The previous volumes in the “Heard Them Here First” series focused on Elvis Presley, the Ramones and Cliff Richard. Now it’s the turn of the New York Dolls to muscle in on the action.
In their original incarnation, the Dolls enjoyed only a brief butterfly lifespan, yet their impact upon popular culture proved enormous. What an entrance the band made: an insolent, provocative, street-smart rush of cross-dressing glitter boys in towering stack-heeled boots, fuelled by a diet of booze, drugs, 50s doo wop, 60s girl groups, vintage rock’n’roll, Chicago blues, R&B, Brill Building pop, the Stones and the Stooges.
From their earliest days, through to the re-formed band’s recent albums, via the solo careers of David Johansen and Johnny Thunders, the Dolls – music buffs all – paid homage to their influences by peppering their repertoire with impeccably chosen songs from the past. We mark the 40th anniversary of their first album with this collection of 24 vintage originals that inspired them to record their own renditions.
Our CD is sequenced in the (approximate) order in which the Dolls recorded their versions. For the record, they cut demos of ‘Seven Day Weekend’, ‘Don’t Mess With Cupid’ and ‘I’m Your Hootchie Cootchie Man’ in 1972-3, but never for any of their official albums. Their recording of ‘Pills’ was released on their 1973 debut, “New York Dolls”, and they revived ‘Don’t Start Me Talkin’’, ‘Bad Detective’, ‘There’s Gonna Be A Showdown’ and ‘Stranded In The Jungle’ on the their second album, 1974’s “Too Much Too Soon”. A live version of ‘Somethin’ Else’ was included on the “Red Patent Leather” set in 1984, by which time the Dolls had long disbanded.
Meanwhile, Johansen covered ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ on his album “Live It Up” and Thunders included a live recording of ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ (subbing ‘Junkie’ for ‘Monkey’) on “In Cold Blood”. A live version of ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ surfaced on Thunders’ “Bootlegging The Bootleggers” album.
In 1988 Thunders paired up with Patti Palladin to record “Copy Cats”, an entire album of covers, including ‘Crawfish’, ‘Uptown (To Harlem)’ and ‘She Wants To Mambo’. Around the same time, David Johansen began recording under the alias Buster Poindexter. A series of albums over the next seven years included his revivals of songs such as ‘Are You Lonely For Me’, ‘International Playboy’, ‘Alcohol’, ‘Big Fat Mamas Are Back In Style Again’ and ‘Who Drank My Beer While I Was In The Rear?’.
In 2004, the surviving Dolls were persuaded to get back together for the Meltdown Festival inLondon. A live DVD of the event featured their performances of ‘Piece Of My Heart’ and ‘Out In The Streets’. The reconvened band went on to record ‘Lipstick, Powder And Paint’ for their “Cause I Sez So” set and ‘I Sold My Heart To The Junkman’ for “Dancing Backwards In High Heels”, their most recent album to date.
Who knows, the New York Dolls may well have another album in the pipeline. If they do, who’d bet against it containing at least one great old song. One thing’s for certain, they sure know how to pick them.
By Ian Johnston and Mick Patrick