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New York Dolls

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The New York Dolls were a glam rock band in the 1970s that prefigured much of what was to come in the punk rock era. Influenced by the MC5, the Dolls influenced a whole era of musicians and bands such as the Hanoi Rocks, The Ramones, Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, The Damned and even Morrissey of the Smiths. Perhaps their most lasting influence was on the sound and style of The Sex Pistols whose manager, Malcolm McLaren, was briefly involved with the Dolls at the end of their career (see protopunk).

The band was fronted by vocalist David Johansen who looked like Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones; Johnny Thunders was the swaggering junkie lead guitar player, Arthur "Killer" Kane played bass; Sylvain Sylvain played rhythm guitar and the ill fated Billy Murcia played drums. Billy died before recording their first LP and was replaced by Jerry Nolan.

The New York Dolls only released two studio albums: the self titled New York Dolls in 1973 and the aptly titled Too Much Too Soon in 1974, by which point internal tensions and drugs had left the band on the edge of splitting. Johansen had a moderately successful solo career (later he began recording under the name of Buster Poindexter), and is currently active as a blues singer. Thunders and Nolan found short-term fame with The Heartbreakers, who supported their heirs the Sex Pistols on tour in England in 1976. A third album comprising a 1972 demo session with the original line-up was released on cassette only in 1981, finally making it to CD as "Lipstick Killers" in 2000.

Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans in 1991, of an overdose. Nolan died a few months later in 1992, following a stroke, brought about by bacterial meningitis.

British singer Morrissey, who in the 70s was president of the U.K. fanclub, organised a reunion of the three surviving band members (Johansen, Sylvain, Kane) for the Meltdown festival, which was rapturously greeted. All the greater was the shock when the news came of Arthur Kane's unexpected death on July 13, 2004 from leukemia. A live LP and DVD has been released by Morrissey's Attack label.


  • New York Dolls, 1973
  • Too Much Too Soon, 1974

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