Posts Tagged ‘The New York Dolls’

Supergroup Halloween Jack Premier TRASH as Tribute to Sylvain Sylvain

Supergroup “Halloween Jack” is set to release “Trash”, a cover song video by The New York Dolls as a tribute/ token of love to the glam/punk band’s Sylvain Sylvain who died last month after losing his battle with cancer. 

The New York Dolls, known for their glam rock androgyny and their signature attire including women’s makeup and frenzied, bizarre fashions, revitalized the New York City underground music scene in the 70s foreshadowing punk by half a decade. The Dolls were an anomaly, considered to be one of the most influential bands on the planet with their unpolished, chaotic music expression that combined British invasion-influenced rhythm and blues with the guitar distortion and booming backbeat of proto-punk bands such as Iggy and the Stooges. 

Halloween Jack combines the talent of Stephen Perkins, drummer of Jane’s Addiction, Gilby Clarke, former guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, Dan Shulman former bassist of Garbage, Eric Dover guitarist from Jellyfish, and guest guitarist Steve Stevens of Billy Idol, a huge fan of the Dolls. Halloween Jack’s “Trash” video is filled with a texture and colour completely reminiscent of the orgasmic, sophisticated anarchy that captured the essence of the kaleidoscopic vibrancy transmitted by the original New York Dolls. Halloween Jack wished to celebrate the memory of Sylvain using the video as a token of love to the fallen Icon.

Sylvain Mizrahi, best recognized by his stage name Sylvain Sylvain, was the guitarist for The New York Dolls. One of the key architects of rock music, Sylvain was the driving force behind the band and the soul of the clothes, style and thrilling guitar combinations that would be such a profound influence on punk rock. As a precursor to the dolls, he created the band Actress from a bunch of guys that hung around his clothing store that would later give birth to the Sex Pistols. In 2019, Sylvain announced that he had cancer and he died in his home on January 13th, 2021.

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Sylvain Sylvain, best known as the guitarist of the New York Dolls, died Wednesday (13th January) after a long battle with cancer. He was 69 years of age. Bored of their heroes’ increasing indulgences, The Dolls’ mission was simple: to restore rock’n’roll to its rightful place as a flamboyant, dangerous cultural force. And, while David and Johnny would become the figureheads of the band, Sylvain Sylvain was its beating heart and chief strategist.

The news was announced today on Sylvain’s Facebook page. Lenny Kaye, a guitarist in the Patti Smith Group, penned a lengthy tribute to the proto-punk and glam rock pioneer. “Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and a half years,” Kaye wrote. “Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain.

“Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way.” In April 2019, the guitarist revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for treatment. It is unclear what form of cancer he had.

Sylvain was born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo, Egypt in 1951. Not long after his birth, his family fled the country to escape anti-Semitism, eventually settling in New York after a period in Paris.

In 1972, Sylvain befriended New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia and joined the band, serving as rhythm guitarist until the iconic outfit’s dissolution in 1977. He would also be part of the Dolls’ reunion in the mid-noughties, releasing a trio of records: One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (2006), Cause I Sez So (2009) and Dancing Backward In High Heels (2011).

To call the New York Dolls different is something of an understatement. Formed in 1971, the five-piece of David Johansen (vocals), Johnny Thunders (guitar), Arthur ​Killer’ Kane (bass), Billy Murcia (drums) and Sylvain slunk out of the Bronx, seemingly having raided their girlfriends’ wardrobes for their clothes and having rifled through their make-up bag for their rouge. Following the band’s split, Sylvain would embark on several other musical projects – working on David Johansen’s solo albums (for which he wrote a number of songs) and a record of his own, as well as playing with several other musicians. He would, however, always remain a Doll.

Fiercely proud of the band’s music and legacy, he was a key instigator in the New York Dolls’ reformation in 2004. He was equally disappointed to find that David – who’d subsequently enjoyed a parallel career using the pseudonym Buster Pointdexter and as an actor – was going through the motions. Despite the fact that the re-constituted Dolls released three new studio albums, Sylvain remained angry with David when the latter refused to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut in 2013.

It’s sad nobody’s doing anything about it. It would’ve helped if everyone had gotten into it, including our frontman, but nobody got into it,” he said at the time.

Two years later Sylvain would leave his adopted hometown of New York for Nashville. He presaged his departure with a tune about that very subject – 2012’s Leaving New York, a track full of the man’s typically romantic spirit.

Sylvain was also a prolific solo musician. He released his debut solo record, Sylvain Sylvain, in 1979, and continued playing in bands such as The Criminals and The Batusis well into the 2010s.

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Johnny Thunders & Wayne KramerJohnny Thunders & Wayne KramerJohnny Thunders & Wayne KramerFreudlp076

The New York Dolls & MC5 guitarists collaboration! with Wayne Kramer, It’s the first time on vinyl; in a limited edition in dark red & dark yellow coloured vinyl, on 2xLP with five bonus ‘Live at Max’s’ tracks only previously available on bootleg. Johnny Thunders & Wayne Kramer’s ‘Gang War’ In 1979, Johnny Thunders, renowned band Heartbreakers and New York Dolls guitarist, teamed up with Wayne Kramer, also legendary guitarist of Detroit’s seminal MC5, to form ‘Gang War’, an alliance that lasted the best part of a year. Although Gang War released no records and without a label – at the time they were an underground act; in retrospect the collaboration is looked on as a ‘rock fantasy’ supergroup.

These live recordings bear testimony to this unique partnership between two celebrated rock guitar icons. Gang War came about shortly after Johnny released his ‘So Alone’ album, and Wayne was not long out of jail after serving two years of a sentence of four years for a coke bust. Arriving in Detroit with the Heartbreakers, Johnny met his teenage idol Wayne who jammed with them at the gig. Johnny stayed on, moving his family to Michigan and pledging his future to Gang War. They toured regularly and recorded a couple of demos with a view to getting a deal, but although there was great interest, after eight or nine months they split. On these recordings, both contribute lead vocals and guitars on Thunders and the Dolls tracks such as London Boys, Endless Party and M.I.A.; songs familiar from Kramer and MC5 such as Ramblin’ Rose and Hey Thanks, and fascinating cover versions such as These Boots Are Made For Walking and The Harder They Come.

Together with the between-track repartee they also demonstrate the difference between the two – as Wayne Kramer has said: “Music is important to me and I value the honour, the opportunity, to be an important musician. Johnny, on the other hand didn’t consider himself a musician. He considered himself an entertainer.”

Cause I Sez So

American standard-bearers for glam rock and important precursors to punk rock, The New York Dolls reunited (at the personal request of longtime fan Morrissey) nearly three decades after their early-1970s heyday. Original Dolls David Johansen and Syl Sylvain still have all the sass and swagger of their prime on “Cause I Sez So”. Todd Rundgren had helmed the band’s debut and returns in the same capacity for this 2009 Atco album, helping the quintet push its sonic envelope a bit beyond the Stonesy racket of yore.

The reconstituted New York Dolls stack up awfully well against the original Seventies band, whose glam rock inspired thousands of acts. This Todd Rundgren-produced follow-up to the Dolls‘ fine 2006 comeback features new moves like reggae and Latin-tinged balladry. But the selling points are its Stones-y propulsion and the nuanced vigor of David Johansen. The singer delivers singalong choruses in his New Yawk bark, sweetly praises a lover who “treats [him] like a maharajah” and, on the funked-out “Let’s Get Radiant,” delivers the perfect middle-aged-rocker line: “If we don’t come back, call us on the Ouija board.”

A reggae-tinged reworking of their ’70s classic “Trash” may be the most striking example of this, but the beautiful pop melody of “Lonely So Long” and the propulsive R&B of “Nobody Got No Bizness” show the Dolls can wear any style and make it look great.

So give “Cause I Sez So” another spin in memory of the band’s drummer Jerry Nolan, who passed away on this day in 1992.

“Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos 1972-1975”. A trio of pre-Mercury demo sessions – arguably as close as the Dolls ever got to nailing their sound in the cold austerity of the recording studio – are joined by a collection of incendiary live shows (including two American radio broadcasts)

Formed in 1971 in New York City, and originally classified as hard rock, the New York Dolls became one of the creators of punk rock before there was even a term for it. With a line-up of vocalist David Johansen, guitarist Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and drummer Billy Murcia, the New York Dolls sported an androgynous wardrobe of high heels, eccentric hats, make-up and satin onstage, and in the words of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music were “one of the most influential rock bands of the last 20 years”, boasting such high profile fans as Morrissey, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Kiss, Guns N’ Roses and The Damned.

It is commonly perceived that the essence of the New York Dolls was never satisfactorily captured by their two albums for the Mercury label, both of which many believe suffered from unsympathetic production. Fortunately for us all, the band’s untutored rawness, unencumbered strength of purpose and unique vision is better served by the recordings that are gathered together for the first time on Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos 1972-1975. A trio of pre-Mercury demo sessions – arguably as close as the Dolls ever got to nailing their sound in the cold austerity of the recording studio – are joined by a collection of incendiary live shows (including two American radio broadcasts) that, despite the variable sound quality, capture their unfettered outrageousness and life-affirming vitality. This package serves, then, as an alternative view of one of the few genuinely essential rock’n’roll bands to emerge from the early Seventies wastelands.

Includes early versions of acknowledged New York Dolls’ classics: ‘Jet Boy’, ‘Trash’, ‘Personality Crisis’, ‘Puss ‘n’ Boots’, ‘Stranded In The Jungle’, ‘Babylon’, ‘Who Are The Mystery Girls’, ‘Bad Girl’ and ‘Pills’.

Come in a beautifully designed clamshell box set containing its own booklet with full sleeve notes, plus individual card wallets for each of the discs. All material contained within this package has been specially remastered for this release.This package serves, then, as an alternative view of one of the few genuinely essential rock’n’roll bands to emerge from the early Seventies wastelands.

Released April 27th, 2018 via Cherry Red Records.

HBO’s Vinyl began its first episode at a New York Dolls show where they blew the roof off the Mercer Arts Center. In reality, the band had an alibi. The New York Dolls didn’t always get away with things so easily.

Vinyl season 1 is set in New York City in 1973. Rock music was in the middle off an identity crisis and it gave bands like the Dolls a personality crisis. Rock was getting bloated and rollers thought it was getting a little pretentious.
The New York Dolls – David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Billy Murcia, and Arthur Kane Jr. – kept the erection but deflated the egos. The Dolls “single handedly lowered the standards of an entire industry.” They came on like a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon wearing a rag-tag concoction of Thrift Store and Salvation Army toss offs.

The band had a glammed up look and pared down sound. They were funny. They were rude. They covered classic rock and roll hits like “Stranded in the Jungle” by The Cadets under a red communist flag.

The New York Dolls won Best New Band and Worst New Band in Creem Magazine’s Readers Poll in 1973. Music aficionados complained that the New York Dolls couldn’t play. So what? Whoever said Bob Dylan could sing? Robert Christgau called them “the best hard-rock band since the Rolling Stones.”

The New York Dolls predated punk and glam metal. They influenced rock groups like the Sex Pistols, Kiss, the Ramones, Guns N’ Roses, and the Damned. When the Dolls started, Patti Smith did poetry readings before their shows. Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine caught the Dolls right before they formed the Neon Boys, which became Television.

The New York Dolls can be traced to the 1967 band The Pox, which included Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, who were friends since a schoolyard fight at Van Wyck Junior High in Jamaica, Queens. Sylvain crossed the Suez Canal from Cairo to be a New York Doll and the first words of English he learned were “fuck you.” Murcia came from Bogota, Colombia, not Jersey, and the two were finally able to finish sentences, according to the book Too Much Too Soon: The New York Dolls. They met Johnny Genzale at New Town High. The Italian bassist was thunder on a basketball court or a baseball diamond, but wound up being just a Jaywalker. Arthur Kane came down from the Bronx with a thick Irish accent.

The Pox were recorded by Harry Lookofsky, the same guy who produced “Walk Away Rene.” When the Pox broke up, the two friends got into fashion, opening Truth and Soul. Sylvain also worked at men’s boutique, A Different Drummer that was across the street a doll repair shop called the New York Doll Hospital. They also sold “keef,” which was really good hash. By the early seventies they were playing with Rick Rivets. Thunder rechristened himself after the hero of DC Comics’ All-Star Western after he turned down the Volume. Thunders played lead guitar and sang for the band, called Actress during practice but named Dawn of the Dolls on an October 1971 rehearsal tape release.

David Johansen was living on East 6th Street when he got the call because he looked like a cross between Mick Jagger and French actress Simone Signoret. Johansen started singing in the late 1960s in the local Staten Island band the Vagabond Missionaries before hitting Café Wha with Fast Freddie and The Electric Japs. He was a stud on Main Street and maybe some other porn movies. David Jo looked 16 and bored shitless. Rick Rivets was replaced by Sylvain Sylvain and the bottom was held together by bass guitarist Arthur “Killer” Kane and drummer Billy Murcia.

The Bowery butterflies wore Spandex and platform boots at their debut first performance at homeless shelter The Endicott Hotel on Christmas Eve 1971. They caught the eye of Andy Warhol who helped them get a gig on Broadway, lower Broadway. Ex-Paramount Records exec Marty Thau saw a sign outside the Mercer Center advertising: “NEW YORK DOLLS: 2 SETS $3.” For six bucks he and his wife caught “five guys dressed as women in horrible makeup and jewelry” and became the band’s manager, arranging a residency at the Center.

Bands did New York City residencies at theaters in the early seventies. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played Wednesday afternoons at the Garrick Theater on Bleecker St. The Fugs played seven nights a week at the Players Theater on MacDougal Street. The Velvet Underground played around the block twice a night, five days a week at Max’s Kansas City. The New York Dolls had a regular Tuesday-night gig in the Oscar Wilde Room of the Mercer Arts Center.

The New York Dolls were plastic dolls with a fresh coat of paint and a Vietnamese baby on their mind. Who was gonna sit through the madness and still act quaint? They mixed drag queens with glam rock to lead an assault on what was happening on the radio. “Is it a crime for you to fall in love with Frankenstein?” asked David Johansen, who would go on to become Buster Poindexter before learning intricate blues guitar and go back to being David Jo. Johansen only wore a dress one time onstage at Club 82, though he rocked the Capri pant.

Mercer Arts Center kicked The New York Dolls out in 1972 because they wanted neither rock nor roll in the theaters. The center came crawling back after they saw the diminished bar tabs. The Center’s Blue Room theater also hosted the Modern Lovers and Suicide. Rod Stewart invited the Dolls to open for him at a London concert. The Mercer Arts Center was buried in the Grand Hotel collapse just after five p.m. on Friday August 9, 1973.

Well if you don’t like it, go ahead, find yourself a saint. Billy Murcia would be dead of “misadventure” before the New York Dolls even signed a record contract. While on a brief tour of England in 1972, Murcia passed out from an accidental overdose at a party. He was put in a bathtub and force-fed coffee to bring him around but wound up choking on it, dying of asphyxiation. Murcia was found dead on the morning of November 6th, 1972, at the age of 21, David Bowie, who proclaimed The New York Dolls as a major influence, immortalized Murcia when he sang “Billy Dolls and other friends of mine” in the song “Time” which opened side two of his 1973 album Aladdin Sane.

The Dolls were signed by Mercury Records’ A&R man Paul Nelson. Their debut album was produced by Todd Rundgren. Stereo Review magazine said they sounded like lawnmowers. How she ever gonna love you when she can’t parlez vous your Francais? They topped from the bottom in Creem magazine and lit out for Europe, where Bob Harris called them “mock rock” on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

The New York Dolls’ second album, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by George “Shadow” Morton. He made his bones recording morbid motorcycle death hits like “Leader of the Pack” and “Out on the Street” for girl groups like the Shangri-Las and helping Janis Ian bridge the racial divide in “Society’s Child.” There’s gonna be a showdown don’t you worry. Mercury let them go shortly after the album also failed to do much on the charts.

Future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren managed to split the band up by 1975. He put the band in front of a communist flag for a 5-concert-five-borough tour of New York. Television opened for them. Their last show in New York State was at The Shoram, in Quogue, New York. Thunders and Nolan left while on tour in Florida in 1975. Blackie Lawless sat in on guitar for the rest of the Florida tour. The New York Dolls played at the Beacon Theater on New Year’s Eve, 1975 and a follow-up show at Max’s Kansas City. The group played its final shows in 1977.

Sylvain formed The Criminals. Johansen got funky, but chic and by the late 1980s he rechristened himself Buster Poindexter for Saturday Night Live, kept it through Sunday morning, made some movies, had some laughs. Thunders and Nolan formed The Heartbreakers with bassist Richard Hell.

A rock n roll nurse went into my head. In 1991, Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans. It was originally believed he overdosed on heroin and methadone but it later came out that he had t-cell leukemia. Nolan died in 1992 following a stroke brought about by bacterial meningitis.

Early New York Dolls demo tapes were released on cassette as Lipstick Killers on ROIR Records in 1981. Sylvain formed The Criminals, cut a solo album for RCA and drove a cab. He recorded the album Sleep Baby Doll for Fishhead Records in the early 1990s.

The Smiths’ Morrissey reunited Johansen, Sylvain and Kane for the Meltdown Festival in London in 2004. Morrissey’s Attack label released a live album. A film called New York Doll came out and it looked like the Dolls would be back. But Arthur Kane died of leukemia on July 13, 2004.

All dressed up, I got nowhere to go. In November 2006, the Dolls headlined “Little Steven’s Underground Garage Presents the Rolling Rock and Roll Show” about 20 times and the former new Dead End Kids played in Australia and New Zealand. On September 22, 2007, the Dolls were dropped by Roadrunner Records

The current lineup is David Johansen on vocals and harmonica; Sylvain Sylvain on guitar, bass and piano; Brian Delaney on drums, and Claton Pitcher on guitar and vocals.

A lot of the information for this article was unabashedly retrieved from the book Too Much Too Soon: The New York Dolls by Nina Antonia.