“So Fine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses
(Words/Music: Duff McKagan, Album: Use Your Illusion II, Geffen 1991)
One of the metal bands most influenced by punk was Guns ‘n’ Roses. They were very important in ushering in the anti-hair metal trend of grunge, what with their messy “get out of bed and get on stage” look. But somewhere in there is an appreciation for the connection between glam and punk which was exemplified by Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls (and later, the more punk sounding Heartbreakers). “So Fine” is bassist Duff McKagan’s tribute to the late Johnny Thunders and while musically the song isn’t very punk, the sentimentality of the lyrics suggests a heavy influence upon McKagan, who wrote and sings the song.
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“Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls
(Words/Music: David Johansen and Johnny Thunders, Album: New York Dolls, Mercury 1973)
For Malcolm McLaren, the music was a secondary element when he decided he wanted to create a rock band to help promote his clothing boutique, Sex. He was interested in anarchy and challenging the establishment in an effort to bring about social and cultural change and on his trip to New York City for a fashion show, he found something that enthralled him: the New York Dolls. Of all of the protopunk bands he’d encountered to that point (Faces, Roxy Music, Velvet Underground, etc.), the New York Dolls were more aggressive and in-your-face than most other acts at the time who were either still stuck in the “let’s be nice to everyone so they’ll like us” hangover from the 60s or were too ingrained in “art rock.” In the Dolls, McLaren found the combination of the punk and glam world, both of whom thumbed their noses at the moral and ideological principles of society. Malcolm McLaren was so taken by the New York Dolls on his trip to NYC, that he tried recruiting guitarist Sylvain Sylvain to play in an early version of the Sex Pistols and since it was around the time when the Dolls careers were on the downslide, it almost happened.
As for the music, it had a good-time, early rock ‘n’ roll feel with a bit heavier edge and somewhat (when compared to today) suggestive or confrontational lyrics. Still, the main attraction was the image and the Dolls were the first band to become successful while flirting with androgyny. And while McLaren wouldn’t choose for his band, the Sex Pistols, to follow in those platform footsteps, he did discover that the envelope had been pushed even further. And he would eventually push it further yet.
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