Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stranded In The Jungle

I was, and I guess still am a big New York Dolls fan.

A couple months back, I went to my local record store (Iris Records, in Jersey City) to attend a book signing for Curt Weiss's "STRANDED IN THE JUNGLE (Jerry Nolan's Wild Ride-A Tale of Drugs, Fashion, the New York Dolls, and Punk Rock)".
The event was advertised in Face Book, and came with a promo blurb about the author and how he came to write the book. I realized we must have some mutual acquaintances.

BBJ circa 1980

I was born in Buffalo, but grew up in SoCal. I lived in a beach town in close proximity to LA.
I started going to The Whiskey on a regular basis about the time Punk happened. My best friend, room mate, and Bible Burners front man King James, and I went to a lot of shows, often accompanied by his sister, who became my girlfriend.

We got into Rockabilly, as it was pretty easy to fashion spiky punk hairdo into a '50's "quiff".
All it took was a blow dryer. We already had the hair gel.
For "London Calling" The Clash recorded a cover of Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac", and Queen followed with "Crazy Little thing Called Love". The Stray Cats rode the same wave.
This revival was sparked in part by Levi And The Rockats, from England, and formed in 1977.
In late 1980, King James and I went to see them in Santa Monica, far from the glamour of Hollywood.
They came out and tore the place up. About halfway through their set I pointed at the drummer, and, "Holy Shit!, that's Jerry Nolan!". The bar had no dressing room, so between sets, the band hung out. King James and I zeroed in on Jerry. He was charming and accessible.
After the second set, we continued to hang out. Starstruck, I went on about the Dolls, and eventually made Jerry cry. He knew that had been a missed opportunity. He was playing a dive with a bunch of kids. I didn't see him ask my girlfriend for her number, which she provided.
I wasn't suspicious when my new friend Jerry guest-listed us to a handful of shows.
I soon experienced the dumping of my life. I was devastated.
At the same time, Levi left The Rockats and went solo. I went with Levi. Jerry couldn't handle LA, too hard to cop, so he returned to New York.
Curt Weiss aka Lewis King, replaced him in The Rockats.
My girlfriend came back briefly, but then took up with Jeffrey Lee Pierce, of The Gun Club.
Junkie mystique? Whatever.

I arrived early to the book signing and spoke to Curt. Rockat Barry Ryan was also in attendance. They enjoyed my tale, and we indeed had mutual acquiantances. They remembered the girlfriend well, and I learned that she's married to director Gore Verbinski (Rango, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Ring).
I Google imaged him and there she was.
I don't know what happened to King James. Once he'd achieved his ambition of becoming a heroin addict I moved out. Last I knew he was living with his mother.

Curt's book is extremely well researched and written. Being a drummer he gets the music right.
I didn't know Jerry and Peter Criss were boyhood friends, or that he drummed for and dated Bette Midler during her "bath house" days. Jerry Nolan was talented and should have been a contender, if not for heroin. A terrible career choice. Same goes for Johnny Thunders, but that's another story.

Rockats in 1982 with Lewis King on drums


Chris Collins said...

Oddly, today is clearly Dolls Day. I'm currently listening to the first album, even before clicking on this page, and this morning I was discussing with a friend the merits of the 3 pretty good "Dolls" records from the 2000s. (I know, it's just David Jo and Sylvain, but I"m not gonna begrudge them using the name to make a few bucks). They're better than you'd think.

But Jerry was indeed a contender. I love this band to death

Anonymous said...

Another Dolls fan here. Great story, BBJ. 'Last I knew he was living with his mother' - surely every rocker's dream.

Every Dolls fan needs to check out the documentary about Arthur Kane - I believe it's called 'New York Doll' Randy

Anonymous said...

agree that the Dolls comeback albums are good. doesn't every first time band learn some Dolls songs? ours was "Trash."

My wife buys up Brian Setzer albums, but I favored the Shakin' Pyramids.

Anonymous said...

As long as we're mentioning great neo-rockabilly, I have to mention my favorite modern age rockabilly band "Finn & The Sharks".

Check them out on Youtube if you ever get a chance.

Captain Al

Dr Wu said...

Great story, BBJ. Loving the Rockats! Thanks for the share.

dogbreath said...

Can't say I have much in the way of NY Dolls stuff. First saw them about 40 years ago on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test when the dog leapt up and left the room in fright. But what a fabulous story you've related. Loved it. Cheers!

kevin m said...

Very cool story!

heartsofstone said...

Great story - I just ordered the book.