating THE BRATS) and Sylvian invited into the fold. Searching for a name the band tried out ACTRESS, pulling in former porn movie actor David Johansen on lead vocals. Johansen's previous bands had included THE VAGABOND MISSIONARIES and FAST EDDIE & THE ELECTRIC JAPS. Possessing moves and looks uncannily akin to MICK JAGGER Johansen sailed through the audition. By the close of 1971 the new band had titled itself the NEW YORK DOLLS.

Gigs in friends houses and small clubs followed as the band, delving deeper into the glam look and already exploring the drugs scene, quickly gained a reputation. By 1972 THE NEW YORK DOLLS had become the hottest act in the metropolis and were sharing rehearsal rooms with WICKED LESTER, later to evolve into KISS. Outside forces began to take an interest too as ALICE COOPER's manager Shep Gordon offered his services. The band declined the overture and Thunders stole away ALICE COOPER's girlfriend to boot. Another opportunity came when ROD STEWART manager Billy Gaff arranged a showcase gig for the band opening for LONG JOHN BALDRY. In the event the band apparantly arrived at the venue so wasted on drugs they were unable to perform.

The business side of their affairs was finally settled when the band signed up with former Paramount Records executive Marty Thau and in turn inked a deal with the management and booking team of Steve Leber and David Krebs, also responsible for AEROSMITH. The band were immediately put into the studio, these early sessions resurfacing many years later as 'The Mercer St. Sessions'. The act also undertook their debut shows in England opening for THE GROUNDHOGS and then THE FACES at the Wembley Pool before a gig with STATUS QUO. At the latter ROLLING STONES frontman MICK JAGGER was in attendance with a view to signing the band to his record label but passed. Further shows included guest slots to ARGENT. A scheduled gig with LOU REED was cancelled when the former VELVET UNDERGROUND star threatened to pull his show if the NEW YORK DOLLS opened up for him. Whilst in England THE NEW YORK DOLLS also cut further recordings as the band's management edged the band within striking distance of a lucrative deal with Track Records.

It was not to be though. On November 7 Murcia died in mysterious circumstances. Under the influence of drink and drugs colleagues had tried to revive the drummer in a cold bath, an act which resulted in Murcia drowning. THE NEW YORK DOLLS returned home and the Track deal was withdrawn.

The band regrouped in New York by drafting drummer Jerry Nolan, a familiar face on the club scene with SHAKER and Wayne County's QUEEN ELIZABETH. Nolan was broken in with a gig on 19 December 1972 and by March of the following year THE NEW YORK DOLLS signed to major label Mercury Records on a two album contract.

TODD RUNDGREN produced and also contributed keyboards to the debut album. Upon release most critics were enthusiastic but the band slated Rundgren's production at every opportunity. Initial shows to promote the album found the band out on the road with MOTT THE HOOPLE. The band's debut performances in California were marred when Kane's girlfriend slashed the bassist's hand with a knife, apparantly in a pique of rage when told she would not be accompanying the band. For these dates Peter Jordan was drafted on a temporay basis.

Following dates with IGGY POP the band returned to England for an appearance on the TV show 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' and headline dates. Further shows in France ensued. The date of this tour at the Bataclan venue in Paris went down in Rock n' Roll history as Thunders openly fought with members of the audience curtailing the set who had been spitting at him. The guitarist spat back, kicked and finally threw a microphone at the perpetators.

The NEW YORK DOLLS cut their second album 'Too Much Too Soon' with producer George Morton. Generally acknowledged to be far too sanitized to represent the band's obvious rebelliousness. An early atempt at a promotional video was shot in which the band starred as a fictitious outfit THE LIPSTICK KILLERS. A six month American tour did little to arouse the interest of Mercury Records or their management and slowly but surely the powers that be were sidelining the act.

'Too Much Too Soon' actually sold less copies than the debut record but Mercury offered the act a further album only to retract the offer and demand repayment of debts owed. To cap their misery Leber/Krebs also withdrew putting the whole future of the band in jeopardy.

In their hour of need manager Malcolm McLaren took over their affairs forcing various members into detox clinics and dressing the band in Vivienne Westwwod designed red patent leather outfits. The new look band showcased their fresh image in February of 1975 with shows in New York supported by TELEVISION and PURE HELL. However, a tour of Florida only succeeded in breaking up the band. McLaren had learned valuable lessons he would later employ to great effect with his next stepping stone the SEX PISTOLS.

With Thunders out the band enlisted Chris Robinson on guitar and drummer Tommy Machine. Robinson's tenure was short and keyboard player Bobby Blain joined the band. Ultimately the band crashed around mid 1975.

Kane journeyed to Los Angeles to create KILLER KANE. Johansen, Sylvian and Jordan united to create THE DOLLETTES for a tour of Japan.

Thunders and Nolan forged a union with former TELEVISION mainman Richard Hell and guitarist Walter 'Waldo' Lure from the DEMONS to create THE HEARTBREAKERS. Another stab at resurrecting THE NEW YORK DOLLS came in 1976 when Johansen and Sylvian used the name once more. The attempt was doomed to failure.

Johansen forged a new act in 1978 STATEN ISLAND BOYS comprising of former CHERRY VANILLA musicians bassist Buzz Verno and drummer Frankie La Rocka together with guitarists Johnny Rao and Thomas Trask. However, the resulting album was to be issued as a solo project. Johansen released three albums 'David Johansen' in 1978, 'In Style' in 1979 and 'Here Comes The Night' in 1981, before going under the nom de guerre of BUSTER POINDEXTER AND HIS BANSHEES OF BLUE to record 1988's 'Buster Poindexter' album for RCA Records.

At some point in 1979 both Johansen and Sylvian reunited briefly with Thunders in order to aid the guitarist with tour commitments with his then act GANG WAR.

Statten Island, New York native Blackie Lawless (real name Steve Duren), who had first trod the boards with east coast outfit BLACK RABBIT, had honed his craft with an inclusion in the NEW YORK DOLLS during their final post Johnny Thunders days. Lawless, at this time operating under the pseudonym of Blackie Goozeman, only put in two shows with the band. Lawless then migrated through a series of Los Angeles acts including KILLER KANE, SISTER and LONDON prior to forging W.A.S.P.

After a career blighted by drug abuse Thunders would finally succumb to his highly charged lifestyle in New Orleans on 22 April 1991. The guitarist, who had also unknowingly been suffering from leukemia, had been robbed in his hotel room and left for dead. Distraught at his life long friends death Jerry Nolan on 14 January 1992 due to complications caused by a stroke.

The NEW YORK DOLLS made a surprise appearance for a reunion show at London's 'Meltdown' festival in June of 2004, David Johansen and Syl Sylvain being joined by Arthur Kane, despite the latter's conversion to Mormonism. Announced as filling in for Thunders would be former GUNS N' ROSES guitarist IZZY STRADLIN'. However, just a month before the date Stradlin' pulled out. Subsequent reports put HANOI ROCKS guitarist Andy McCoy in the frame but as it transpired the band performed with Steve Conte on guitar and LIBERTINES drummer Gary Powell. On 13th July yet another tragedy rocked the band as Arthur Kane died of advanced leukemia in a Los Angeles hospital. The bassist had checked himself in to the hospital thinking he was suffering from pneumonia.

In January of 2005 Fastlane Records issued the NEW YORK DOLLS tribute album 'Jetboys Of Babylon'. Lead track 'Babylon' was contributed by FRANKENSTEIN 3000 and a guesting David Johansen. Other notable inclusions would be SEX PISTOLS guitarist STEVE JONES on the FLIPP donation 'Personality Crisis' with homage also being paid by GEOFF STARR ROCK N' ROLL BAND, SLOW MOTORCADE, THE TASTE, SUPER DELUXE, R50, THE NEW ROMANTICS, TATTOOED MILLIONAIRES, THE NAPOLEON BLOWNAPARTS, COYOTE SHIVERS, SCIENCE FICTION IDOLS, STARDUSTER, CRASH KELLY, KILLINGBIRD, THE ALARM and AMERICAN ANTHEM.

In July 2005 it was announced that the NEW YORK DOLLS, comprising founding members David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain alongside COMPANY OF WOLVES guitarist Steve Conte, ex-HANOI ROCKS bassist Sami Yaffa, keyboard player Brian Koonin and drummer Brian Delaney, had signed to Roadrunner Records for a new album, their first since 1974's 'Too Much Too Soon'. As a side venture, Yaffa joined up with all-star trio TODD YOUTH'S HEARTACHES, fronted by Todd Youth of MURPHY'S LAW, D-GENERATION, DANZIG, WARZONE, AGNOSTIC FRONT, SAMHAIN, CHROME LOCUST and THE CHELSEA SMILES repute on vocals and guitar with GLUECIFER drummer Danny Young.

NEW YORK DOLLS reunited with producer Jack Douglas to cut a new album in January 2006. 'One Day It Will Please Us To remember Even This' arrived in July, unfortunately only reaching a deflating number 129 on the US Billboard charts. The band lined up dates in Australia and New Zealand during March and April 2007.

The band, alongside TIGERTAILZ, SONATA ARCTICA, THE QUIREBOYS, W.A.S.P., TERRORVISION, GIRLSCHOOL, QUEENSRŸCHE and ROCK GODDESS, played the 'Hard Rock Hell' festival in December 2009 at Pontins holiday resort in Prestatyn Sands, North Wales.

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