The Heartbreakers: The Yonkers demos (1976)


Early Heartbreakers (1975)

HBO’s Vinyl is one of the most exaltating  – and as accurate as a mass product could be – r’n’r tv show ever. On its epic, Martin Scorsese directed pilot, a New York Dolls show in 1973 caused the collapse of the Mercer Art Street Center as well as the enlightment of the main character Richie Finestra.

Well, after 43 years some great bands (The New York Dolls, Iggy and The Stooges, Television) will get the recognition they deserved from a general public that for the very first time will get exposed to them. Too little, too late…

Let’s jump forward: The Dolls acrimously split up in a trailer camp in Florida in Spring 1975. Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan came back to NYC to their smack suppliers. In the meantime, Yom Verlaine has given Richard Hell the boot from Television. Enter Walter Lure and it’s the birth of the first supergroup of New York punk rock.


Early Heartbreakers (1976)

The early Heartbreakers were a case study of “too many cocks in a roster”. Without Richard Hell, the Heartbreakers  were a far better band (and The Television, I have to say, a much better one…). Mr. Myers was a good poet, a great scenemaker, hardly a distinguished musician and/or a songwriter.

It’s too bad we hadn’t  had the chance to hear anything professionally recorded from this ill-fated yet powerful line-up. Until now. For the very first time here a demo session recorded by Bobby Orlando at the SBS Studios in Yonkers, NY in January 1976 with killer early versions of such r’n’r classics as Chines Rocks, Born to Lose, Love Comes in Spurts, Blank Generation (both later in The Voidoids first LP).

01. Love Comes In Spurts 0:00
02. I Wanna Be Loved By You 2:47
03. Blank Generation 5:20
04. Chinese Rocks 8:10
05. Pirate Love 11:07
06. Can’t Keep My Eyes On You 14:35
07. Flight 17:53
08. Hurt Me 21:35
09. You Gotta Lose 25:39
10. Goin’ Steady 28:47



You do not believe we’re for real: The Sex Pistols Complete Studio Recordings

The Sex Pistols (1976) © Bob Gruen / Please contact Bob Gruen's studio to purchase a print or license this photo. email: phone: 212-691-0391

The Sex Pistols (1976) © Bob Gruen / 

The Pistols discography is a nightmarish, messy affair. Although They released onlY four singles and one album in their lifespan, for a mere total of 16 tracks officially put out until they acrimoniously split after the infamous concert at the Winterland, S.F. on January 31st 1978. 

After that Glitterbest (Malcom Mc Laren’s management company) and Virgin, still shocked by the death of their golden eggs chicken, flooded the market with: singles of the late incarnations of the Pistols with Ronnie Biggs or Tenpole Tudor filling in for Johnny Rotten, greatest hits, Sid’s songs, soundtracks of “The Great r’n’r Swindle” on 1 or 2 Lp’s, with different covers and various permutations of tracks and other barrel scraping items.sexpistols1

But, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not what we are here for. We mean it, man… So we’ll discuss only prime Sex Pistols stuff: their true legacy recorded when they were still a working unit, more or less until Malcom and Johnny fired Glen and hired the almost inept Sid Vicious on late December 1977.

The Pistols at work in 1976

The Pistols at work in 1976

Since then they were highly unproductive. In their last year not a single new song was penned, being the sensitively titled “Belsen was a gas” an old Sid’s song, most likely written for the Flowers of Romance and “Religion” (later recorded for P.I.L.) only rehearsed during the ill-fated North-American tour of early 1978 and so never properly recorded. “E.M.I.”, their final joke on Sir John Read’s major label, and “New York”, a blatant insult to David Johansen and Sylvian Sylvian (the latter should have been Pistols guitarist and leader, had he followed Mc Laren when the New York Dolls splitted in Florida in 1975), were already ready and fully developed when a couple of weeks after Glen’s sacking the band regrouped and entered at the Gooseberry and Wessex studios to cut six tracks with their soundman Dave Goodman in the second half of January 1977.

The Pistols with Dave Goodman

The Pistols with Dave Goodman

The following month began the painstakingly process of recording “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”, under the supervision of Chris Thomas. After the 1992, 1996 and 2012 rerelease of the album as well as the “Suck This” and “Sexbox” sets, we have different mixes, demos and alternative versions of the 12 songs of the album, but up now no proper outtakes are emerged. CreativelY the Pistols were over. Mc Laren’s attempt to had it produced by Syd Barrett and the scene of him and the Pistols mob banging at the door of the Chelsea Cloyster reclusive host is Spinal Tap at its funniest.

On September 1977, weeks before “Never Mind The Bollocks” was officially released, the famous bootleg “Spunk” (then officially printed many times since 1996), was largely available in London, acting as a proper Sex Pistols first album. It contains raw versions of many Pistols classics from the Dave Goodman (the usual suspect for this illegit release) sessions.

The Pistols at Wessex Studios cutting "Anarchy in the UK"

The Pistols at Wessex Studios cutting “Anarchy in the UK”

In a way they were better, especially on the vocal department, lacking the mannerism that a more and more frustrated johnny rotten shows in the virgin album. But they were also deprived of the punch and the power reached by the production work by Chris Thomas, who along Steve Jones layered tons of guitars on one of the most -quite ironically, isn’i it?- overproduced r’n’r album ever. Otherwise “Spunk” is an awesome snapshot of the band: The Sex Pistols thrashing their way in full glory.

A more accurate glimpse at the 1976-early 1977 sessions shows a band pumped by Cook’s Moonesque drumming, by a guitar that is pure Chuck Berry via Johnny Thunders, by Glen Matlock’s melodic basslines and fronted by an incestuos mix of a Shakesperean wicked Richard III and a spastic reject from Dicken’s London. Add to the receipe a manager-svengali coming as countercultural agit-prop and prime mover soaked in early r’n’r imagery crossed with Carnaby Street Mod etiquette and post 1968 Situationism. They were misfits, thugs and cockney hooligans deeply rooted in Hi-NRG r’n’r:

They pulverize mod classics as “Substitute” by The Who and the Small Faces’ “Watcha Gonna Do About It“; Freakbeat hits as their take on The Creation’s “Through My Eyes“; garage pop Ditties as The Monkees’ “(I’m not Your) Stepping Stone” and Dave Berry’s “Don’t Give Me No Lip Child“. And they were strongly connected with late Sixties-early Seventies american r’n’r bands: the New York Dolls (via Malcom), The Stooges (Lydon was among the 150ish who attended their unique London concert back in 1973) and the Modern Lovers, hommaged respectively with a fantastic cover of “No Fun” and a so-and-so take of “Roadrunner”.

Here’s a timeline. And Here‘s the Real Sex Pistols!



David Johansen Group in Germany (early ’80s)


The Dolls split up in an orgy of heroin, acrimony and poor management (Malcom Mc Laren was a situationist genius, but pretty incompetent business side…). Nolan and Thunders left Florida (where the dolls decamped in 1974) and went back to NYC to form the Heartbreakers with Richard Hell just ousted from Television.


David Johansen and Sylvian tried to revive the Dolls but gave up after a while. David Johansen formed the David Johansen Group starting an interesting solo career. His first three studio albums –David Johansen (1978), In Style (1979) and Here Comes the Night (1981)- are pretty solid. The two live albums –The David Johansen Group Live (1978) and Live it Up (1982) are the real thing…

Here it comes half an hour of never seen footage of the David Johansen Group in its most rocking hour…


The New York Dolls in Germany 1973


They outstoned The Stones. They outglamed Bowie. They outpunked punks. And they failed…

Well the story of the New York Dolls is a typical r’n’r tale. Five lads enamoured of ’50s and ’60’s r’n’r, r’n’B and girls dresses.

NY is a lonely town if you’re the one rock’n’roller around… and those years (early seventies) were miserable times for hi-nrg r’n’r: the velvet underground had disbanded, the stooges were on a hiatus, the mc5 were relocated in europe, as well as the flamin’ groovies, and ready to split. real R’n’R in america was pratically banned, it was played only by few bands in very local and parochial scenes. Patti Smith Group, Suicide, The Dictators, The Ramones, The Runaways, The Real Kids, The DMZ were still to come…

The new york Dolls played hyperhyped and oversexed r’n’r: bo diddley and chuck berry submerged in a decadent Bowery sleaze. In the Fall of 1973 they flew to europe for a promotional blietzkrieg. They played in the posh restaurant “Biba” in london, then for a radio session in paris, and then went to Germany to record a short set for the nationwide music program “MusiK laden”. At the time only a couple of songs were broadcasted, but recently all the tracks recorded have surfaced. It’s one of the few document of the New York Dolls at the top of their game…


In the last issue of the excellent fanzine “Ugly Things” there is a brilliant essay about the NY dolls discography edited by Greg Prevost (Yes, the front man of the garage Gods Chesterfield Kings). Obviously it’s worth reading.

This goes out to Olivia e Sophia, new dolls in town…