Monday, January 02, 2006

MUSIC: Kiss Looked For...FOUND!

In the early '70's, famed rock photographer Bob Gruen bought one of the first portable video cameras. He then spent three years hanging with and capturing on tape his good buddies the New York Dolls being The New York Fucking Dolls! Thirty years later these tapes have finally surfaced as the dvd All Dolled Up, arguably the most important documentary of previously unseen historic rock footage to emerge since MC5: A True Testimonial.

I must say it's quite astonishing thirty years after the fact to see fly-on-the-wall video documention of early Dolls' exploits I voraciously read about as a teenager in the pages of CREEM and Phonograph Record Magazine. And boy does All Dolled Up take you there! Gruen and his camera went everywhere with the Dolls, both onstage and off, and one thing that quickly becomes apparent in All Dolled Up is that the New York Dolls were never really offstage.

What makes All Dolled Up so historically important is that you are right there as the band is having it's specific big bang. Here are the Dolls in all their pre-drug deterioration, pre-mainstream rejection glory. They are very young & very hungry. They want the world and they want it now, and they actually think they're going to get it. And from the great live footage full of their legendary chutzpah, who's to say they were wrong to think so? What a rare privilege it is then to see their legend unfold right before your eyes---the great songs and performances, the great pre-crisis personalities of the guys in the band, the circus they brought with them everywhere they went and the freaks that were attracted to it.

I can't recommend this dvd enough---there's so many amazing things in it. Like a trip to Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco complete with David Johansen and teen groupies preening on it's dancefloor, or behind the scenes at the tv show appearance that resulted in the cover of their second album, a very funny video introduction of the band/pep talk for the sales staff at Mercury Records given by Johansen that of course is now full of ironic hindsight, and clip after clip of the Dolls shopping for clothes and getting dressed and doing their hair and make-up before shows---perhaps the most revealing side of their story of all.

But the thing I liked best about All Dolled Up is the much-needed balance it provides to the legend of Johnny Thunders. Generations of people who only know him as one of rock's most legendary wasteoids can finally see that for a brief glimmering moment he really was the shit. Sure he's fucked up, they're all fucked up, but he's lean, mean, young and in control. At this specific period of time Thunders is one of the baddest rock n' roll motherfuckers ever. Johansen certainly was the intellectual core of the band, both onstage and off, but Thunders was it's heart and soul. It's clear from the live footage that when they were onstage they all knew who was boss calling the shots---it was his band. There are plenty of videos & dvds out there of Johnny during his zombie years, so it's nice to see him at a time when he was still together and totally kicking ass. He seemed like a real fun guy to be around then too.

The "extras" included on the dvd are also nice. Handsome Dick Manitoba interviews Gruen, and there's a gallery track of his photos with comments. And Johansen and Syl Sylvain, the only living members of the band, also provide commentary tracks that are both cynically humorous and sweetly touching. So big thanks all around to Bob Gruen for sharing his little home movies with the rest of the world...

5 comments:

tonypatti said...

I gotta see this DVD? When did it come out? Did you just pick it up at work?

Do they do Chatterbox? I love that song.

steve scariano said...

It's been out a couple of months. Of course we carry it down here at the 'ol Vintage Vinyl, and yes, "Chatterbox" is on the dvd.

www.tobyweiss.com said...

According to reviews, this is another brilliant documentary to add to the New York Doll legacy.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned the Doll's DVD on December 17. You ignored me then and NOW you want to talk about it.

c ballew said...

steve I can't add anything that you didn't touch on in your great review. this is a great video of a great band young and in control; breaking out . they look fabulous and they rock and roll like the dirty debutantes they were . I wish the sound was better but that is so unfair when you realize its a black and white video recorder from 1973 . The best is just watching them be young and that they look like they are having so much fun being THE DOLLS .
Killer Kane is beyond words throughout , literally.
I love it when he can't play because his arm is in a cast but he hangs out onstage next to Nolan just humming along, playing in his head .