Sylvain Sylvain: New York Doll goes solo 

Acoustic set with Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock moves to Small's.

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO.
  • Courtesy photo.

Sylvain Sylvain might be best known for playing guitar with the New York Dolls, but he was last around these parts three years ago when he played Small’s with Batusis (alongside the Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome). Now he returns to play an acoustic set with another punk veteran — the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock. It was a good opportunity for us to catch up with Sylvain.

What’s going on with the Dolls, and also Batusis?

Yeah, everything is actually still going on. I’m just doing this now. I did it last year with Glen, and the kids kind of gave us the name — they dubbed it the Sex Doll tour. It’s more solo than the other things I do. I get to celebrate the tunes that I love from the New York Dolls. I tell them some cool stories, and it’s really like a sing-along. I want everybody to know that these are solo shows. They’re two separate shows. But we do get to jam together at the very end on a T-Rex song and stuff. 

When did you meet Glen?

Don’t forget that Sylvain was supposed to be in the Sex Pistols. I remember Malcolm McLaren called me up and he had all the guys on the phone, and he was asking me to come over there. I remember very clearly talking with Glen. Actually, he was the only one I talked with who was a little more coherent.

What are you playing on this tour?

I’m gonna play my favorite tunes from the New York Dolls, like “Trash” and “Frankenstein,” which is hardly ever performed. I do Johnny Thunders’ “Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” and I sort of celebrate my whole career. I even throw a Velvet Underground song in there, which I’ve been doing for decades. My solo show is basically what became the New York Dolls show when we re-formed. When we do a segue from “Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” into “Lonely Planet Boy,” that was what I came up with performing live since the ’80s. I love the New York Dolls, so I was always celebrating that. Others may have started to celebrate that once they rejoined and the reunion came about, but I was always doing it. 

Do you have any special memories of playing Detroit?

Batusis was the last time I played in Detroit. I’ve played Detroit for the longest time. When the New York Dolls first came about in 1973, Detroit would not play us on the radio, but Windsor, Canada, would. We had to travel and go on the radio over there. 

What’s next, after this tour?

I’m back in the studio to finish my album, The Monkey Never Dies. The “Leaving New York” song is one of the singles off that album. I’m putting together my memoirs into a book about my whole life. I’m staying as creative as possible. I pick up an instrument every day and twiddle my thumbs around it. 

Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock play on Sunday, March 16 at Small's Bar, 10339 Conant, Hamtramck; 313-873-1117; $10; smallsbardetroit.com. The show was rescheduled from the Magic Bag, which has been canceled. Tickets for the previously scheduled Magic Bag show cannot be honored at the door at Small's. They should be returned to the point of purchase for a refund. 

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