Gerard “Jerry” Nolan (May 7, 1946 – January 14, 1992) It didn’t matter what they made him wear, as long as he got to drum for the Dolls and hang with his friend Johnny he was happy. By all accounts, a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, Jerry was a tough as shit street kid who (long story short) joined the New York Dolls in 1972 after the death of original drummer Billy Murcia. Always looking a bit non-plussed in his teased hair and tiny Doll clothes (though nowhere near as out of place as Arthur “Killer” Kane), Jerry could drum like a house on fire.
Nolan would leave the Dolls in 1975 along w/ Johnny Thunders to form the Heartbreakers (not the Tom Petty version), move to England and embark on the infamous Anarchy in the UK tour along w/ the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. It was Jerry and Johnny who introduced heroin to the UK punk scene causing untold problems with among others, poor stupid Sid Vicious. Jerry would quit the Heartbreakers in 77′ and kick around England for a few years playing w/ various punk outfits, eventually landing in Sweden for awhile before moving back to New York in the late 80’s. After years of heroin addiction Jerry would die of Bacterial Meningitis coupled with a stroke, in 1992, only 2 months after his buddy Johnny’s death in New Orleans. He is buried at Mount Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Flushing NY.
New York Dolls (The 1st LP) released in July of 1973 received widespread acclaim from critics when it was first released but sold poorly. The band toured the United States to promote the record, but they were difficult to market and developed a reputation for rock-star excesses. Despite its commercial failure, the album was an influential precursor to the 1970s punk movement and has since been named in various publications as one of the greatest debut records in rock and one of the greatest albums of all time. The photography by Toshi has become (somewhat) iconic. Many bands would emulate the Dolls style over the years (and still do) but no LP has really had the punch of seeing these 5 men in drag on an album released 43 years ago. It’s the outtakes that are even more interesting, somehow even glammier and more shocking. And who is kid in the back cover photos and where is he today?
Johnny Thunders, born John Anthony Genzale, Jr. (July 15, 1952 – April 23, 1991) Johnny Thunders made an impression. I first saw him with the New York Dolls in 1974, playing Flint, MI of all places, dressed in black leather 2 sizes too small and hair a mile high. I later met him playing small bars in Ann Arbor, MI with Wayne Kramer as the band Gang War. A talented guitarist, a flashy dresser, and a terrible junkie is how Johnny’s remembered. The Dolls crashed around 1976 but Johnny went on with The Heartbreakers and then solo for a number of LPs, each lousier then the next as his drug problems escalated. Johnny ended his life in a small hotel in New Orleans French Quarter. Some say it was a drug overdose some say murder as his room was ransacked and all his belonging gone, either way no one was very surprised. Check out, The Dolls 2 LPs, – L.A.M.F by The Heartbreakers and solo LP So Alone and Copy Cats with Patti Pallidin.
Sable Starr was the Queen of the 1970 groupies. First with Iggy and later Johnny – among others. Johnny and Iggy later became friends but you can’t tell here.
Johnny’s last good LP was 1988’s Copy Cats – a series of inspired covers with Patti Pallidin
A fine looking bunch of lads. Written off as a glam version of the Stones in 1971, the Dolls in their first incarnation never received their proper due – though years later they’d be looked on as one of the architects of Punk Rock and would reform 30 years on (at the urging of Morrissey) to record and tour again. After the 1st version of the Dolls broke up David went on to a solo career, scoring a hit as alter ego lounge singer act Buster Poindexter and acting (Scrouged), Syl played for a few years with The Criminals and The Teardrops and became a NYC cab driver. Johnny and Jerry formed The Heartbreakers and toured England with The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Arthur formed The Corpse Grinders and then fell off the map. Only 2 of the original Dolls survive – Syl and David. Jerry died of a drug related stroke, Johnny from an overdose, or murder, depending on who you talk to and Arthur of Luekemia, 1 month after their reunion tour, after years of working as a Mormon librarian (See Documentary – New York Doll). I saw them in 1974 with opening act – KISS in Flint, MI. at the IMA Auditorium – The Dolls were great, Kiss stunk up the joint.