Monday, January 02, 2012

The New York Dolls' "Lookin' Fine on Television"

My Missouri pal Phil Overeem pulled my coat to this release. I'd previously viewed the Morrissey-curated vid of the reunited Dolls at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004 -- a disappointment, as the shades of the departed Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan loomed too large -- and the poignant 2006 documentary New York Doll, which focused on the trials 'n' tribs of hapless Dolls bassist Arthur Kane, an unlikely convert to Mormonism who died shortly after the first run of reunion shows. (A high point of the second film was hearing Kane's coworkers at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Center declaring, "We're New York Dolls fans!")

Ace NYC rock photog Bob Gruen and wife Nadya Beck's grainy B&W video of the Dolls was previously released in "home movie" form, with whole song performances included as a DVD extra, back in 2005 as All Dolled Up, but Lookin' Fine on Television presents a more fan-friendly cut of the material: full performances of songs, with visuals edited together from multiple performances, interspersed with interview snippets. Watching the cobbled-together performance vids, one is struck by how consistent the Dolls' meter is, as is David Johanson's phrasing. For a band whose, shall we say, _casual_ attitude toward musicianship was one of their hallmarks, these guys were remarkably tight in their own ramshackle way.

The lo-fi quality of the visuals doesn't detract at all from the viewing experience. In fact, these performances are infused with more of _the correct spirit_ than the more "pro" vids from The Midnight Special and The Old Grey Whistle Test that you can find on Youtube. It's especially refreshing to see Johnny when he was young and not yet strung out, full of piss and vinegar, with the best hair in rock 'n' roll. He didn't add a lot to his sonic bag o' tricks over the years, so it's all here, in a much better representation than some of the voyeurish latter-day stuff that's out there, when he was wasted and openly contemptuous of his audience.

The interviews remind you of how the Dolls won over the collective rockcrits of the world, if not the mass-ass audience. They're streetwise charmers, the Dead End Kids wearing women's shoes: David the amiable wiseacre, Johnny the sweet-dumb ex-baseball jock, Syl Sylvain the corkscrew-haired moppet, Jerry the lovable lug, Arthur just strange. A bonus feature has scenester/journo Lisa Robinson interviewing David, and David interviewing Johnny, on the sidewalk in front of CBGB's, just before Johnny left with the Heartbreakers to join the Sex Pistols on the Anarchy Tour.

Too Much, Too Soon wasn't just the title of the Dolls' second album. It's also a fairly accurate description of what they represented, given the musical tastes and sexual mores of the time. (Not even remotely effeminate, they were just fashion-forward fellas on the make who realized that girls _liked_ guys who wore women's clothes, and sounded like the Rolling Stones trying to impersonate the Shangri-Las.) Lookin' Fine on Television, on the other hand, is just enough, just in time: the definitive video document of the Dolls.


Blogger wrayb said...

Hey you making it "hard" for us couch followers, so we gotta go google that thing ourself to find our how it is available, legit or boot rlease?

7:20 PM  
Blogger The Stash Dauber said...

Oops. Sorry, Ray. It's legit, via MVD. Here ya go:

9:20 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home