Vinyl Chapters is a website and Instagram account that gives people the opportunity to tell their story about why a certain album is important to them. I found out no one had written about the New York Dolls and decided I wanted to take a stab at it. It turns out that Instagram has a word count limit for posts so the middle got edited out of my story. Bummer. So, I’m posting it here in it’s entirety if you want to read it. I don’t consider myself a writer so your patience is appreciated.
Artist: New York Dolls
Before I could drive the 45 minutes to Portland, Oregon to a good record store, the only way I could get my teenage hands on a non-mainstream record in the mid 80's was mail order. It took weeks just to get the catalog and then deciding what to spend my hard earned cash on was a tedious, but welcome project. Once I ordered my final selections I had to wait months to get the package.
I remember playing this cassette in my Walkman for the first time and being a little confused and disappointed. The reason was that up to this point the style of punk I was exposed to through independent radio shows and underground zines was the era when everyone was competing to see who could make the hardest music imaginable. I loved a lot of the punk and hardcore of that time and wanted to find out where it came from. I started paying attention to who had influenced those bands and I discovered early punk pioneers like The Stooges, Ramones and Sex Pistols. I noticed that those bands would mention the New York Dolls so my curiosity was peaked and I had to hear them. I had no way to preview their music in rural Washington State so I had to order the album with only the implied recommendation of those other great bands. After the long wait and built-up anticipation I got it. First off I was intrigued by the men on the cover confidently dressed in drag. That seemed radical at the time because even though this was the era of hairbands who wore makeup and looked like women, I hadn't seen any of my punk heroes dress like that. Also, I knew this record was released in 1973 which would of put it far ahead of that being acceptable in the macho rock world that I knew of. Then the music hit my ears and I couldn't make sense of it. It was so weird because it sounded so "normal" to me. For one thing it wasn't at all influenced by hard rock and was more of a progression of real rock-n-roll music than I anticipated. Some songs even featured plunky piano like something from the 50's. Later I realized that they were going against the grain of the big over-blown arena rock of their era by making more stripped down music that was at home in small gritty clubs and bars.
Years later when I had given the album a chance to grow on me I realized the lyrics were great, the music was really fun, and the band had some serious style and attitude. It wasn’t hardcore but It had become one of my favorite albums and something I would recommend to my friends.
Last year when I was going through a hard time, a friend of mine asked me what was one vinyl I would choose that I didn't have. I said this one without hesitating. He called my local record store, purchased it, and had it waiting for me when I stopped by. Thanks Jason!
This album holds a special place in my heart for how it influenced me at a young age to give artistic expressions that I don't understand a second chance. As a visual artist myself this idea has had a massive positive effect on me and makes life more fun too.