One of the earlier hard rock and heavy rock bands out of the USA, the band was founded in 1971. Its first two albums attracted attention and excitement. The band’s success was partly attributed to its androgynous glam and theatrical outfits. Sylvain worked at a shop across from a doll repair shop called New York Doll Hospital. They influenced New York bands The Ramones and Kiss.
Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia were schoolmates and band-mates in The Pox. They recruited Thunders for bass, but he ended up on guitar, which was Sylvain was teaching him. This band fell apart when Sylvain took time off to visit the UK. Thunders was soon recruited by Kane and Rick Rivets for their band. Mick Jagger aspirant David Johansen joined as the singer and replaced Thunders. Rick Rivets was soon replaced by Sylvain. The band performed at a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve 1971. The break came when Faces/Rod Stewart invited them to open his show in London. The band was touring the UK when Murcia died of overdose. Other sources claim he drowned in his own bathtub. The attendees had attempted to revive him by feeding him coffee, which choked him in the bathroom. Jerry Nolan was recruited. Future Kiss drummer Peter Criss was unsuccessful. Peter Criss had nonetheless received drum lessons from Jerry Nolan. This line-up obtained a deal with Mercury and recorded its debut. The reaction was mixed and the band made it unto both Best and Worst lists. Nonetheless, the band toured Europe and even appeared on BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test. A second album was issued, but Mercury had had enough. The band was despirited and with members doing too much drugs it all fell apart. Malcolm McLaren of The Sex Pistols fame took over the management and the band was given a new image. Roadie Peter Jordan would often stand in for the dysfunctional Kane. Thunders and Nolan would fight with Johansen and leave. Blackie Lawless would replace Nolan for the remainder of the US dates. The group broke up. The band was back to tour Japan with Jeff Beck in the same summer. Drummer Tony Machine and former Elephant’s Memory keyboardist Chris Robison augmented Johansen, Sylvain and Jordan. The band was playing Canadian and US shows when more drug-influenced arguing lead to the departure of Robison. He was replaced by keyboardist Bobbie Blaine. The band broke up and splintered into other acts like The Heartbreakers. Lipstick Killers was a compilation of demo material recorded with Murcia. Red Patent Leather was a live recorded issued by the band’s fan club in 1984. The material stemmed from 1975.
Thunders overdosed and died in 1991. Nolan had a stroke and died in 1992. Kane and Lawless initiated Killer Kane.
The Smiths’ singer Morrissey helped organize the band’s 2004 reformation. He had been their European fan club head. The line-up featured Johansen (who had several acting credits to his name), Sylvain and Kane. The band appeared at the Meltdown Festival in London in 2004. A live album was issued on Morrissey’s label. The band played several shows, but Kane now a Latter Day Saint contracted Leukemia and died. Before dying, he was featured in the documentary New York Doll where he would regroup with his former band-mates. Sylvain and Johansen soldiered on after his death. The group even toured Europe and Oceania. The debut’s producer, Todd Rundgren, was back in 2009 and recorded the group’s newest album. W.A.S.P., Queensrÿche, Girlschool, Lauren Harris, Rock Goddess and New York Dolls were booked at 2009’s Hard Rock Hell festival announced for December 4-5th at Pontins in Prestatyn Sands in Wales. The group was announced as openers for Mötley Crüe and Poison in 2011. The band opened for Alice Cooper in 2011, but disbanded thereafter. Sylvain Mizrahi, a.k.a. Sylvain Sylvain, had cancer and was undergoing treatment in 2019. Showtime Documentary Films was working on a documentary by director Martin Scorsese on the subject of David Johansen in 2020.
New York Dolls are often credited with taking the mantle from The Stooges and influencing the whole punk movement.