Wednesday, April 12, 2006
From the new issue of Rolling Stone.
And from a recent issue of Billboard.
SPOILER ALERT! Don't read the above linked articles if you have not seen New York Doll. (See post below, "Beautiful," about this knockout documentary.)
Sunday, April 09, 2006
When I heard the Dolls perform in the doc, I was shocked: This stuff rocked. I immediately hit Amazon, where I found that the band only recorded two official albums, and one (Too Much, Too Soon) was out of print. Dejected, I still ordered their debut and a CD of their reunion show that features prominently in New York Doll. On a whim, I went to our local Hasting's, and damn if they didn't have a used copy of Too Much, Too Soon for $4.99. A small town Arkansas CD store has an out of print New York Dolls CD. Who would have thunk it?
Save for one song, the sucker rocks.
Why in the world don't these guys have a boxed set of remastered songs on the market? It's a crime. Morrissey, where are you?
Yet outside the world of rock aficionados, they remain anonymous. Their most famous member, David Johansen, is primarily known, not for his lead vocalist gig for the Dolls, but for his mid-`80s cocktail crooner alter ego, Buster Poindexter (remember, “Hot, Hot, Hot”?) and some acting gigs (Scrooged, Married to the Mob) The 1973 New York Dolls debut album remains their only official studio release in print.
As Brit vocalist Morrissey puts it in New York Doll, the Dolls were, unfortunately, ahead of their time. By 2004, two members of the Dolls were dead, leaving Johansen, guitarist Syl Sylvain and bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane as the only surviving members, and each of them were well into their separate lives apart from the New York Dolls.
Which is where New York Doll begins. The film doesn’t follow Johansen or Sylvain, but instead focuses on Kane. When the Dolls disbanded, Kane struggled to find a groove, but instead descended into alcoholism and poverty. While Johansen thrived, Kane grew jealous and bitter, and eventually, “fell” from his
When we meet Kane, he’s a sweet, tall, gaunt guy with perhaps a little damage from his days of heavy drinking. Living in a small apartment stuffed with New York Dolls memorabilia, it’s obvious that while Kane has found a spiritual peace, he still harbors for some type of Dolls reunion. And Kane’s prayers are answered when Morrissey arranges for a New York Dolls concert at a prestigious festival in
What follows is an undeniably touching portrait of a gentle man humbly making peace with his past while experiencing the true grace of his answered prayers. The filmmaker, Greg Whiteley, was a fellow Mormon who met Kane at the
If one took the meat of New York Doll and molded it into a fictional film, it’s likely the audience would not go along with the story, finding it too unbelievable. Yet it is the last five minutes of the film that truly blindsides you. If you know the history of the New York Dolls and of Arthur Kane, you know the ending. If you don’t – and likely you don’t – then you’ll be left slack-jawed and, in a way, comforted that you took 77 minutes of your time to follow Kane as his longtime dream is fulfilled.
Like I noted, New York Doll is one of those rare films that slipped in and out of theatres with no fanfare. Despite a typically smarmy review (penned by longtime Voice rocksnob Robert Christgau) from the Village Voice, the movie received stellar reviews from critics, yet it still vanished without a trace. I certainly hope the DVD release will rectify this. Even if you’re not a rock fan, there’s no denying that this film is a special gem. I can’t recommend it enough.
Some notes on the DVD: It’s generally a fine transfer, but in some instances, it looked as if some of the audio was out of sync, but it didn’t detract from the experience in any way. The few extras are terrific: a longer interview with Morrissey; a six-minute talk with Whiteley; and a hymn performed by David Johansen. (And don't turn the movie off when the final credits roll. Johansen performs another hymn -- "Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" -- that is absolutely stunning.)