I can’t remember how old I was, but I was pretty young when I first heard of the New York Dolls. I know my mum used to play their music around the house. I used to try sing along to Jet Boy, pretty badly. I still do the same now. I’m writing this listening to their debut first album, and I cannot help but think that I was born at the wrong time. I feel no connection to life and music now. I feel it more for the 70s when NY, Ramones and Velvet Underground were all starting out.
The front cover of the Dolls debut album is one of my favourites. I love how striking they all look in their make-up. I love how bloody stunning Johnny Thunders looks; his lustful and seductive stare at the camera just makes you fall in love with him. They hear him play, and the love you feel for him makes you realise he was probably, the greatest guitarists of all time.
A debut record should always be sincere and unapologetically raw. It should be brutal with slight delicate tones. It should be dark and gnarly. It should smack you right in the face. It should leave you wanting more. Just anticipating the next release, and the next release and the next….and so on. New York Dolls did all of this and more with their debut album. It is EASILY one of the greatest records ever made, and also one of the best debut records ever made. As I listen to this, I find it hard to believe that this is the first proper record that they put out. It sounds so utterly perfect and professional- as if it had been created by a band with more than one album to their name.
David’s voice is one of the most precious and unique voices I have ever heard. His glorious New York drawl really comes through in this album, especially on the song Frankenstein (which is a favourite.)
I’m going to dedicate a bit now to my favourite track off the album, Subway Train. For me, Subway Train will always be one o the most wonderful songs I have ever heard. I love how you can sense so much frustration and despair in this song. The opening verse always hits me right in the gut:
“I can’t, ever understand. Why my life has been cursed, poison and condemned. When I’ve been trying, every night to hold you near me. But I’m tellin’ you- it isn’t easy.”
Everyone has felt that at some point in their life. You see the one you adore far too much, and all you want to do is hold them for a while. But everything you do seems to be cursed and fucked- so you never get the one you want. You’ll get it right one day, you must do. It’s hard to stomach at times, but with songs like Subway Train and the way David sings this opening verse- it makes you see the beauty in feeling such frustrations. The way Johnny makes the guitar sound so mournful is just so gorgeous. The song for me, it’s like- you like this person is unaware of how you feel- or maybe they do, and they just act so carelessly when you’re there. They do things to sort of stab you in the heart as you try to just get near them. You’ve got to let it go eventually, you’ll feel better when you do.
I cannot write about this record without mentioning that is was produced by a fantastic man. And probably one of the best producers of all time (him and Phil Spector are in my mind, genius and the two greats.) Todd Rundgren. He has produced some amazing albums; the work he has done with the Dolls is of course, his greatest.
What I love about the Dolls debut record is how wonderfully sleazey it can make you feel listening to it. I don’t mean it in a smutty kind of way. It just wakes up the sexual senses you have, it is an incredible album- and even though it was released in 1973; it still sounds so powerful, brutal and just so fucking raw. It has this edge on it that just caused the whole Punk scene to start.