The New York Dolls were one of the 70s' prime outrageous bands, ensembles formulated as much to shock and titillate as to make music. A perfect blend of glam and proto-punk, they—along with MC5, the Stooges, Alice Cooper, Bowie, Silverhead, Mott the Hoople, and others—engaged in chaotic birdflip craftings where the music itself was almost secondary to a lower working class image satirizing the landscape of class, image, art, and manners. After all, check out just the first song here, Jet Boy, with David Johansen in maidenform bra and skintight total-tan pantyhose, and you just might find yourself cockeyed and wondering "What the fuck???".
MVD's latest DVD is an anarchic collection of rawwwwwwwww clips from Dolls TV appearances—well, the telly is what's claimed anyway, and I have no real cause to doubt except…how on Earth did they get Dave In A Bra past the censors?!?! Unreal. I mean, in the same era, the Cathode Cops forced Iggy to forego his rolling around in broken glass routine, substituting peanut butter instead, in a rather famous broadcast concert with Grand Funk Railroad and Alice Cooper headlining, but Johansen was bending gender explicitly right in front of Ozzie Nelson, Dick van Dyke, and Jed Clampett??? It's a story for the ages, yet there he is, brazen as ya please.
Director Rick Fuller employs a way past cool collage effect, cutting across several versions at several venues of the same song for trippy flashback / flash-forward sequences. Not content with that, he also adds all kinds of shots of the boyz clowning around, strolling through Hollywood, and etc., everything in glorious b&w. The entire shebang starts off with an short interview with Johnny Thunders and the group, and, good sweet Jesus, are these lads straight out of Hells Kitchen or what? The American version of yobs and oiks, it kinda makes ya wonder how they survived record industry purgatory to last even for the short while they did.
All the classics are here, rendered in a way that completely revives the times, showing how and why punk began. There's so much energy, snottiness, and sheer provocation that one begins to see where the 70s were not quite like That 70s Show and MTV, especially when the era was predicting the 80s. My pals and I practically lived at the Whiskey A Go Go, and the first time I ever got stoned was on Sunset. Being one of those who had to smoke gage a number of times before coming onto it, I suddenly found myself in the ocean of people who at the time typified the Strip in a way that this disc kinda hits on: chaotic while harmonic, filled with all types, often as stratosphered as I was, mass pleasant confusion and tribal swarming. That last part, however, fell apart as punk loomed and you can see it clearly not only in these music clips but among the adventures the band was having as it traipsed hither and yon.
Does this sort of anarchy pose itself now as a period piece, or does it yet speak across the decades? I'm happy to say the latter is most definitely the case. Nonethless, I think many of the now-Jurassic musicians who roamed the domain along with the Dolls boys are going to catch Lookin' Fine on Television and blurt out: "Goddammit! Those bastards!!! 40 years later and the Dolls are STILL upstaging us!". It's that kind of video.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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