Is it really the Dolls?


By Shawn Robare

So just out of curiosity, I’m putting up an informal poll. The question is this: If a band has five members, how many members can the band lose before it isn’t the same band anymore? What about a band of four? Three? How important is the source of the song writing to this equation? I mean could Nirvana be Nirvana without Kurt Cobain, or would it just be the Foo Fighters with guest bassist Krist Novolselic?

The reason I ask is that the New York Dolls have reformed and are releasing an album this summer. Now, there were originally five of them, Johnny Thunders, Rick Rivets, Arthur Kane, Billy Murcia, and David Johansen. Then Rivets left the band and died and was replaced by Sly Slyvian, and after the band was dropped from their label Murcia died of a drug overdose and was replaced by Jerry Nolan. In the years since the band broke-up Nolan, Thunders, and Kane have passed away. Now in good conscious, can Johansen and Slyvian really call their band the New York Dolls?

I mean can Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney get together and call themselves the Beatles? I mean it’s kind of weird how Jerry Only calls his band the Misfits even though he’s the only Misfit involved, I mean it should be called the Black Misfit Ramones wrapped in a Flag or something like that since it’s one Ramone, one Misfit and one member of Black Flag. Anyway…

So if you want to leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Or don’t.

  • HooveR

    This has been something I have mulled over in my head many a time. And my personal answer is, it differs from band to band. I think there’s hidden mathematical formulas individual to each band member. For example, as long as Trent Reznor is in Nine Inch Nails, it will always be Nine Inch Nails. It was sort of created with him having the “”controlling share”" of the band (if you want to think of it like stocks or something), but most bands are NOT that way. In 1997, Duran Duran were down to 2 members left of the “”original”" (by original in this case I mean when they became popular) lineup. As a big DD fan, I thought long and hard about this. Is this really DD? In the end, I thought it was. My reasoning is that the 2 original members left in it had a controlling share that made up for more than 50%… so thinking of it like that, it “”passed the test.”" MY test, anyway. I would probably give Simon 30% of Duran Duran and Nick 25% of Duran Duran if that makes any sense. So at 55% + whatever Warren brought to the band in ’97 (15% or so?) that was plenty to put them over the all-important 50% mark with me. Now your Misfits analogy brings to mind an opposite example. I am a fan of them too. Today’s Misfits, I would deem to be not Misfitty enough to be called Misfits. I would assign Jerry to have maybe a “”30% share”" of Misfitdom. So since this leaves the current lineup with only a 30% score from Jerry and maybe a 5-10% score from Robo (in my mind, 50% will pass), the current Misfits fail miserably at 40% tops. But the 1995 Misfits I feel eeked by at 50%, because even though Doyle wasn’t an original member, I feel I’d rate him at 20% share, so Jerry + Doyle equalled 50% which was just enough to get by. As time passes in a band, newer members start to “”accrue”" a share as well, so eventually, around 1999, the Misfits were fairly legitimate and reinvigorated to me, as I would say Michale and Chud added a few percentage points to Jerry and Doyle’s 50. Have I bewildered you yet? Hold on. Now Glenn Danzig I would assign a “”40% share”" value to in the Misfits, so the recent tour Danzig did with Doyle is automatically a nice 60% as compared to the lame-o Jerry Misfits clocking in at around 35%-40%. I’m sorry if I’m breaking your brain, but I automatically think of things in a weird way, and it’s almost 5am so I’m probably not presenting it in the best possible way… But this is how I think of things like that. Each band member gets a certain percentage of “”importance”" to the band. I can’t really comment on the NY Dolls as I’m not overly familiar with them, but just based on what I’ve read, it sounds really iffy that they’d reach that crucial 50% on my personal scale of banditude. As for your Beatles analogy, that is somewhat of a special case. I feel with a lineup that important, that pivotal, that world-changing, the loss of ANYONE is going to be a bigger loss than typical. The phrase “”The whole is more than the sum of its parts”" comes to mind. I would assign values that wouldn’t even add past 50% without all four members. Before you accuse me of using New Math, I would say that the Beatles were such a powerful force that a new factor would have to come into play, a sort of “”unidentifyable quotient”" that would be added when all four members came together (kind of like all the extra pieces you had to put on the Constructicons to form Devastator in Transformers, ha ha). But again, that’s a very special case. And what happens when bands practically completely re-invent themselves with a new member, in the case of Mike Patton’s induction into Faith No More or Joey Belladonna’s induction into Anthrax? Well that opens up new variables for sure. I’m going to shut up now before I totally baffle you. But basically, that’s how it works out in my completely bizarre brain.