Dolls House

Sylvain Sylvain pays tribute to three fallen former bandmates on his new album

The opener ("Paper, Pencil & Glue") is giddy power pop and the polar title-track closer is a Syl nod to the deceased trio of ex-Dolls: Nolan, Thunders and Murcia.

"Hey, I did 'Trash' again on my record, not because I thought it shoulda been done again but 'cause I just fuckin' love the hell out of it," he says, heading off the inevitable flogging-a-dead-horse query. "I felt like 'Trash' is really a part of the story of (Sleep) Baby Doll). The story is really about the three guys [Nolan, Thunders, and Murcia] and letting us put them to rest.

"Every other verse on the lullaby song 'Sleep Baby Doll' is a story of each dead Doll. There is a Johnny line, a Jerry line and a Billy line. My version of 'Frenchette' is how I wrote it. Me and David wrote that on one of the New York mornings."

It is said that Syl's shows are the diametric opposite of the late Johnny Thunders'. Thunders projected a dime-bag, street-urchin sense of doom, a knocking-on-heaven's-door romanticism that could quickly slip into self-parody, sometimes right before your eyes. Inversely, Syl's shows are campy send-ups colored with heavy doses of rock 'n' roll spirit. And on this tour--played thus far to packed houses--Syl is supported by the ace stylings of the Street Walkin' Cheetahs.

"Thunders, of course, was the world's biggest dope fiend," Sylvain recalls. "You know, it's sad, but it was Iggy Pop who first introduced Johnny to the needle. I knew him when he was the most beautiful, fuckin' coolest, baby-Jane wearin', fuckin' star. When I used to work at a place called the Different Drummer, he and his girlfriend, Janus, would come in. Upstairs from there was a place called the New York Dolls hospital, and I remember once I came out with Billy for lunch, and I said, 'holy shit man, there's that kid from New Town high school.' He was looking so cool; he was wearin' makeup and all this. He was walking under the New York Dolls hospital sign, and I said to Billy, 'That'd be a great name for a band, the New York Dolls.

"The last time I saw him [Thunders] was two weeks before he went to Japan, which was two or three months before he died. He was at some club I was playin' in Manhattan. And he basically knew he was gonna go, and he was kinda saying goodbye to me. This is how I sensed it, 'cause he said to me there was two things he'd wished he had done in his life. He said he wished he'd pursued his baseball career, 'cause he was well-sought after as a young kid. And the second was as sweet as he was. He wished he'd written 'Trash.'"

Sylvain Sylvain is scheduled to perform on Friday, June 18, at Boston's in Tempe, with the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and the Sonic Thrills.

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