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The New York Dolls in 1973

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Cover of Rock'n'Roll Hype magazine, Fall/Winter '74

The one and only time I ever saw the New York Dolls was at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, DC on Friday, Dec. 14, 1973. Some of my memories of shows in the ‘70s are pretty murky, but for this one, I remember the whole evening just as clear as it can be.

The opening act was some local band called Babe that played bar band boogie rock. They played. And played. And played. They finally stopped, and someone came on stage to say that the Dolls were there at the theater, but that their gear was stuck en route. So then Babe played some more.

What was going on was that this was the Dolls’ first gig in the US after a European tour, and while the Dolls were back in the US, their equipment wasn’t. This was the beginning of the mid-70s “energy crisis,” where we would wait in line for hours to buy gas, and lots of airline flights were routinely canceled because of the high cost of fuel. One of those canceled flights had the Dolls’ guitars, drums, and amps. (Years later, I met a woman who’d worked at the airport that night, and she told me that while their road manager was trying to figure out what was up with their gear, the Dolls were running around the airport, wearing little kid sunglasses, and generally terrorizing the regular airport clientele.)

Meanwhile, back at the theater, Bobby Liebling, lead singer for local heavy metal band Pentagram, arranged for the Dolls to use their equipment. (I can still clearly picture Jerry Nolan swinging away on a drum kit that said “Pentagram” across the bass drum head.)

So finally Frenchie, the Dolls’ “valet,” blew his whistle to signal the start of the show and the Dolls came on, hours late, and they were fantastic! David Johansen was wearing the exact same outfit that he would later wear on the back of Too Much Too Soon, including the denim jacket with Marilyn on the back. Sylvain Sylvain was full of energy and bouncing all over the place. Johnny Thunders, even after the long wait, was pretty spot on, although he fell off his platforms a few times. Poor Arthur Kane was kind of out of it, though. At one point, David made a big introduction to Arthur’s song “Private World,” calling Arthur “the Puerto Rican of the group” and mentioning how the position of his bass kept the girls from being able to fully appreciate his “basket.” Arthur started the dum dum dum, dum dum intro but didn’t realize that his bass had come unplugged. A roadie ran out and plugged him back in, and Arthur just kept playing, oblivious to what had just happened. Johnny and David kind of shrugged at each other and blasted into the song.

The set list featured most of the Dolls’ first album, along with much of the as-yet-unreleased second album, including “Chatterbox,” “Stranded in the Jungle,” “Mystery Girls,” and “Puss’n’Boots,” plus “Lone Star Queen” and “Give Her a Great Big Kiss.” Despite how late they were, and besides the fact that they were using borrowed equipment, they put on an incredible show. Definitely one of my top ten concert experiences of all time.

Two nights later, after driving through a mofo of a snowstorm, we saw Lou Reed at the Kennedy Center, but that’s another story…

A few years later, I found a copy of a local DC fanzine called Hype that had a review and photos from the concert, along with a review of the Lou Reed show as well.

Click > Hype 1974 for a PDF of the full 40-page magazine.

Written by Dean Jeffrey

November 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Rock

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