Certain Songs #1327: New York Dolls – “Trash”

Album: New York Dolls
Year: 1973

“Trash” was released as part of a double-A side with “Personality Crisis” in 1973, and while the latter song was too unruly by half, it seems to me that in an era with AM hard rock singles like “We’re An American Band,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” and “Takin’ Care of Business,” there was no reason that “Trash” couldn’t also have been a chart-topper.

But, of course, it wasn’t: there wasn’t going to be any world-conquering for the New York Dolls, except perhaps posthumously, and even then, it seems to me that out of all of the proto-punk forerunners — The Velvets, MC5, Stooges — their story is the one that I actually know the least.

It’s possible, of course, that drugs would have fucked the Dolls up regardless of their success, and yet 45 years later, “Trash” seems like such a prototypical mid-1970s hard rock single it’s still hard for me to understand why it went nowhere.

But maybe, for all of it pop-friendliness, it’s still too unconventional: “Trash” either doesn’t have a chorus or is all chorus, utterly exploding out of the box from the opening second.

Trash, won’t pick it up, take them lights away
Trash, won’t pick it up, don’t take your life away
Trash, won’t pick it up, don’t try to take
My knife awayyyyyyyyyy

With Johnny Thunders not-quite-harmonizing on the word “Trash” and drummer Jerry Nolan alternating between rumbling on his toms and a double time backbeat, it’s instant excitement, so naturally they slow it down a bit.

And please don’t you ask me if I love you
If you don’t know what I’m doing, up my nose!

And that’s pretty much it: alternating faster and slower parts, with some amazingly cool high-pitched “ooooooooooooooh” backing vocals, Johnny Thunders piling on the guitars as the song progresses until Johansen stops it in its track to ask a very pertinent question:

How do you call your lover boy?

This effectively starts the song over, only it doesn’t take very long for things to get crazy again, and “Trash” roars to its conclusion with guitars blazing, drums speeding “whoa whoas” and “yeah yeahs” and Johansen exclaiming to Trash that they’re definitely the one and pleading with them not to fuck things up.

But, of course, they’re going to.

It’s entirely possible that my ears have been warped by listening to hundreds maybe thousands of songs influenced by “Trash,” and yeah it’s got a weird structure, but “Trash” is all hooks all the time, witty and speedy and completely lovable on every level.

“Trash”

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