New York Dolls - Too Much Too Soon (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

New York Dolls

Too Much Too Soon (1974)


When it comes to proto-punk, the Stooges get all the love. But some attention needs to be paid to New York Dolls, a rock band that was just a little too ahead of the curve. Too unpolished for glam rock but not sloppy enough for punk rock, the Dolls never quite got the mainstream success they shot for. If the Ramones wanted to be the Bay City Rollers, then New York Dolls wanted to be the Rolling Stones, sexy, dangerous and boozy. While they never conquered the world directly, the Dolls' influence would soon be felt in the '80s, from the Smiths' sardonic lyrics to hair metal guys' penchant for, um, dressing like ladies.

My word, the Dolls were ugly. Can we talk about that for a second? The guys in Poison at least knew how to put on makeup. The Dolls, though? They looked like crack whores. Stinky ones too.

But they still rocked. The group's self-titled debut offered some pre-Ramones "hits" like "Personality Crisis," "Looking For a Kiss" and "Frankenstein." These songs covered basic rock ‘n' roll tropes--going crazy, wanting to have sex and going crazy over wanting to have sex--but they carried a zeal missing from a lot of music in the '70s. But New York Dolls didn't sell particularly well, although it did inspire a slew of new artists.

Given the wave of inessential releases that followed the band's dissolution, live records like Red Patent Leather and demo collections like Seven Day Weekend, it's easy to start and end one's experience with the Dolls with their eponymous debut. But there's another important document out there, and it's the other original line-up-era release, Too Much Too Soon.

Too Much Too Soon is kind of hidden in plain sight. It hasn't been available in the states on CD in decades, although the vinyl lovers from, uh, Vinyl Lovers have done their part to keep it in print on at least one format. While it's available as an import, it ain't cheap. Still, there's always the digital option. Point is, nearly 40 years later, more people need to pay this record its due. It's such a fun, funny glam rock/proto-punk collection, a bridge between Ziggy-era David Bowie and later '70s acts like Kiss and the Ramones. It's deliciously raw despite all of its '50s doo-wop inclinations. Punk rock sought to destroy the classics, but the Dolls came to pay tribute, from the Diana Barrymore references to the garage rock trappings. Best revelation of all: I finally understand that the Voodoo Glow Skulls song "Stranded in the Jungle," from Punk-O-Rama 5 and/or Band Geek Mafia, was actually a Too Much Too Soon cover.

While not as coherent or consistent as New York Dolls, Too Much Too Soon still has its charms, especially on standouts like "Babylon," "Bad Detective" and "Human Being." Sure, it gets a little scattershot at times (The tropical "Stranded in the Jungle" goes on way, way too long), but it's still a worthy addition to the Dolls' legacy. I'm not gonna lie; what came out of the Dolls' influence is better than the Dolls themselves, and I'll take the Ramones and the Smiths any day. But for the music nerds who want to take a step further and hear a band that could be theatrical without sounding overblown, raw but somehow polished, hedonistic without being hair metal, New York Dolls are it.