Year first eligible: 1999
Previous nominations: 2001
Members included: David Johansen, Arthur Kane, Billy Murcia, Jerry Nolan, Sylvain Sylvain, Johnny Thunders
The New York Dolls were punk rock before most music fans had ever even heard of punk, and they inspired virtually every punk band who followed in their wake. Formed in 1971, the Dolls combined the swagger of the Rolling Stones, the raw sounds of the Stooges, the glam of David Bowie and T. Rex, and the pop influence of girl groups into their own brand of take-noprisoners rock and roll that was unlike anything anyone had seen or heard before.
While many labels were scared away by the band’s androgynous wardrobes and unabashed vulgarity, Mercury Records signed the Dolls and released their raucous debut album New York Dolls in 1973. Recorded by the band’s classic lineup – vocalist David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain, bassist Arthur Kane, and drummer Jerry Nolan – and produced by Todd Rundgren, New York Dolls is widely regarded as one of the finest debut records in rock and among the most influential of all time. Songs like “Personality Crisis,” “Looking for a Kiss,” and “Trash” are gritty proto-punk masterpieces, with Johansen’s lyrics addressing dark subjects like adolescent heartbreak, teen alienation, and insanity, delivered with a campy girl group attitude. Featuring Thunders’ untamed lead guitar growl interlocked with Sylvain’s complementary rhythm playing, along with the messy but dynamic attack of Kane and Nolan, these groundbreaking tracks directly inspired the punk rock movement of the 1970s. The band’s 1974 follow-up Too Much Too Soon, produced by the legendary George “Shadow” Morton, was packed with even more brilliant glitter rock anthems and further cemented the Dolls’ place in rock history.
While the New York Dolls never achieved major commercial success, both of their early studio albums received glowing reviews, and music critic Robert Christgau called the group “the best hard-rock band since the Rolling Stones.” With their seminal recordings and shambolic live performances, the Dolls created some the most enduring and influential music in rock history and had an inordinate impact on generations of musicians, from the Sex Pistols to the Ramones, from KISS to Guns N’ Roses, from the Smiths to the Replacements.
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