The Dolls' are in town!

No, Not the 'Pussycat Dolls', or the 'Goo Goo Dolls', not the 'Barbie' or 'Ken', 'Cindy' or 'Action Man' dolls…the  New York Dolls!
And right across the street lies the place where I'm heading to catch up with them as they sound check for their pen-ultimate European show, right here in Liverpool.



 

Just a few rain soaked and miserably grey streets away, lies the 'Cavern Club', you can hear,distant echoes of the Merseybeat if you listen hard enough.

 

My long-suffering girlfriend 'Lynne' is with me as we walk, hurriedly into the Carling Academy's underbelly, the air is thick with the sweet smell of rock n roll, and I can faintly hear the sound of 1973 in the air too.

It's a sound-check 'Personality Crisis' and its coming from above….maybe, after the stress of the journey, I've passed away and gone to heaven…and heaven is right here, right now?


Ok, we wait until the faint music is replaced by the sound of footsteps on stairs and doors opening….

Having played in bands for most of my teens and twenties and spent lots of time on the road, I know this life, and although I haven't led it for some time now, it all becomes strangely familiar…..Hey! There's Steve Conte, and he's headed in my direction…
We head off in the direction of the New York Dolls' dressing rooms.
 

 

 

I ask Steve if it bothers him that people compare this line-up to the previous Dolls'..


Well, it's inevitable in a way, because that's the Dolls' that people know for the past 30 something years, but at a certain point, I'm lookin' forward to people kinda movin' on and sayin', 'that was then, this is now!', I hope people will get to the point where they choose to accept that David and Syl wanna carry on with their careers, and they chose us to do it with'. We're a  great band!

You certainly are my friend, as I'm about to find out later...
 

What was the audition like, and how did it all come about?
 

What audition!!!??  I ate cantelope at a diner with David...we met for lunch! He'd asked around New York, asked a bunch of guitar players "who should I call, we're putting the Dolls back together?" and everyone told him, "you gotta call Steve Conte Man!" I am friends with the guitar player from the Harry Smith's, and I told him, "Call him and tell him that I'm the guy for the job, tell him I play all the right sounds, all the right guitars.." It kinda happened that way..

 

I'm curious, and as a former guitar player myself [for 'Jayne County and the Electric Chairs'], I ask Steve about his early influences and was he a fan of the Dolls back in the day...

Well, I used to be friends with Billy Murcia's brother Alphonse, and he used to chase me down the street shoutin', "Hey Man! You know who you look like...?...You look like Johnny Thunders"..I was very young when the Dolls first came out, maybe I saw them on The Midnight Special or somethin', but I was young back then, and until Billy Murcia's brother brought their records over to my house, along with 'Criminals' and 'Heartbreakers', which was around the late 70's...because I wasn't a fan, it made it a lot easier to step in and not worry about, replacing any of my heroes...

 

How about your early influences as a musician?

Well, I grew up listening to a lot of the Stones' music, Keith, Jeff Beck and Chuck Berry, which is a lot of the stuff that Thunders' was listening to as well, so the whole thing was just easy to move into.


I wanna know, and I need to know [ if you're a guitarist, you'll understand why ] , what's your on-stage set up?
 

Right now, I'm not playin' my old, old Gibson's, 'cos we have them in soft gig-bags, they go on planes,  so I'm using some new Gibson's, the white one is a Les Paul Supreme, and a Les Paul Classic Coppertop. They are exactly as they came from the factory, no alterations made, same pick-ups, same knobs, and they sound ok...They take a beatin', I give 'em a beatin' on-stage

Effects?
 

For a while I was just using a Tremelo and a Reverb, and some other stuff, but y'know, I thought, "let's go real simple", so now I have one box, that gives me a little bit of crunch, and that's it, it's called a 'Power Screamer', by HBE, Home Brew Electronics, its custom made, so unless I'm playin' something a little clean, it's pretty much it...I use a 100watt Marshall Head, through an Orange 4x12 cabinet..it's a rental amp, so it's not my ultimate set-up..If I was nearer to home, I'd bring my '59 Junior, my '70 Les Paul Custom, my '67 plexi-head and my '70's 4x12 Marshall cab.

 

At this point during the conversation, I'm afraid I slip into guitarist/Muso mode, and start asking Steve about his favourite guitar, guitarist and guitar sound...
 

Well, I'm not one of those guys that has a 'collection' as such, and I don't really have a favourite ...I have my '59 Junior, and I guess it all depends on which song I'm doing...I played a '59 Danelectro on the record, on 'Tommy' and I also played that on 'Gimme Love...'its kinda like a 'Tele' at the bottom, like a really 'meaty Tele'...I use my Junior, and my '335 on a bunch of stuff, and that's about it, really! I used a 'Strat on one song that didn't make the album..

 

Oh yeah? Which song was that then?
 

It was an extra track - 'Beauty School' , have you heard that one?

Yeah, that was featured on the DVD that came with the record...'the making of the album..'

Yeah! That's the one...maybe there's a little bit of footage from the studio..?..
 

I think David or Syl actually commented about the fact that a 'Strat' is "So Un-New York Dolls" in the film..

Yeah, but y'know, I just take my stuff along with me...I have my 'Melody Maker' with me, and there's some  other stuff I have as well. I play whatever fits the song really!

 

You're at the end of a month almost in Europe, and from what I've heard, you've absolutely gone down a storm here. This is the first time you've played Liverpool, right? and also, compared to the Meltdown re-union thing you guys did in London with Arthur, have the audiences surprised you in any way?

Yeah, for sure! It's hard to say, because a lot of the places we've just played, the original Dolls didn't...like Berlin and Hamburg...Amsterdam was amazing, Bologna, Paris was unbelievable and tomorrow in Glasgow, I think, is sold out ..it's weird 'cos some crowds just kinda stand there, lookin' bored, but the majority have been  WILD!!! Its great, there's a 'mosh-pit' goin' on at some shows, and the kids all goin' wild..it's great! For the finale, we do 'Trash', 'Personality Crisis' and 'Jet Boy'...they ALWAYS get the crowd going mad!!!
 

So, when you guys finally decided to record and get the show on the road, was there like a 'meeting of minds' to determine a 'look' for the new band?
 

Well, You're right, in the DVD, David says that Syl wants to be 'Glitter', and he wants to be 'Glam'....but  there wasn't anything to it, we just wear what we want, that's how they found each other back in the day, and in fact, when I joined the group, David just said [ adopts a gruff-'Davy-Jo' voice.. ] "Y'know Stevie...just wear what you want"..

Ok, I need a beer at this point, and realise that the guy needs to unwind before another show..
 

So, you play Liverpool tonight and Glasgow tomorrow, than its back to the U.S. for a short and well deserved break, before you set off to conquer the states. The Dolls' were almost completely overlooked in the '70's over there, apart from New York and the West Coast, how do you see things opening up for you there on the back of the new record and the massive success of your European Tour ?

Well, certainly, we hope we will be a hit....there's enough interest from the people who remember the band from the first time around, and the 'cult-status' that they created over the last thirty-odd years or so...we look out there, and we see kids of like 17 and 18 wearing T-Shirts of the original band, and it's just great to see.


 

 

Right, I'm done...I'm taking my girl for a drink and bite to eat before we get back to the show...I wanna thank you man, it's been a pleasure, and have a great show tonite!

Chris, it's a pleasure! Enjoy the show..

 

 

Steve joined us for a meal and chat right before he hit the stage in Liverpool. Lynne and I were having dinner in an Indian Restaurant in the city, and he just walked on in there...He called his wife from his cell, ordered, and then joined us at our table....we chatted for ages...almost forgot he had to be on stage......it was great fun!


The Doll's hit the stage, the place is packed, David walks to the Microphone, slowly, then greets his people with the legend that is....
 

''When I say I'm in Love, You best believe I'm in Love, L-U-V"........

 

This IS the NEW York Dolls, and they are coming to get ya!
 

Chris [ La Rocka ]  Lynch - October 2006

Taken from www.Myspace.com/chrisrocksonandon

Many thanks to Photographer Ami Barwell for the use of her images in this piece!!!

 

 

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