Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New York Dolls: Lookin' Fine On Television, DVD

The New York Dolls in the early '70s took the raw power of the Velvets and the Stooges, then combined it with Jagger's ambivalent performance sexuality to create a "glam", cross-dressed stage show that had its visual as well as aural importance to the ensuing scene. In the course of their rising Nadja and Bob Gruen filmed interviews and live appearances in the clubs and on television.

The documentation can be had on the new 70-minute DVD Lookin' Fine on Television (MVD Visual 5272D). It captures the aura of the band in glorious black and white. The film makes quite clear the counterculture niche the band embodied. They were an eruption of a rather overtly flamboyant version of gay culture into the rock nightlife world, Liberace's of proto-punk if you like.

The club footage and tv spot cover much of the band's repertoire in raw sound. This is loud anarchic stuff and it recaptures the eccentric excitement the band generated. The sound is somewhat low-fi but in full keeping with the live ambiance of the band in full flight. One quibble--the filmakers continually synch multiple clips of the band performing on different occasions with the initial sound track, so that the band morphs minute-by-minute with the various outfits they wore on a different occasions. A little of this might have been enough--to give you the all-important visual impact of the band in full flower. As it is it tends to distract a little from the band-in-a-club actuality that the music portrays.

All-in-all, though, this is a very revealing documentary on a group that still sounds rootsy and strong. They used the elementality of their musical endowment to excellent advantage. They showed the punks to come that you could create real style out of a few chords, a lot of power and a big attitude.

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