Crossdress Flashback

Glam, bam, thank you, ma'am! The New York Dolls are back -- at least the ones that aren't dead.

When Outtakes heard the exciting news that the New York Dolls were playing Fort Lauderdale, we decided to dig up the proto-punk glam-band's local history. After all, this is the group, led by David Johansen (a.k.a. Buster Poindexter, he of "Hot Hot Hot" infamy) that helped usher in the punk revolution with MC5 and the Stooges, that dressed like chicks before dressing like chicks was cool, and that self-destructed in a wave of drugs and loose women. And believe it or not, the classic Dolls lineup played its very last show here in Fort Lauderdale.

It was December 1974, at a club on Federal Highway called the Flying Machine, which is now the Copa. Local music legend/practicing attorney Charlie Pickett was there, a buttoned-down, bell-bottomed 22-year-old at the time. He puts the scene in context:

"Remember, this was before [classic punk eye opener] Live at CBGB's came out. It was before we figured out what was wrong with disco and Foreigner and Styx. I'm guessing there were 150 people out of maybe 250 capacity. [The club] was black and hideous. When they came out, it wasn't the epiphany of punk rock, but, man, all of a sudden there was that sloppy, two-guitar sound... The push and pull... What a great sound. Remember, we were so young. [Bassist] Art Kane had a tank top or something with his belly hanging out. This is the most dumb, shovel-looking guy with makeup on! I don't remember anything about the drummer. The other three had an in-out motion. They would run up to the edge of the stage and then to the back to the amps as if everything depended on catching the chord. Johansen was in a total Jagger motion — there's nothing wrong with that. There was a true performance love. They stomped around, they were outrageous, they spit, they cursed, but they were a great, tight band. Of all the shows I have ever seen, it's in the top 25, and I have seen thousands..."

The New York Dolls, circa 1973
Richard Kolnsberg
The New York Dolls, circa 1973

It was the last show drummer Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders — the influential guitarist who died in a New Orleans hotel bathroom in '91 — ever played with the Dolls. Thanks to prodding from Morrissey, the band is back again, featuring the last two surviving members of the original band. They have a new record deal, a DVD on the way, and their strongest lineup since 1975. What are the chances they'll make history this time out? — D. Sirianni Mod Man In

Between the Who and Oasis, there's a generation gap wider than the River Mersey. But there is direct lineage bridging '60s mod and '90s Britpop, and his name is Paul Weller. The ballsy Brit's latest studio album, As Is Now — released earlier this month — works as a sort of career retrospective, incorporating elements of Weller's past bands (the Jam and Style Council) as well as his earlier, more funk-centric solo stuff.

Though unknown to most Americans, Weller is certified rock royalty in England, held in the same light as his mentor, Pete Townshend. After all, it is Weller, not Townshend, whom British journos refer to as "the Modfather." As frontman of the Jam, Weller came of age during the first wave of British punk. Though his safety-pin-clad peers loved to piss on '60s culture, the smart-suit-wearing Weller stuck to his roots, fusing the defiant attitude of punk with the styles of his mod forebears (and a heavy nod to Motown). By the time the Jam split in 1982, Weller's penchant for American soul and jazz took him in a new direction, but the excesses of '80s synth pop often threw him off course. The result was the Style Council, which, though initially successful, petered out by decade's end. Perhaps it was the commercial disaster of the final Style Council album, Confessions of a Pop Group, that caused Weller to regroup, so to speak, and get back to the basics of solid songwriting.

As Is Now proves that, six albums into his solo career (excluding the covers disc Studio 150), Weller has reconciled his punk-primed past with the more laid-back, jazzy style of his later years. The album's two singles — "From the Floorboards Up" and "Come On/Let's Go" — are the most rockin' songs he's written since the Jam. There are a few dull moments (the soporific "The Pebble and the Boy"), but they're the exception rather than the rule. Overall, the album has a comforting, paternal quality to it, as if Weller wants you to know it's OK just to pick up a guitar and play from the heart. And if that means cranking up the distortion, then all the better. Maybe that's what Weller means on "Blink and You'll Miss It" when he sings, "It's only when you finally arrive/That you recognize/You've been going through changes. " The Modfather has gone through plenty of changes, no doubt. But As Is Now isn't really a change — it's more like a return to form. — Jason Budjinski

How Goth Are You?

In the spirit of Halloween, Outtakes offers this quiz to help you determine the depth of your darkness. Tally points based on your answers, and check below for your Scale of Bleakness. And remember, October 31 is your big day, so cheer up! Or don't, of course.

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