New York Dolls (NO WHO)

Kara Billings ilovemyhorses2 at
Fri Jul 16 07:55:37 CDT 2004

For those fans who liked the New York Dolls and had not heard yet. Read on.

Arthur 'Killer' Kane
(Filed: 16/07/2004)

Arthur 'Killer' Kane, who has died aged 55, was a founder member and bass 
guitarist of the original punk-glam rock ensemble, the New York Dolls.

During its brief heyday in the early 1970s, the Dolls were the trashiest, 
the druggiest, the sleaziest, the campest - and the most self-destructive - 
outfit on the rock and roll scene. As well as Kane, the group consisted of 
Johnny Thunders, Billy Murcia, Rick Rivets (rapidly replaced by Sylvain 
Sylvain) and lead singer David Johansen.

Their music was brutal, degenerate, loud - amplified by maximum distortion 
and feedback, and terribly, terribly bad; their one-time manager Malcolm 
McLaren (who went on to manage the Sex Pistols) described them as "chaos 
incarnate". They released only two albums, including the 
presciently-entitled Too Much Too Soon. Neither sold particularly well.

But they achieved bucketfuls of notoriety, their legend honoured by cultist 
name-droppers and genealogists of the punk rock scene. Their 
couldn't-care-less flamboyance inspired a new generation of performers: The 
Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Primal Scream and the Manics were aficionados, as 
was Morrissey, once president of the Dolls' fan club.

On stage, the band dressed like prostitutes, sporting spangly bras, 
skin-tight PVC mini skirts, spandex tights, six inch platform shoes, big 
hair, smudged lipstick and thick mascara. Kane, the band's six-foot-plus 
bass guitarist, resembled a brickie in drag - a scowling cross between 
Rapunzel and Frankenstein with a shock of curly, badly-bleached hair, 
usually over a tutu or chemise.

They were the original "Spinal Tap". Off-stage they did sex, drink and drugs 
- in excess. In 1972, the band's original drummer, Billy Murcia, overdosed 
during a tour of the UK on a combination of Champagne and Mandrax. He 
effectively drowned when partygoers put him in a cold bath and poured coffee 
down his throat in an effort to revive him. The swaggering and 
inspirationally sloppy guitarist, Johnny Thunders, expired in a drug-soaked 
haze in 1991. Murcia's replacement, Jerry Nolan, described in Rolling Stone 
magazine as "the one Doll who approaches the standard definition of musical 
competence", followed a year later.

Although Kane survived into the new century, it was only by the skin of his 
teeth. In the 1970s a drinking problem and a series of accidents, including 
breaking his arm and getting stabbed by a jealous girlfriend who did not 
want him to go on tour, meant that a roadie, Peter Jordan, often had to hide 
behind the amplifiers and play his part for him.

Eventually, internal disagreements and the difficulty of remaining upright 
during gigs took their toll. The group broke up and officially disbanded in 

Arthur Kane was born in 1949 in the Bronx district of New York. At junior 
high school, he played the clarinet, but soon traded it for a bass guitar, 
which he found a more effective instrument for attracting girls. Before 
joining the New York Dolls in 1971, he played with a number of bands, 
including the Poor Boys, the Symphonix and the Fogg. The Dolls' lead singer, 
David Johansen, recalled how the band tailored their performance to their 
audience: "We were in wild places. So we had to be more wild than the kids 
in the audience, which was good because we were really crazy. . . The whole 
dance floor was covered with these amazing maniacs. We were their band."

Malcolm McLaren, who first met them in London in 1972, recalled their 
striking visual impact and attitude: "Sylvain Sylvain, a red-cheeked 
Egyptian toyboy dressed in a child's fringed cowboy shirt; Johnny Thunders, 
a rock'n'roll Latino rag doll whose face I had great difficulty in finding; 
Arthur Kane, a boy-girl who seemed to think he was every suburban girl's wet 
dream of a Teutonic god in gold spandex, and David Johansen, a New York Mick 
Jagger lookalike, only 20 years younger and a lot taller, wearing a dress 
that belonged to his girlfriend." McLaren professed himself "enchanted".

In 1973 the band secured a recording contract with Mercury Records, which 
issued their debut album, New York Dolls, in 1973, and their second, Too 
Much Too Soon, in 1974. But the band's outrageous reputation restricted 
opportunities for live concerts. In July 1974, for example, the management 
at one venue in Los Angeles cancelled an engagement, complaining of the 
band's rudeness and failure to appear in time for shows.

After the break-up of the Dolls, Kane went on to perform with a number of 
lesser-known bands, including the aptly-named Corpse Grinders, best known 
for the song Mental Moron. He became teetotal and converted to Mormonism.

Last month the surviving members of the band (augmented with session 
musicians) reunited for the first time since the 1970s for a gig at the 
Festival Hall as part of the London Meltdown Festival. Kane, in thigh-length 
boots and ruffled shirt, looked, according to one critic, "as if decked out 
for an S & M panto by mistake". Otherwise he was sadly unrecognisable, 
having lost all his hair and looking as though he had been heavily sedated 
to get him on stage. Even his colleagues seemed shocked by his appearance: 
"Can you believe this is Killer Kane?" an incredulous Johansen asked the 

Nevertheless the band was on surprisingly good form - musically at least - 
and seemed genuinely happy to be reunited at an occasion that was not a 

It was too good to last. Kane died of complications due to leukaemia on July 
13. David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain are now the only surviving band 


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