SYLVAIN SYLVAIN: A tribute to a New York Doll.

15 01 2021
Sylvain Sylvain of New York Dolls starts GoFundMe as he battles cancer -  Noise11.com

When writing about influential bands, it is so easy to reel off our typical Punk heroes such as Ramones, Dead Boys etc. But before they cast themselves beautifully upon the world, we had the New York Dolls. For me, they were the ultimate band. Not just Punk, not just a typical Rock ‘n’ Roll band. Nothing typical or conventional at all. They were the coolest of the cool. Outsiders who didn’t care that they were being gawped at. They were unapologetically themselves and made music for a generation that would continue to speak to other generations to come. Every single member of the Dolls had something about them that just lured you in, and that was that. Nothing was the same since.

Losing Sylvain Sylvain today is a painful reminder that our heroes don’t live forever. Well, physically they don’t. But they do in other ways. New York Dolls have always been hugely underrated, and I don’t think people realise just how influential their style was and always will be. Sylvain and Johnny were two of the most hypnotising guitarists ever. There will never ever be anyone else like them, and I will always cite them as the greatest. Both had this magnetic style, and this attitude that just made you wish you were as cool as them. Let’s be honest though, no one in the world could ever be as cool as the Dolls.

New York Dolls were one of the first bands I remember my mum playing to me when I was a tot. That debut record is EASILY one of the greatest of all time. The greatest debut record ever, and if a record doesn’t make me feel like that one does- then my attention span goes down the shitter. It was ahead of its time. It was the future; and it always will be. Nothing in this world can touch it. It was pure Rock ‘n’ Roll but with something else that only the Dolls had. A huge part of that was Sylvain’s energy and just the way he would play. My god it was fascinating. There was something about hearing him play that was so comforting. Johnny would have you on edge, but Sylvain would kind of bring you back down but still throw you off into another world. Everything about the Dolls was just so effortlessly slick and a masterpiece every single time.

Subway Train is my favourite song by the Dolls- I love the sorrow in the song, I love the honesty and the lyrics are just so gorgeous. They just hit you right in the soul, and for me, just sums up the genius of the band. Sylvain’s solo work and other projects are equally as vital as his time with the Dolls. Everything he did just showed us how remarkable he was. From interviews I’ve watched, you can just see that he was the sweetest guy ever, and lived for music. From watching videos of him playing the shit out of the guitar whilst wearing high heeled shoes, you can just see the passion in him for music. Although the New York Dolls were no more after 2011, knowing that we won’t see Sylvain anymore just really hurts. He had his Rampage of Songs page on Facebook where he would share the music he loved. It was such a beautiful way to see our hero interact with fans of all ages, and share all kinds of tunes. He loved music, and in return we just adored him.

Whatever I write about Sylvain will not do him justice. It won’t sum up just how remarkable he was, it won’t bring him back. The art he gave us will live forever; that’s the beauty of music. It will outlive us all, and in 20, 30 years’ time- maybe some kid will hear Lonely Planet Boy or Trash for the first time, and create their own noise. Maybe they’ll study Sylvain’s way of playing, his lyrics, his vocals and will just be utterly inspired to make something of their own. If we hold onto that, then maybe the loss won’t hurt as much in time. For now, it will hurt. I’m absolutely gutted, and feel so heartbroken about this. New York Dolls were one of the first bands I remember hearing. They were a band I could speak to my mum, my uncle, my girlfriend about for hours on end- because they love them just as much. Music goes beyond being just music. It is something that becomes your world.

Safe trip Sylvain, and thank you x





New York Dolls-New York Dolls.

2 01 2012

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.