#215: New York Dolls, "New York Dolls" (1973)

William Carter-Hicks
9th Grade English

Mr. Furman

New York Dolls and Tragedy

Extra Credit Project #1 - comparing a movie/album to one of the genres we’ve read

      The New York Dolls are a tragic band. The reason why they are a tragic band is because many of the original members died or didn’t live long enough to get succuess success. Or, they died.

      The band formed in 1971 and wore high heels, makeup, and were andognious androgynous. Some people say they were the first G.L.O.W. band and influenced later G.L.O.W. acts.

      The original drummer, Billy Murcia, took too many drugs. They made him drink a lot of coffee to wake him up, and he died.

      The second drummer, Jerry Nolan, died from spontaneous combustion.

      The bass player, Arthur “Killer” Kane, worked as an extra on movies. He’s on the plane in the movie "Innerspace.” He became a Merman Mormon. He is tragic because in 2004, right after a reunion show with the New York Dolls, he died of Leukemia. He was later the subject of the book “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane.”

      The guitarist, Sirhan Sirhan, is still in prison for killing Kennedy.

      The other guitarist, Jimmy Thunder, eventually started his own band “Jimmy Thunder and The Heartbreakers.” There are rumors he was killed for his meth supply, or he died of Leukemia.

      David Johansen changed his name to Buster Pointdexter Poindexter and make wrote songs about congoa lines. He also became an actor in movies like “Scrooged.” The tragedy is he also starred in “Mr. Nanny” with Hulk Hogan.

      The New York Dolls made two albums, “New York Dolls" and "Too Much Too Soon.”

      On the first album, the songs are tragic too. "Trash" is about a guy who doesn’t want someone to take his knife. "Jetboy" is about a superhero who steals babies.

      Therefore, since many of them died or no one bought the records, the New York Dolls are a tragic band.

      William -

      First, I appreciate your taking the time to complete an extra credit assignment. However, there are a few things I’d like to call to your attention. The genre of music to which you are referring is “Glam” not “G.L.O.W.” Glam, which is short for glamour, is a genre of music in which musicians dressed in an outrageous manner, embraced non-traditional gender roles, camp, and irony. “G.L.O.W.” is an acronym for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Jerry Nolan did not spontaneously combust; he died of a stroke brought on by complications of bacterial meningitis and pneumonia.

      Arthur Kane is a tragic figure; however, he was not the subject of the novel “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane.” This book was written by William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) about an insane asylum for military personnel. It was later made into a film called “The Ninth Configuration,” starring Stacy Keach.

      While Sirhan Sirhan did, in fact, kill Bobby Kennedy, Sylvain Sylvain, the rhythm guitarist for the Dolls, is not currently incarcerated.

      Similarly, while “Johnny” Thunders” may have died under mysterious circumstances, he was not at any point a Samoan prize fighter. However, it is interesting to note “Jimmy” Thunder is the record holder for fastest knockout at 1.5 seconds (not including the 10 count).

      I completely agree with you about the tragedy of “Mr. Nanny.”

      Although, Mr. Johansen gets a pass from me for his performance in “Let it Ride,” the best movie about horse racing, but that’s neither here nor there.

      Most importantly though, while “Jetboy” may very well be about a superhero (I don’t believe he’s stealing babies) there’s a lot more to “Trash” than a person who values their cutlery. According to journalist Phil Strongman,

“The choruses begging the songs subject ‘my sweet baby’, not to throw her life away. It’s a desperate plea, seemingly delivered in the dirty alleyways and stopped sinks of Midnight Cowboy NYC, and in under 4 minutes, it tells a bittersweet’n’sour low-life lover story - Glam style. These people might be hookers, rent boys, junkies, sneak thieves, - or so the lyrics imply - but they’re still human beings and their subject matter is still tragedy.” (Strongman, 2008)

      We note here the concept of tragedy is universal and knows no boundaries of age, class, sex, etc.

      On the other hand, “Trash” might be the first song about ecological consciousness. Trash, pick it up, don’t throw your life away. The interpretation is left up to the listener to decipher the true meaning of the song and lyrics.

      There are certainly tragic elements which surround this band. Three of the original members died before they were forty. While the band was lauded for certain groundbreaking influences by later generations, it could be argued the New York Dolls were not appreciated during their time.

      When you combine the history and reception of the band, one might certainly conclude they are a tragic band.

      Ultimately, though, they did make music on their own terms, and they have etched their place within music as a seminal act.

      In the future, I would edit and proofread your work before submitting it. Also, I recommend not using Wikipedia as a source for your information.

—Andrew Davie