Posts Tagged ‘New York Dolls’

Satoshi Silvers was a guitar player with 1990’s Japanese glam punk band The Golden Arms. He passed away on 17 June, 2011. To honour his memory, in this special show we will talk about the man and play nothing but Golden Arms rock ‘n’ roll. If you are a fan of Johnny Thunders or The New York Dolls, tune is as well. Don’t miss it! Sunday 3 July, 2011. Tune in here

Well, the jury is back in, and the verdict is unanimous – the Dolls should still be around in 2011 and the new album, “Dancing Backward In High Heels” gets the thumbs up from long time Dolls fan Cowboy Col. Let me call a spade a spade though – it took me a few listens to really get into this album, but now I can actually hear why Sylvain is so enthusiastic about it. The Dolls created punk rock before there was a term for it. Building on the Rolling Stones’ dirty rock & roll, Mick Jagger’s androgyny, girl group pop, the Stooges’ anarchic noise, and the glam rock of David Bowie and T. Rex, the New York Dolls created a new form of hard rock that presaged both punk rock and heavy metal. So with that in mind, when I hear a new Dolls album, I kind of expect to hear more of the trashy early 70’s NYC style rock n roll of the ‘Personality Crisis’, ‘Trash’, ‘Human Being’ and ‘Pills’ variety. The most distinctive aspect of the original band’s sound was Thunders guitar and Johansen’s vocals. When the band got back together again in 2004, Steve Conte’s great guitar work channelled Thunders, as evidenced on the bands’ studio comeback album from 2005, ‘One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This’. It was a genuine nod to the past and was given a clean bill of health by Cowboy Col. I saw them live in early 2007 (with both Steve Conte and Sammi Yaffa) and they were great live. Played live, the songs from that album were great. 2009’s studio album, ‘Cos I Sez So’ was strong, but I didn’t think it was as consistent as ‘One Day’. To look at the new album, one has to understand the past. In 75, when Thunders and Nolan split from the Dolls, Johansen and Sylvain carried on for a further two years under the Dolls name, and then played together as the David Johansen group. This album picks up from that period. The “girl-group gone bad sound” is completely gone and, for this release, the band goes for a shimmering, reverb-heavy AM-Radio doo-wop sound crossed with a few tracks of R&B stomp. This isn’t quite the greasy R&B of the ’76 era Sylvain/Johansen era Dolls, but with songs like “Funky But Chic” (which started life as a Dollette’s song) and a cover of Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belle’s “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”, the Dolls haven’t moved far from their roots. Tunes like ‘Round And Round She Goes’ are excellent, as are ‘I’m So Fabulous’ with it’s trashy guitar riff and harmonica/sax , the song on the album that is closest to the 73 ear Dolls ads you’ll get. Johansen’s voice still sounds great. For two guys now into their 60’s – I say all power to Sylvain and Johansen.

 The Dolls formed 40 years ago, in 1971. One has to ask the question though, with only Sylvain and Johansen left in the lineup, is their reason for them to still be around in 2011? Sure, its money, and I certainly don’t begrudge them earning money, cos I remember those lean years in the 80s and 90s when Sylvain was driving a cab and playing clubs. Yet history does have a tendency to repeat itself doesn’t it? In 75, the Dolls fractured and split up in Florida. Johansen and Sylvain continued on with the name (much like they are doing nowadays) and toured Japan. On March 1, 2011, it was announced the band would be the opening act for a summer tour featuring Mötley Crüe and Poison. Earl Slick has been announced as the band’s guitarist for this tour. As I said, I’m happy that David and Johansen are making some money, particularly as bands like Poison and Motley made squillions and had enormous success when the Dolls wrote the book those bands stole pages from. The Dolls reformed in 2004, with original bass player Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane dying shortly after their first reunion concert. 7 years and a couple of albums later, they are still at it – but the jury is still out as to whether it’s a good thing or not. Maybe I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve heard the band’s new album, ‘Dancing Backward in High Heels’, which featured Blondie’s Frank Infante on guitar (he also played on Syl’s great solo album from the 90’s, ‘Sleep Baby Doll’. As I said, the jury is still out. Watch this space.

So who is Kevin K, and why would you buy this book? Kevin K is a Florida based rock ‘n’ roller who for 30 + years has been playing street punk, NYC style rock ‘n’ roll. He counted Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Syl Sylvain from the New York Dolls as his peers and friends, as well as just about every other New York based rocker from the late 70’s onwards. Sure, he hasn’t sold hundreds of thousands of albums, no he’s never played Madison Square Garden (though he must have walked passed it a thousand times). No he isn’t a household name (though he is in my house). But he has written literally hundreds of underappreciated songs since the late 70’s, recorded 30 odd albums, and tenaciously niched out a career for himself by creating distinct, melodic and inspired rock ‘n’ roll – music that matters. If you are a fan of Johnny Thunders, The Dolls, The Dead Boys, Ramones, Iggy or punk rock in general, you will no doubt enjoy reading this book as it’s littered with great, real life stories that features all those guys. Yet this is more than a rock ‘n’ roll book. This is a human interest story about a life well travelled. It details his life as a boy and his youth growing up in Buffalo, high school, getting into rock n roll, living in NYC in the 1980s and 90’s as a musician struggling to make it with all the craziness that city had to offer at that time. There are many interesting stories in here. He came so close to ‘making it’ that he could almost taste it, yet he never signed that major label deal or had a video on MTV. He just kept plugging away, year after year, making new albums and touring in support of them. NYC, Detroit, LA, Japan, Germany, Poland, France, Spain. There’s great stories of the road from all those countries. There’s stories about living in NYC next to Iggy Pop, encounters with GG Allin and The Ramones, playing the clubs and moving to Hollywood. There’s stories about the death of his brother Alan (whose music was also way underappreciated), hanging out with Johnny Thunders and Cheetah Chrome, drugs, St. Mark’s Place, Jennifer Love Hewitt and much much more. It’s 2011 and the Ramones are long gone. CBGB’s has gone. Rock ‘n’ rolls glory days are gone. Despite it all, Kevin K has just kept on keeping on. I have been hipped to his music for 16 years now. For those of us in the know, this guy’s music has always been special. In an age when rock ‘n’ roll is manufactured, contrived, disposable and lacking in authenticity, the need for Kevin K rock n roll is greater than ever. This guy has more rock n roll credential than an army of Avril Lavignes. He is the last of his kind. Get this book now and discover what I’ve known for a long time now – Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll is the best there is.   

 At only $14 this is a MUST! But it online at Amazon here

Tune in to hear an exclusive interview with legendary Kevin K that was recorded on September 3, 2010. Cowboy Col talks to Kevin about all his new releases including the autobiography, his just released double DVD and current studio album ‘Joey & Me’. Listen here

Jerry Nolan was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1946. Having a soldier as a stepfather meant relocation to Hawaii where he spent his formative years. It was in Hawaii that he witnessed an Elvis Presley show, which made a lasting impression. He took up the drums and listened to the wild rockers of the day – Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. A further relocation to Oklahoma saw him play his first shows, drumming in strip clubs at the age of 14 before returning to Brooklyn in his late teens. He drifted into various street gangs, including the Ellery Bops, the Master Chaplains and the Phantom Lords, yet it was music which took him off the street and onto the stage. One of his street pals was Kiss’ Peter Criss, whom Jerry taught to drum. He drummed in a succession of groups in the late 60’s including Suzi Quatro’s Cradle. He also played in an outfit with Syl Sylvain until Syl got the call to join the New York Dolls. When the Dolls drummer Billy Murcia died of a drinking misadventure on their ill fated ’72 tour of England supporting the Faces, the hard hitting Nolan was the obvious replacement. At the time, Nolan told the Dolls frontman David Johansen “There’s only one guy who can fill that job and do it well. I’m the guy !” Jerry Nolan joined the New York Dolls and commenced gigging in December 1972. The band signed to Mercury Records on March 20, 1973 with Todd Rundgren producing their muddy self titled debut. The album shifted 100,000 units in the States, with Nolan’s powerhouse drumming shining through despite the dodgy production. The band continued to tour throughout ’73, including sell out shows at LA’s Whiskey Au Go Go and a support slot to Mott The Hoople at Madison Square Garden. Despite a strong, now nationwide cult following, Mercury demanded further sales. After a further European tour and a second album ‘In Too Much Too Soon’ (again suffering from a dubious production – this time ex-Shangri-Las guru Tex Morton the culprit) was released, yet Mercury was fast losing patience. The album shipped 68,000 copies in the States and although musically tighter than ever before, and despite touring heavily throughout ’74, the Dolls found themselves without a label. The band was internally ripped apart, due to management rifts and the maintaining of ever increasing drug and alcohol habits. Enter opportunist Malcolm Mclaran who decked them out in red leather and sold them as commie rock, complete with hammer and sickle flag. Bemusing as this was, a ‘better red than dead’ attitude was never gonna cut it with the good ’ol boys down south, and again the band showed signs of dissent. Nolan and Thunders insisted on playing the new Dolls repertoire in the old Dolls style of fast, drug filled rock, yet Johansen and Sylvain wanted to break the band in using the old songs and adopting a relatively sober style. But by the time the tour hit Florida, Nolan and Thunders had had enough. They returned to New York in April ’75 whilst Johansen and Sylvain dragged the corpse of the Dolls through a tour of Japan before finally laying the band to rest in December ’76. Thunders and Nolan recruited ex-Television bass player Richard Hell and formed the Heartbreakers, who played their first shows in May of ’75. However, Hell too quickly assumed the spotlight, and was just as quickly shown the door. Exit Hell to the Void-oid, and enter Walter Lure (ex-Demons) on guitar, with Boston-ite and sometime gigolo Billy Rath on bass. This line-up would become the classic Heartbreakers line-up, who throughout ’76 established themselves amongst the top of the heap in the very healthy NY scene. They headed to England, where punk was as much about political unrest as it was about the music, and Mclaren booked them on the ill fated ‘Anarchy’ tour as support to the Pistols and the Damned – and as has been well documented, only 5 out of a possible 20 shows were completed due to the intervention of the righteous English moral majority. In early ’77 the band signed to Track Records and released their classic debut ‘LAMF’. Once again, the production of the album was sub-standard, which caused dissent within the band, ultimately leading to Nolan quitting and returning to New York. The Heartbreakers splintered, with Thunders pursuing a solo career in ’78. Nolan teamed up with ex-Doll Arthur Kane and Steve Dior in late ’78 as the Idols, and released one single on the independent NY label Ork. Nolan also turned up in Sid Vicious’ backing band, which was captured at Max’s Kansas City for the ‘Sid Sings’ album, released in late ’79. Vicious was living with Nolan at the time of his death. Nolan’s tempestuous relationship with Thunders continued into the 1980’s, and in 1983 Nolan again found himself sitting behind the kit as part of Thunders’ Cosa Nostra Band who successfully toured France and Sweden at the time. Nolan resided in Sweden during the mid-80’s and formed his own band, the Tenerifa Cowboys, who released a couple of singles and toured extensively. When Thunders re-mixed and re-released ‘LAMF’ in ’84, he capitalised by performing a set of reunion shows with the classic Heartbreakers line-up of Nolan, Lure and Rath. Nolan also drummed with the London Cowboys, who released the very underrated ‘On Stage’ album in 1985. The Heartbreakers toured sporadically throughout the mid to late 80’s, with Nolan often occupying the drum stool. Nolan drummed on Thunders’ only Australian tour in September ’86. The bond and loyalty between Thunders and Nolan remained strong and a subversive loyalty always existed between the two. Yet when Johnny passed away on 23rd April, 1991 – it left Jerry shaken. He had lost his brother. Within twelve months, sadly he too would be gone. Nolan’s last show was a special Thunders tribute show in New York featuring members of the Dolls and the Heartbreakers. In late 1991, Nolan was being treated for bacterial meningitis and bacterial pneumonia, yet whilst in hospital, he suffered a stroke and went into a coma from which he never recovered. He spent his final weeks on a life support system, before passing away on the 14th January, 1992. If  Johnny Thunders is rockin’ n rollin’ somewhere in the unknown, you can bet your life that Jerry will be behind the kit, keeping the beat as he always did. May his memory live on, with those immortal words of David Johansen – ‘Give me one Jerry’ ! 

Note: Article originally appeared in Vicious Kitten Fanzine – 1996

Born John Anthony Genzale on July 15, 1952, Johnny spent his early years on the streets of Queens NY, pursuing the dream of every American teenager, to become like his hero Micky Mantle, a professional baseball player. An introduction to music at an early age intercepted his promising baseball career as young Johnny was by now becoming an accomplished guitar player. Elder sister Marion introduced Johnny to the sounds of The Shangri-Las, The Crystals, and The Angels, and from here Johnny drew inspiration to form his first band in the late 60’s – Johnny and The Jaywalkers. In 1969 after a sojourn to London to check out the hedonistic and heady music scene there, Johnny returned to New York with a renewed determination to fulfill his rock n roll star aspirations. Johnny Genzale became Johnny Volume, who soon evolved into Johnny Thunders. Thunders was recruited into a small time outfit called Actress, by a friend and frontman David Johansen. Actress at the time featured alcoholic bass player Arthur Harold Kane, Columbian drummer Billy Murcia, and Cairo born Sylvain Sylvain on rhythm guitar. It was Sylvain who suggested they should re-name themselves The Dolls, and Thunders who tacked on the New York prefix – thus The New York Dolls were born. It was towards the end of ’71 that the Dolls began their rock n roll journey, that would eventually last another four or so years, but a legacy that is still in evidence today. 
 Much has been written about the Dolls, and a popular concept was that they were just a bunch of transsexual junkies. They were in fact a great band, who came across with stray cat guitar riffs, slutty girl group harmonies and bronx cheer lyrics. The glitter sound of Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Slade, Alice Cooper,  Iggy, T-Rex and the Dolls was essentially a post-psychedelic return to the straight ahead garage guitar chords of classic Stones and The Who – with a heavy dose of 70’s camp thrown in. The Dolls were stars simply because they said they were. However by early ’75 the creative wheels of the Dolls had quickly ground to a halt, yet Thunders’ work with the Dolls had quickly established him in the pantheon of great American rock n roll guitarists. The Heartbreakers was a name adopted almost simultaneously around mid ’75 by two groups based on opposite coasts of the United States. The more famous ultimately was Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, but for a while there it was a close thing when the New York band, Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers moved to the UK at the time of the original punk explosion. Formed by Thunders and the Dolls most celebrated drummer Jerry Nolan, The Heartbreakers’ original line-up included Richard Hell before he went off to form The Voidoids. Former Demon, Walter Lure came in on second guitar while Hell’s bass role went to Billy Rath. Even before Britain had seen or heard the band, the Heartbreakers were near legends. They were included as part of the first ever punk package tour, which featured the Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned. 1977 saw the band play every major rock venue in London, before releasing their debut LP on Track Records. ‘L.A.M.F’ (supposedly an acronym for ‘like a mother f##ker’) stands the test of time as the finest punk record ever released. Thunders’ guitar sound has jagged edges, and rips and tears like barbed wire, whilst his rangy voice wraps itself around a lyric like an undernourished boa constrictor. But more so, this album is full of heart and soul, of powerful catchy songs – the anthemic ‘Chinese Rocks’, ‘One Track Mind’ and the complete punk rocker ‘Born To Lose’. From go to whoa, every track a winner. Yet after their record label went bust, and with the band developing a reputation for unreliability due to ever increasing ‘health problems’, the group fell into disarray. In 1978 Thunders cut a seriously brilliant solo album ‘So Alone’, with help from members of the Heartbreakers, Pistols Cook and Jones, and even Phil Lynott, Chrissie Hynde and Steve Marriott. Thunders pursued a solo career, and an ever increasing heroin habit that he would maintain for the next decade. The Heartbreakers reformed in 1984, and from this tour resulted in various live albums and bootlegs. 1983’s solo outing ‘Hurt Me’, an album full of blissful acoustic tunes, and 1985’s ‘Que Sera Sera’, stand as probably his two finest releases, representing the strength and diversity in his unique playing, songwriting and singing abilities. Thunders continued to gig throughout the 1980’s, including an Australian tour in September of 1986, and occasionally reformed the Heartbreakers for a re-union gig. Thunders attained major cult status, and his reputation as a rock n roll junkie meant that some fans turned up at his shows just to see if it would be his last. Still, the rewards that enduring such abuse brought were immeasurable. His originality and creativity were truly unique. Johnny Thunders was the stuff of a million rock n roll teenage bedroom mirror fantasies, the ideal rock guitar player. Skinny as a rail, pawn shop Gibson slung at crotch level, ciggie dangling from lips puckered with contempt, and decked out in black. Once he struck his Gibson all hell broke loose. Whoever invented the electric guitar surely had Thunders in mind when he was at the drawing board. Yet after so many years of treating his body like a toxic waste dump, the grim reaper finally caught up with Thunders, and on 23 April 1991, he was found dead in his New Orleans hotel room. Thunders was in New Orleans finalising long discussed plans for his new blues band, The Oddballs, and at the time of his death was attempting to fight his heroin addiction. It is important to mention that Thunders became a rock legend in spite of this addiction, rather than because of it. In 1995, as punk makes a resurgence to a whole new generation, jumping to the sounds of modern day punk heroes Green Day, Offspring and the like, I draw a wry smile, put on one of my old Heartbreakers albums and pay homage to my departed rock n roll hero. Rest in peace Johnny. 

Note: Article originally appeared in Vicious Kitten Fanzine – 1995

THE ROAD VULTURES
RIDE
(Circumstantial)

To the untuned ear of the collective majority, the Road Vultures were just another glam looking rock band who rode on the tails of the pretentious late 80’s/early 90’s heavy metal movement. They were in fact, one of the most criminally ignored rock n roll bands of the 90’s. The blind majority who quickly dismissed the band as some lame cheese-metal outfit sure missed the point! The Road Vultures were in fact a punk band, and at the forefront of the 90’s NY punk resurgence which we know today (despite being formed in LA, they were predominantly New York based). They drew their raw influences from the Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders and the Stooges, and arrived at a sound somewhere between all three (and hey, this was before it was fashionable to namedrop said bands chump). Released in 1995, ‘Ride’ was the Vultures second and final album, following hot on the heels of 1993’s ‘Fire It Up’, which was surely the album the Dead Boys never made (and incidentally featured Cheetah Chrome on guitar). ‘Ride’ was again based around the writing and singing talents of Alan and Kevin K, whose full and weighty melodies were driven by unfettered, strong guitar and elevated by their lilting vocals. Described at the time as ‘fire and brimstone guitars with Beatles-esque harmonies’ is a fairly accurate assessment. Each of the songs has genuine depth and character, and a distinct NYC street vibe. The K brothers are truly talented songwriters who create rock n roll with an uncomplicated charm. The combination of trashy riffs, heavy on the melody and layered with those soothing vocals – man the appeal is irresistible, you just can’t help tapping your foot or getting up and dancing. Amongst an impressive array of songs on ‘Ride’, highlights are many. ‘Rosalene’ is a classic mid-tempo rocker with soulful vocals and a chorus with real radio appeal. Hit single anyone ? ‘Scissors’ again gets me movin’. The riff is raucous and the tale is one of sweet debauchery. ‘Slammin’ is vintage NY sleaze with it’s swaggering riff and sauntering vocals producing the right party combination. I could spend all day searching for superlatives for ‘Ride’, but instead I’ll wind up by saying that the Road Vultures produced two consummate melodic punk rock records of immense richness which like fine wine are getting better and better as the years go by. The music of Alan and Kevin K has enriched my life over the last few years, and I have little doubt will do the same for you. The best trash rock band since the New York Dolls, bar none. In an equitable world, ‘Ride’ should be gleaming on someone’s corporate wall, instead I’ll leave it to your devices to discover, like the lost treasure it is.