Legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen, who has published books on John Lennon and the Clash, has just released a new hardcover, New York Dolls: Photographs, with commentary by rock journalist Legs McNeil and an afterword by major Dolls fan Morrissey. "The New York Dolls are like family to me," says the 62-year-old Gruen. They are the most colorful, most interesting band I've worked with — one of the most influential."
Gruen adds, "Everyone from Joe Strummer, Gene Simmons to Bret Michaels all said they were influenced by the New York Dolls. They each found their own thing about the Dolls. Some people it was the music, some people it was the look, some people it was the attitude. The Dolls had it all."
Gruen met singer David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain, drummer Jerry Nolan and bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane at the beginning of 1973, months after the untimely death of original drummer Billy Murcia. The book chronicles the glam-rock band's career over 230 photographs, only 30 of which have previously been seen by the public. The last picture in the book is of their 2004 reunion in London.
Lenny Kaye wrote the book's foreword and interviewed the group's surviving members, Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain. McNeil, who spoke with countless rockers for his book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, passed along quotes, including interviews with Deborah Harry, Strummer and Malcolm McLaren. "The Dolls are the coolest," says Gruen. "People talk about them as being like a transgender, [gender-]bending band, but there's nothing girl-like or feminine about the Dolls. ... At the time, there was a big controversy because David Bowie had said he was bisexual in an interview and some interviewer asked David Johansen, 'Are you bisexual?' and he said, 'No, no, I'm not bisexual; I'm trisexual. I'll try anything.' So they would take it to the limit. It's like, how far are you going? Well how far can you go? They lived that lifestyle. They didn't play act at it."