Rock ‘n’ Roll Release #1

''Makes some men crazy and then they act like fools 
 Makes some men crazy, and then they start to drool
 It's a crass and raucous crackass place 
 It's a plague upon the the human race 
 It's a terrible illness, it's a terrible case 
 And it's usually permanent when it takes place''
 - Little Feat

There’s a unique sensation that really loud, evil rock ‘n’ roll gives you. I believe the truly great rock ‘n’ roll will give you something similar to a shot of adrenaline that almost tips you over the edge; an ignition of something in your body that is joyously primal, and ignorant and far away from the stiff science of your brain, or a sweaty, glorious ‘f*ck off’ to anything and everything. Here’s the first of three records in a series that give me that release and them some: The New York Dolls’ 1973 debut album.

This kind of music, unlike how many romantic journalists make it out to be, was not some virtuous reaction to ‘classic rock’s excesses’ (see the life and times of Iggy Pop for proof). It was a reaction to their beloved rock ‘n’ roll culture becoming the ownership of California softies like Jackson Browne and the Eagles (see Barney Hoskyns’ book ‘Hotel California for the dirt). In other words: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll had gone from being the ideology of angsty youths to being the secretive excesses of the 30-something year-olds who wrote ‘You Make Loving Fun’. The New York Dolls were not ‘punk’, because punk is primarily political: England’s punk revolution was not sparked by disgust at Fleetwood Mac, but by The Winter of Discontent, unemployment levels, Margaret Thatcher, and so on. This album is rock music but played with the levels of speed and energy normally expected of punk. That don’t make it proto-punk, though.

I imagine these Manhattan brats were actually reasonably intellectual once the lipstick was off (lead singer David Johansen later formed a lounge jazz/calypso band…). That doesn’t matter: In performance, they take sleaze to levels the Stones had bad trips about. Acting like Jerry Lee Lewis is one thing, but dressing up as Jerry Lee Lewis’ most perverted nightmare is pure rock ‘n’ roll in its most wicked, urban form, and I love it.

Next time: The Clash’s 1977 debut cracker. Here’s a taster:

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4 thoughts on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Release #1

  1. Interestingly, once upon a time in my youth I had a Dolls poster on the wall. Never saw them. Just liked the poster. And I was living in New York! Just never happened. Also, not sure if you’ve seen the HBO series ‘Vinyl’ about the rock n’ roll scene of the Seventies. Early in the flick, a recording executive wanders into a club in New York. The onstage band is the New York Dolls doing ‘Personality Crisis.’ (Or at least, actors playing them). It’s pretty good. i haven’t quite yet gotten through the first episode, much less the series.

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  2. Yeah, I can’t wait to watch that. Co-created by Mick Jagger as well. I know Scorsese’s always had a thing for the Stones, having made a couple of documentaries and concert movies of them, and including some of their singles in his early movies. That show sounds right up my alley 😉

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