So why is New York Dolls on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?
I love New York Dolls more every time I listen to it, and it’s because glam rock has never sounded so gritty. It also fuses into what I know about 1970s New York City: dirty, dangerous, and yet bursting with personality and energy and emerging styles and possibilities.
Speaking of personality, “Personality Crisis” is an absolute crusher of a song for all of those reasons. The guitar hook is vintage Rolling Stones-ish, creating that gritty hard rock and blues vibe, while the piano percussion brings a really fun glam element. But more than anything, it’s David Johansen’s singular vocal style and attitude that gives this song and this band its wildly exuberant spirit.
Here’s a great live performance of “Personality Crisis,” where you can see how much Mick Jagger clearly influenced Johansen’s performance style.
And it’s so cool how “Personality Crisis” leads off New York Dolls, followed by the slightly slower, slightly darker, and yet very much as dirty-glam and spirited “Looking For A Kiss.” I can imagine that the proto-punk at play here influenced future punk rock bands from New York City to London (I’m thinking particularly about The Damned here) and beyond.
“Vietnam Baby” brings in a nice goth vibe to the dirty-glam and rock ‘n blues mix.
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to New York Dolls
For many years, the New York Dolls for me floated around as one of those bands that I knew a little about – including that they are Important in some way – and that I needed to check out more At Some Point.
Two things eventually happened that finally jump started my interest:
- I made the connection that David Johansen was also later known as Buster Poindexter a.k.a. “the Hot Hot Hot guy”
- The HBO show Vinyl premiered in 2016
I was a kid in the 1980s, so of course I watched MTV incessantly and was super aware of “the Hot Hot Hot guy.” To be fair, Johansen flat out talks about having been in New York Dolls back in the day at the beginning of the music video, but that didn’t mean anything to me at that point in time. Nonetheless, it’s wild Johansen re-invented himself so thoroughly, and was able to achieve mainstream success during the go go 1980s.
If you’re curious, “Hot Hot Hot” doesn’t do a ton for me, but it’s kind of fun.
Vinyl only lasted one season on HBO and wasn’t, let us say, critically acclaimed, but I really enjoyed it. The two-hour pilot episode is particularly good, which makes perfect sense given that Terence Winter co-wrote it and Martin Scorsese directed it. “Personality Crisis” is played a few times during the episode (which I have watched a bunch of times), including during a wild live concert set piece, and I’ve been hooked on the New York Dolls ever since.
Vinyl may have been prone to a few excesses, but I thought it had real potential. And one of the things I enjoyed most about it was that it explored the New York City music scene during the early 1970s, a time when new musical styles were starting to bubble up and even intertwine, including punk, glam rock, and even early disco, hip hop, and NYC-centric dance music styles.
I’m also reminded that there have been a few TV shows of late that also focus on music and bands from the 1970s. Pistol is a fairly good if not great limited series about the Sex Pistols. And Daisy Jones and the Six, another limited series, is about a fictional band in the mid-1970s modeled on the tumultuous life and times of Fleetwood Mac. I found it enjoyable if not particularly memorable.
Some stats & info about New York Dolls
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Glam Rock, New York Bands, Hard Rock, Proto-Punk
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #301
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was New York Dolls released? 1973
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #453 out of 1,000
New York Dolls on Spotify
A lyrical snippet from New York Dolls that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe
All about that personality crisis, you got it while it was hot. But now frustration and heartache is what you got.
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.