Wednesday, August 08, 2018

New York Dolls - Lipstick Killers

This compilation of 1972 NYD demos was produced by their manager Marty Thau with original drummer Billy Murcia in the hopes of capturing the ears of a record company PR man. Of course, Billy's untimely death scuttled their momentum and almost put an end to the band before gaining the terrific Jerry Nolan as his replacement and resurrecting the band to greater heights before succumbing to an untimely and unbecoming demise.

All of the songs here were eventually re-recorded for their two albums with the exception of Otis Redding's "Don't Mess With Cupid", which would end up on their Rock'n'Roll compilation in 1994. (Actually, now that I am listening to this, I'm not sure if that is the same version. If it is, it was remixed dramatically.) Of course, the sound is not polished and my personal belief is that Murcia was nowhere near the drummer that Nolan was (although I only have these demos to go by, so it could simply be the way that he was recorded), so the songs suffer from a lack of rhythmic dynamics.

The mix is also pretty dreadful with the guitars buried to the point of almost being inaudible and Johansen's untrained'n'strained voice considerable louder than everything else combined - to the point of drowning out everything and removing any of the punch'n'power of the band. It actually sounds more like someone set up a tape recorder in a rehearsal space and Johansen sings straight into it, overpowering everything else. Songs are slower than the later versions ("Bad Girl" particularly drags), as with Back in the USA some of the lyrics and melodies are not finalized ("Looking For a Kiss"), David's harp is strong in "Don't Start Me Talking" but the guitars don't seem as confident and the arrangement isn't as dynamic as it would become, the afore-mentioned "Don't Mess With Cupid" is tons of sloppy fun, and "Human Being" is lacking in intensity as they sound more like they're trying to remember everything rather than letting loose and rockin' (although, oddly, you can hear Arthur better here than in most of the songs).

More of the same in the rest of the songs - "Personality Crisis" is again slower and the band actually sounds like the lose their place and stop (accidentally) more than once here, "Pills" actually ain't bad, comparatively, but the lack of almost any instrumentation, naturally, makes "Jet Boy" difficult to listen to until the solo, where Thunders breaks through for a minute before David takes back the mic, and the same problem plagues "Frankenstein".

Obviously, this is only meant for fanatical fans, but even so, it's really just for completists - certainly not essential and probably not a fair representation of Billy Murcia, since the sound is so dreadful. I love this band, but this does not show them in their best light.