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There are a number or records that I will never tire of playing. The Stooges ‘Funhouse’ is one; the Velvet Underground’s first is another. Add to that list David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust' and Roxy Music’s debut and you have four great records that were at one point in my youth, spinning constantly on the turntable of my record player. But there is another addition to that list; the New York Dolls eponymous release which contained some of the baddest rock n’ roll ever committed to vinyl. More shocking than the glorious out-of-control express train that came racing out of the grooves was the sleeve which pictured each of the band dressed up as grotesque caricatures of womanhood. For the first time I saw that ugliness could be celebrated as a virtue in itself, thanks to the Dolls my thinking was forever perverted.

It’s true that before I heard the Dolls I always wanted to be good.  I wanted to fit in, conform and be like everybody else, but crucially, after listening to what Dolls had to say it helped me realise that the good never fail to make deadly dull company and rarely if ever have anything interesting to talk about.  Thus from an early age I threw my lot in with the the bad and the ugly because in my eyes they were individuals who had no truck with the status quo. It also appeared that the bad and the ugly enjoyed better sex. The good always fell into some insipid love affair that ended in marriage, while the bad and the ugly never chained themselves to anyone.  In essence they found em, fucked em and flew, generally while high on hard drugs.

And so this is where I find myself tonight, stood at the edge of the Club Academy stage, genuinely excited and in a state high anxiety and just inches away from the band that along with Bowie, Reed, Brian and Pop, supplied the soundtrack to my personal rebellion. Tragically there’s not much left of the original band now; Johnny Thunders, Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane, Jerry Nolan and Billy Murcia have all sadly met untimely ends, leaving only singer David Johanson and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain to carry the torch. For this gig they’re joined by Jason Hill who plays the bass, and Brian Delaney who keeps time on the drums.  However, on guitar is none other than Earl Slick, a man who can only be described as a total rock legend, an accolade that would warrant just for playing on Bowie’s seminal ‘Station to Station’ alone.

The Club Academy isn’t full tonight although everyone who’s here are loyal fans.  The Dolls have a new CD out called ‘Backward In High Heels’ which has been well-received though it’s probably true to say that most of the crowd have come to hear the bands earlier work, so when the Johansen and co take the stage and swagger into a raunchy ‘Looking For A Kiss’ from the first record there’s a collective sigh of joy from the crowd. David Johanson still remains the charismatic and cocksure ringmaster to Sylvain Sylvain circus clown, but it’s clear that it is Earl Slick who’s marshaling the music, bringing the songs to life and making them roar.  The set is split almost evenly between the ‘Dancing in High Heels’ and their debut with a light sprinkling of tracks from the bands three remaining studio albums.  The new materials stand s up surprisingly well, but the reception the classics like ‘Personality Crisis’ and ‘Pills ’ and ‘Private World’ get that tells you which songs lie closer to their heart.  On ‘Funky But Chic’ the band introduces three young girls from Newcastle who sang backing vocals in the studio and now sings the same lines here in Manchester. It’s a cool move that sets the crowd up for a double whammy of ‘Trash’ and ‘Jet Boy’ to close the show. They come back for a spirited version of ‘Personality Crisis’ and bring the evening to an for good with the slow flicker of ’End Of The Summer’

It’s great to see the years haven’t dulled New York Dolls passion and they still remain in possession of an indomitable spirit. They’re still the baddest gang on the block and the difference between ugliness and beauty is only subjective judgment.  And if you can’t see that, you’re obviously too good to be listening to rock n’ roll.


Looking For A Kiss
I’m So Fabulous
Cause I Said So
Talk To Me Baby
Private World
Kids Like You
Who Are the Mystery Girls?
Fool For You Baby
Dance Like A Monkey
Funky But Chic
Jet Boy


Personality Crisis
End Of The Summer

Review/photos by Phil King