One day back in the early 1970s when, as the story goes, old-fashioned rock and roll was dying a slow, boring death-by-interminable-drum-solo, a band called the New York Dolls changed everything. Offering a sneering, irreverent mix of high-energy rock and roll and cross-dress chic, the band grabbed the attention of alienated youths, aspiring musicians, and curious critics. A quintessential live-hard/die-hard act, the drug-induced death of a band member plus internal disputes frightened off major record labels and precipitated the group’s disintegration. Before the implosion, however, future musicians of such key punk and new wave acts as Blondie, Generation X, the Sex Pistols, Morrissey, Iggy Pop, The Damned, and The Clash, plus the entire Glam Metal scene found early inspiration in the Dolls’ style and sound. It can be argued that all of punk rock and hence all contemporary rock and roll owe something of a debt to the fast-living Dolls.
In the years following the breakup, the band’s mystique grew alongside each individual member’s personal misery. In the late 1980s, two former members met substance-abuse related deaths. With a reunion of the band increasingly unlikely, and having reached rock bottom himself, in the late 1980s bassist Arthur Kane attempted to follow the path of his three late mates. Instead he met the missionaries. Two bishops and a home teacher later, plus a calling to the family history center at the Los Angeles Temple, “Killer” Kane had found peace and a new sense of purpose. Making copies and looking up records for his senior missionary coworkers, the bassist who had once rocked Wembley Stadium had found something else to live for besides a New York Dolls reunion. And then, suddenly, in early 2004 a series of emails hinted that Kane’s rock-and-roll career was perhaps not entirely over.