Most people consider the Ramones to be New York City’s first punk band, but the New York Dolls can make a strong case that they’re the rightful owners of that title.
Two years before the Ramones formed, the Dolls were playing glam rock at clubs in the East Village.
Yet by the time the CBGB scene took off, the Dolls were long gone, leaving behind two albums that didn’t sell well, but did influence everyone from the Clash to Guns N’ Roses.
Then, in 2004, nearly three decades after they broke up, the Dolls shocked everyone by reuniting at the request of a longtime fan — Morrissey. These days, they’re mainstays once again at the downtown clubs.
amNewYork spoke with lead singer David Johansen, 61.
Are you surprised at how long the reunion has lasted?
I don’t think about those things — I just get caught up in the moment. We were only going to do one show, then we got a call to do another. That continued to happen, so we thought: “Let’s make a record.” Since then, we’ve been making one every two years or so.
Were you nervous about possibly tarnishing your legacy by re-forming?
[When Morrissey asked us to perform,] I just thought we were going to get to go to London, stay in a nice hotel and have fun. The fun aspect was first and foremost. As far as how good we’re going to be, we take it for granted that it’s going to be good.
What do you think when you walk around the Lower East Side today?
It certainly seems like we’ve been attacked by a lot of money managers. We have a song about that called “I’m So Fabulous.”
What do you see as the Dolls’ legacy?
For certain people with artistic inclinations, when they saw us, we sparked something in them — a certain kind of can-do spirit. Maybe those people hadn’t considered that they could be musicians or artists. They were thinking: “Will I kill myself or become a dentist? Oh, I guess there’s a third option.”
If you go: The New York Dolls are at the Bowery Ballroom Wednesday night at 9. 6 Delancey St., 212-533-2111, $35