Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sylvain Sylvain & Shows # 866 & 867

Sylvain Sylvain was an American guitarist that is perhaps best known as being a member of the proto punk band The New York Dolls. While often overshadowed by guitarist Johnny Thunders, Sylvain’s rhythm helped give the Dolls part of what made them so unique. When they played together it created something special.  In Vintage Guitar Magazine Sylvain said: "I’m trying to hit you with everything, a little bit. Sometimes, I kind of float around, but it’s only a natural thing.” I feel this is a good way to describe the way Sylvain played the guitar and his aesthetic in general.

Originally from Egypt, his family eventually made their way to New York after living in France. Sylvain had a knack for fashion, clothing and music. Prior to being in the New York Dolls he ran a popular clothing company called Truth and Soul with his friend and future band mate Billy Murcia. Across the street from A Different Drummer, a men’s boutique shop that he also worked at in his younger days was a place called The New York Doll Hospital. The name "New York Dolls", struck a chord with Sylvain as something that would make a good band name. Although he played in several bands before the formation of The New York Dolls, Sylvain played in a band in high school called The Pox with Murica and in 1970 played in a band he called The Dolls that featured a young Johnny Thunders on bass. Sylvain wound up teaching Thunders how to play the guitar around this time. Not too long after this, Sylvain began playing in a band called Actress with guitarist Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. Sylvain Sylvain replaced guitarist Rick Rivets, who was one of the original guitarists in the group. While Johnny Thunders sang and provided lead guitar, he decided that he did not want to front a band and David Johansen entered the band as their vocalist. The New York Dolls were born. 

While on a short tour in England in 1972, drummer Billy Murcia died of an accidental overdose. When the band returned to New York they auditioned several drummers before adding Jerry Nolan to their ranks. The New York Dolls did have a small devout fan base, but they were never largely popular during their initial run, which ran from about 1971-1976. They however did challenge the conventions of rock and roll. Known as a glam rock, proto punk and punk before it was a word people used, The New York Dolls would go on to be vastly influential following their dissolution. Their live shows both shocked audiences with their use of genre bending glam dress and enthralled them with their wild rock sounds. The music that influenced their sound was part Bowie and T.Rex, girl group pop music, the sleazy rock sounds of The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, The MC5 and elements of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. 

Although their first two albums 1973’s New York Dolls and 1974’s Too Much Too Soon had bigger name producers attached to them, they just never sold that many copies or hit on the larger scale that they should have. While members of the band and fans have stated that the recordings of these albums were not that great, they still sound as vital now as they did in the 70s. Lenny Kaye had this to say of Sylvain and the Dolls: "Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end the Dolls’ moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come."

After the Dolls split, Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen continued to play and write music together. Johansen’s first three solo albums featured songs written with Sylvain and he even played on several of the tracks. Sylvain also did his own thing, while still playing off and on with Johansen and other ex-Dolls at various points in their careers. The Criminals formed around 1977 and released the single The Kids Are Back/The Cops Are Coming in 1978. The band featured a strong power pop influence along with a sleazy rock influence in their sound. Slyvain Sylvain was released in 1979. His first solo album, the album featured songs such as “Teenage News”, one of the last songs he wrote for the New York Dolls before their initial split and other great songs such as “14th Street Beat”, “Emily” and the infectious soul harmonies of “What’s That Got To Do With Rock ‘n’ Roll?” The album was laced with acoustic guitars, harmonies, soul and 50s rock influences. It also showcased Sylvain as a songwriter in his own right. In 1981, he released an album as Syl Sylvain and The Teardrops. They were a three-piece band that took on many of the influences of his 1979 album, but also heavily embraced the sound of the 80s. He and David Johansen reformed The New York Dolls in the mid 2000’s touring and releasing three new albums worth of material. Throughout this time Sylvain Sylvain continued to play music. He even had a band with Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys called Batusis who released an EP in 2010. He also played and released much more music than this in his lifetime.  

Sylvain Sylvian passed away in January 2021 at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer. His influence with the Dolls and many of the bands that he has written or played with runs deep.

Show 867 Playlist (Originally Aired On January 30th, 2021)(Paul Jacobs, New Fries, Pony, Chad VanGaalen, Jeff Tweedy, The Replacements):

1.  Paul Jacobs - Half Rich Loner
2.  Paul Jacobs - Thanks
3.  Paul Jacobs - If You Cannot Stay
4.  Birds of Paradise - Money Tree
5.  Fireball XL5 - Just A Vacant Boy
6.  The Goldstars - With This Ring
7.  Huttch - Quick Fix
8.  Pony - Couch
9.  Palberta - No Way
10. Lithics - Beat Fall
11. New Fries - L'Express
12. Goat Girl - Badibaba
13. Chad VanGaalen - Samurai Sword
14. TUNS - My Memories
15. The Bats - Warwick
16. Wilco - I'm Always In Love
17. Jeff Tweedy - Natural Disaster
18. Spencer Tweedy - Wind School
19. Bill Jr. Jr. - Blue
20. The Besnard Lakes - Fueds With Guns
21. Falcon Jane - Had Enough
22. Stinkbox - Burn 'Em
23. The Avengers - Car Crash
24. Crime - Terminal Boredom
25. The Screamers - Magazine Love
26. The Ex - Six Of One And Half A Dozen Of The Other
27. Pinch Points - Jelly Brain
28. Amyl & The Sniffers - Cup of Destiny
29. The Replacements - I.O.U. (Demo)
30. The Replacements - Alex Chilton (Rough Mix)
31. Johnny Thunders - Talk About You (Resurrected Remix)

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the January 30 file to download/stream the episode.

Show 866 Playlist (Originally Aired On January 23rd, 2020) (Sylvain Sylvain Tribute, Viagra Boys, Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy, Kiwi Jr.):

1.  Viagra Boys - Ain't Nice
2.  Sleaford Mods - Elocution
3.  Shame - Snow Day
4.  Lice - R.D.C.
5.  Sylvain Sylvain - Teenage News
6.  The Criminals - Rockin' Good Time
7.  New York Dolls - Trash
8.  New York Dolls - Puss 'n' Boots
9.  Steve Earle & The Dukes - Maria
10. Bill Callahan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Ty Segall - Miracles
11. White Laces - Hands In Mexico
12. Blush - Lunching Alone
13. Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - OD'd In Denver
14. The Kills - The Void
15. Danny Kroha - Poor Howard
16. The Bobby Tenderloin Universe - Sandpaper One Side, Rubber on the Other
17. Tea Leaves - Cicada Song
18. Guided By Voices - Electronic Windows To Nowhere
19. Kiwi Jr. - Undecided Voters
20. Kiwi Jr. - Waiting In Line
21. Bad Hoo - Skim Milk Test
22. Bike Thiefs - Connie's Got A New Phone
23. Necking - Habbo Hotel
24. The Young Canadians - I Hate Music
25. Art Bergmann - Demolished
26. Bella and the Bizarre - Delusions
27. 49th Parallel - You Do Things
28. Northwest Company - Hard To Cry
29. The Ar-Kaics - To Be Free

To hear this program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and click the January 23 file to download/stream the episode.

For those keeping track, show #865 was an encore of a previous episode that originally aired in February 2020 focusing on lesser known songs in Neil Young's Discography. Download that show here and find the playlist here.

Shows # 864 & #863 were encore episodes of our albums of 2020 episodes.  You can download those shows here and here and find the playlist here.