Thursday, March 29, 2007

Doll Play

Claim that any or all art forms have stopped evolving, or have simply died, and dozens of people will say you're full of shit -- which you may well be. I certainly don't discount that possibility in my case. There's plenty of creative expression that I've not seen or am completely ignorant of, and many of you, responding to my "Post-Meta-Feta" post, have been kind enough to school my aging ass on what you consider to be cutting, or at least interesting, musical and comedic efforts. I'm still wading through the stuff you Sonsters have forwarded (as more flows in), so it'll be a few more days before I write a follow-up to my original post. Until that glorious moment, allow me to step back a bit and give this topic a more personal context.

The other day, while scrolling about, I came across some 15-year-old kid's complaint that he has no contemporary musical influences to inspire him; that everything is by-the-numbers safe and ready for mass consumption. The kid wished that he was born in the '60s so that he could've experienced the original punk and new wave bands in real time, and not as someone else's nostalgia. While it may seem a dopey thing to wish for, I do feel for the kid (though his sentence structure is nearly non-existent, and no, not in a good, pomo way), for that was a great time, and it left an indelible mark on me, as I've written here before. One of the old bands that the kid enjoys is the New York Dolls, who were the precursors to, and in many ways the main influence on, punk itself. And while I was 13-14-years-old when the Dolls were at their hottest, I didn't know they existed until years later. Such was life in early-70s suburban Indianapolis. So, in a sense, I'm just like that kid, looking back to a sound and visual style that in its day was exciting, off-putting to stiffs, and most importantly, vital. Check out this clip of the Dolls in their prime:

For a kid like me who tried his best to dress like Ziggy Stardust, the Dolls would have been heaven. David Johannsen's Marilyn Monroe jacket combined with Johnny Thunders' hair would have made for compelling school attire, assuming I could approximate it and not be censured by the principal and faculty, as I sometimes was when wearing feather necklaces and sparkling eye liner (and don't think that studying karate at the same time didn't hurt when encountering confused, queer-phobic jocks and their minions). Had I been aware of the Dolls at that age, I would've gone apeshit for them. Musically, they weren't terribly innovative, but they had passion, verve, a theatrical flair, and a who-gives-a-fuck gender bending attitude. Bands like the Dolls were synonymous with freedom, simply because back then, there weren't that many open examples of men performing and dressing like them (Bowie excepted, of course). So I understand why that kid latches on to the Dolls, given what's on offer these days. I'd probably do the same were I him -- ah, hell, who am I kidding? I do latch on to the Dolls just as passionately as he. What's not to love?

As many of you know, a new New York Dolls is touring the world with an album of fresh material behind them. Here's Johannsen along with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain promoting "One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This" on a British talk show from last year. The song "Dance Like A Monkey," which appears at the end of the clip, isn't that bad, actually. I'll take an older David Johannsen over an older Mick Jagger any day. Sometimes, we aging fucks can still bring it, if only a step or two slower.