After the Stooges, New York Dolls were the most important of all protopunk bands. The standard belief is that in their original lifetime — 1971 to 1976 — they invented the sound and attitude of ‘70s punk rock and the look of ‘80s hair metal. Blame the latter on their desire to, as their definitive drummer Jerry Nolan termed it, “cut a profile.” They’d mix black leather and spandex with every item in a thrift store women’s clothing department, then borrow their girlfriends’ hair spray, teasing combs and makeup kits and go to town. It was all a low-budget reflection on the glam-rock scene then blowing up England, but with a lot more grit and street sass.

But the music and attitude? Well, the Dolls were rock stars, whether the world knew it or not, even playing their first gigs in the Oscar Wilde Room at the Mercer Arts Center. And if the world didn’t want to recognize this? It could go fuck itself. And if the Dolls weren’t professional enough to earn any record company or radio programmer’s respect? Yeah, they could go to hell, too. Add to this the alchemy between Nolan, guitarist Syl Sylvain, bassist Arthur Kane, singer David Johansen and lead guitarist Johnny Thunders.

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They were the last proper ‘60s garage outfit. They borrowed and combined the shrieking, hysterical melodicism of their older sisters’ girl group 45s, the raunch and sleaze of the Rolling Stones (with Johansen and Thunders exuding chemistry like Jagger and Richards) and the raw power of Detroit’s Stooges and MC5. Thunders in particular became a benchmark for every punk guitarist who followed. Everyone from Johnny Ramone to the Sex PistolsSteve Jones and beyond felt liberated by Thunders’ idiosyncratic mix of power chords and pilfered Chuck Berry licks, played through enough tube amp overdrive to sound as if he strung his Gibson with barbed wire.

Basically any band who played with more heart and emotion than finesse, but with a surfeit of power and swagger, owe their existence to New York Dolls. They possessed an intelligence, a sense of humor and a devil-may-care spirit that was rare, then or now. You can still hear it ringing through the best rock ‘n’ roll or punk rock to this day. These weren’t sheltered, pampered stadium gods. These were gutter poets filled with soul, who could make you fall in love with one well-struck chord. For all of their toughness, there was a vulnerability to the Dolls.

Here are 11 of New York Dolls’ most notable disciples. Please enjoy our custom playlist as you read on.

Sex Pistols

England’s first prominent punk-rock export had so much Dolls DNA in ‘em, they could’ve played Holiday Inn lounges on weekdays as a tribute act (if any such market for that existed). Basically, the Sex Pistols mixed the Dolls with the Stooges and a smattering of early heavy metal — a sloppy, nihilistic hard-rock band. Famously, manager Malcolm McLaren was a huge Dolls fan who attempted CPR on their waning career in their final days. He brought Sylvain’s white Gibson Les Paul Custom to England with him for Jones.

This was the instrument on which he learned, playing it throughout the Pistols’ history. Much of what he learned were Thunders licks, with which he decorated many a Pistols tune. Thunders and Nolan’s post-Dolls Heartbreakers initially came to England as a support act on the infamous Anarchy tour, and Jones and drummer Paul Cook were part of the backing cast on Thunders’ 1978 solo album, So Alone


All four original Ramones — Johnny, bassist Dee Dee, singer Joey and drummer Tommy — witnessed the Dolls at the Mercer on many occasions. Tommy ultimately encapsulated the Dolls’ liberational effect upon the Ramones in the February 2001 issue of Mojo magazine. Noting their lack of traditional chops, he wondered why they were “much more exciting and entertaining than those virtuosos”: “It struck me, if there’s going to be a new direction in music, it’s not going to be through virtuosity, but through ideas.”

So the idea was to set pop tunes to the two barre chords Johnny knew and the simple beats Tommy instantly mastered, played as hard and fast as they could. Dee Dee co-wrote "Chinese Rocks" with original Heartbreakers bassist Richard Hell, who took it to his band when Dee Dee’s rejected it as too negative. The Ramones eventually recorded it themselves, plus a later, suitably raw and sloppy take on the Heartbreakers’ "I Love You."

The Cramps

The Cramps — helmed by the greatest couple in all of rock ‘n’ roll, singer Lux Interior and guitarist Poison Ivy — were what would’ve happened had the Dolls replaced Johansen and Thunders with Gomez and Morticia Addams. Then they substituted all those Stones and girl group 45s in their record stacks with cracklin’ old rockabilly singles. It’s fully audible on such vintage Cramps stompers as "New Kind Of Kick" or "Domino." Factor in all the fetish elements, and their Hammer-Films-meets-’50s-juvenile-delinquency take on glam, it becomes patently obvious they could’ve been the opening act at the Mercer had they formed much earlier.


Of course, there’s no Misfits without New York Dolls. Sure, it’s filtered through a heavy dose of the Ramones. But think about the occasional whizbang lead that pre-Doyle guitarist Bobby Steele wove into early Misfits goodies such as "Horror Business." Do you think perhaps he may have listened to Thunders a little bit? Ultimately, you hear the connection in Glenn Danzig’s melodies and song structures. It’s obvious he loved the same late ‘50s and early ‘60s East Coast rock ‘n’ roll coming in over the young Dolls’ transistor radios.

We’re not just talking about that female-sung pop coming out of the Brill Building, always referred to as the girl group sound. Think also about noisy jivers such as Gary U.S. Bonds"Quarter To Three," or the Italianate R&B of Dion’s "The Wanderer," or Ernie Maresca’s "Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out)." These things echo through the Dolls and Misfits both, perhaps as much out of geography as anything else.

Social Distortion

The impact of the Dolls on Social Distortion’s 1983 debut album, Mommy's Little Monster, is loud and clear, leader Mike Ness’ then-penchant for dunking his face in a vat of mascara before walking onstage aside. Think of the big, banging notes issuing from his Gibson throughout the record, or the sneery, Johansen-esque baritone, which is his natural vocal register. Early SD ravers such as "Telling Them" and "1945" sound a lot like the Dolls live at a Teamsters meeting. Ness later acknowledged his Thunders debt by standing in for him in the band Heartbreakers guitarist Walter Lure assembled to play their L.A.M.F. album front-to-back live.

Hanoi Rocks

Finnish glam-punks Hanoi Rocks were the revenge of the early ‘80s upon the world for the Dolls’ mainstream commercial failure 10 years earlier. They came strutting out of the Laplands draped in scarves, leather and crushed velvet, seemingly bearing controlling stock in Max Factor. Singer Michael Monroe had more than a little Johansen DNA in his throat, and guitarist/songwriter Andy McCoy stomped across stages like Thunders. Such Hanoi hits as "Back To Mystery City" effectively updated the Dolls’ ethos. Thunders took a particular shine to them, touring with them often and joining them onstage for encores. Johansen and Sylvain drafted bassist Sami Yaffa into the reactivated Dolls in the ‘00s.

Guns N’ Roses

Hanoi Rocks’ biggest effect, aside from what got called “trash” bands in England, was on L.A.’s Sunset Strip glam-metal scene. Hanoi and the Dolls were essentially the twin North stars for that entire generation of Aqua Net abusers. Odd, considering the influence seemed purely cosmetic. The one band who seemingly got it right was Guns N' Roses, right down to their penchant for unrestrained hedonism. But GN’R’s core commitment to street-wise glamour and swaggering big-beat rock ‘n’ roll was pure Dolls, acknowledged in their shrieking cover of "Human Being," on their punk covers album The Spaghetti Incident? They also opened for Thunders once in Long Beach in 1986, although Axl Rose reportedly required restraining at the guitarist’s sneering assessment of his idolaters. 

The Smiths

Considering the Smiths’ penchant for precious, overly literate pop, the Dolls may seem an odd influence. But Morrissey was obsessed with them. He was the teenage president of their British fan club, eventually penning an independently published fan biography full of fawning prose and seemingly every press clipping the band generated in their lifetime. It fetches high prices on the secondary market these days. It was also his request for the group’s remaining members reunite for a one-off performance for the 2004 Meltdown festival he curated that directly reignited them into a new lineup. Guitarist Johnny Marr’s also frequently spoken of Thunders’ influence, though he’s seemingly spent his entire career avoiding any of the man’s hallmarks in his own playing. The Smiths most evoked the Dolls’ crash-and-burn spirit on "The Queen Is Dead," especially live.

Manic Street Preachers

This one’s dead easy to see, especially on Manic Street Preachers’ early glam-punk phase. The Welsh upstarts burst from the valleys a seeming genetic cross between the Dolls and the Clash, as filtered through Hanoi Rocks. Spray paint-stenciled thrift store blouses, homemade Johnny Thunders haircuts, gobs of eyeliner, bombastic rockers with titles like “Motown Junk” — yep, the middle fingers the Manics flicked at the world initially belonged to the Dolls. As time marched on and they lost charismatic spokesman/lyricist/rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards, they lost their brashness and swagger and became more and more a weird amalgamation of indie and dad rock. But vintage Manics were four of the Dolls’ most glorious children.

Green Day

Manic irreverence, Les Paul Juniors through Marshalls, lots of smeary eyeliner — you think maybe the members of Green Day own a New York Dolls album or two? It stands to reason, since every punk rocker worth his or her salt with a strong knowledge of history does. At the least, Billie Joe Armstrong does, who adopted Thunders’ trademark Gibson Les Paul Junior as his own. And a sincere, heartfelt take on Thunders’ signature ballad "You Can't Put Your Arms Round A Memory" was among the many covers Armstrong released through the band’s YouTube channel during COVID-19’s early stages, collected on the album No Fun Mondays.

The Libertines

The Libertines, led by co-singers/guitarists/songwriters Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, endeared themselves to early ‘00s British millennials performing tumbledown rock ‘n’ roll with an inebriated strut and a grin. It also possessed a charming vulnerability and a literacy not seen since either the Smiths or Manics. They were a rockin’ mess, but they were that generation’s particular rockin’ mess. They sold a lot of records and electric guitars in the process. Does any of this sound familiar? Yep, it’s New York Dolls’ story all over again (or at least the Replacements’, who belong on this list, as well). Doherty referenced the Dolls in his Books Of Albion, while Barât sported a Thunders T-shirt when promoting their "Can't Stand Me Now" single on American television. Drummer Gary Powell directly repaid their spiritual debt as a one-performance Doll at the reunion at Meltdown 2004.

SEE ALSO: Dead Boys, the Clash, Generation X, Teenage Head, Redd Kross, the Replacements, D Generation, Backyard Babies