Glam masters-slash-punk pioneers New York Dolls storming San Antonio
Published: June 7, 2011
Sadly, the band imploded in ’75, just as punk got going. Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan (who’d replaced Billy Murcia after his drug-induced death while touring London in ’72) left to form the Heartbreakers. The Dolls forged on for another year with David Johansen and Sylvain, but called it quits in ’76. They would all go their own separate ways, to varying degrees of success.
Through the ’80s and ’90s the New York Dolls were justly feted as one of the immediate forerunners of punk, but despite the increased regard they failed to reunite. That is until Morrissey, a former New York Dolls fan club president in England, convinced Johansen to reunite the remaining band for a 2004 festival date. They forged on with Johansen, Sylvain, bassist Arthur Kane (who would die from leukemia months later), and some solid sidemen. Things went so well, they just kept going.
“In a way I think it’s a miracle that it actually ever even happened, and even having said that I always knew deep down that one day it was going to happen,” says Sylvain. “It was a stone gas to get up there and shake our old bottoms again and do those songs. Of course, the musicians that we are, we had a longing to keep on writing and hence we’ve made three albums since our reunion, which is actually more than the first time out.”
Their latest, Dancing Backward in High Heels, is Sylvain’s favorite of their post-reunion releases. Though it lacks the gristle and rumble of their first two classic albums, it reaches back to the ’60s pop and soul that initially inspired them.
“It was like really going back to being the street kids that we were. And the songs have a purpose and a reason,” Sylvain says. “Not that the other ones didn’t, but some of them were a little more out of this other bag. I thought the first album put too much emphasis on being successful instead of being true to our art, which is where the New York Dolls’ success comes from — when we sought out to have no success whatsoever.”
For Sylvain it’s truly been a labor of love. “I never made a lot of money. All I got was fame, if you can call underground being famous,” he says. “But if love is the only thing I get paid with, then that’s what I want to focus on, because it’s the only thing I got.”
Luckily, the Dolls get the love in spades.
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