100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #96 New York Dolls – Personality Crisis

Released : 1973

Crawling out of Lower Manhattan’s East Side when the word bohemian didn’t even begin to cover it’s diversity, danger and decadence, the New York Dolls became either America’s most loved or hated band depending on whom you spoke to. Formed in 1971 and led by singer David Johansen, the quintet were a pronounced dislocation from the hippie era; steeped in narco chic, provocatively gender agnostic and with a retinue of tough-as-leather street trash at their back, such was their chutzpah that by the end of the following year they were supporting the Faces at Wembley Arena.

A two album deal followed, with fellow East Village/Max’s Kansas City regular Todd Rundgren brought in to produce their debut (He would decades later describe the rawboned hustlers as “Anti-music”). Many have complained that his overly beige mix neutered much of the quintet’s visceral live power; Rundgren described the process to Classic Rock in 2016 by confessing “The sessions involved politics, psychology and crowd control. And at a certain point I had to surrender to the process and accept that the surrounding insanity was going to be a part of the character of the record.”

With it’s twin guitar attack and the throaty Johansen still in relatively pristine condition, Personality Crisis was proof that in the highly unlikely event the Dolls hadn’t collapsed like a supernova of ego, drugs, hype and madness, they were real contenders for the Stones mantle of the new decade’s apex predators. A raucous honky-tonk, on it their androgyny is revealed as an ambush set for anybody thinking that those cheekbones meant weakness; it would be twenty five years before rock n’ roll from the Big Apple sounded this good again.

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