Let’s start with this: I’m overage by otaku standards. How much overage? None of your beeswax, sonny! Get off my lawn! (Yes, that’s me shaking my cane.)
Being ancient, my musical roots stretch into punk/new wave, the whole New York City/CBGB scene of the mid to late 1970’s. Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television…Got it? (I own actual vinyl albums and/or … wait for it … cassette tapes of all these bands.)
Before all those bands came one of those groups that turned out to be essential and that was the New York Dolls. They created both punk rock and glam rock simultaneously, and if that sounds like a good trick to you, imagine what it was like for the people seeing it first hand.
So anyway, at the start it was David (Johansen), Billy (Mercia), Syl (Sylvain), Johnny (Thunders ne Genzale) and Art (Kane). Then Billy died (accidental asphyxiation as some groupies tried to revive him after a drug overdose) and Jerry (Nolan) came on board. That lasted through two album releases, and then Johnny and Jerry went home and the others tried to fill in with other guys (Tony Machine comes to mind) and carry on.
Long interlude. Four or five solo careers. Jerry (AIDS) and Johnny (drugs) died. The band gets back together with some new members: Brian (Koonin) and Steve (Conte). Later on, after Art dies (leukemia), Sami (Yaffa) signs up.
Wait. Steve Conte, huh. Hmm.
Steve goes a long way back himself. He showed up on the New York scene in the mid-1980’s playing with a bunch of people. There’s a long list of them on his Wikipedia page, so I won’t bore you with it here. He forms Company of Wolves; they break up and he goes into a band named Crown Jewels.
Sometime in the late 1990’s Steve gets hooked up somehow with Yoko Kanno.
Sure, the lady that composed the music for Cowboy Bebop. “Tank,” right? (I bet your hand reached for the air bass just at the thought of it.) “The Real Folk Blues”? Yes, THAT Yoko Kanno.
Normally I caption these, but if you can’t figure out which is the Japanese musical genius and which the New York punk rocker, you need a bigger hint than a caption can give.
Episode 24 of Cowboy Bebop is the episode where the crew starts to break up. Ed meets her dad and she and Ein run off, literally into the sunset. (Faye is in the montage, too, being really depressed.) In the background a man’s voice is singing Yoko Kanno’s ballad “Call Me Call Me.”
That’s Steve Conte.
Yes. The New York Dolls and Cowboy Bebop are hooked together!
My question about all this is:
How the hell did this happen?
Was Steve just sitting around Tokyo one night fangirling over Yoko’s brilliant music?
Did they meet up on some bizarre, before-its-time Japanese Craig’s List?
Did Yoko audition eight thousand singers and pick Steve out of the lineup?
How the hell did the New York Dolls get connected to Cowboy Bebop???
And you know what else? In an important sense I don’t care. What’s important to me is that they did, and that it works, and that it’s beautiful.
But seriously, if you know how that happened, let me know!
Video: Steve fronting Yoko’s band, the Seatbelts, singing “Call Me Call Me.” WARNING: Chilling music. 100% beautiful.
Video: The re-formed New York Dolls, playing “Tommy” (words by D. Johansen, music by S. Conte):
David Johansen, lead vocals
Syl Sylvain, rhythm guitar (the short chap with the puffy hat. He designed it himself.)
Steve Conte, lead guitar (sometimes he’s hatless and sometimes he has a bandana on)
Sami Yaffa, bass (he’s hard to spot, but there’s one good shot of him in a red shirt and cowboy hat)
Brian Delaney, drums
Brian Koonin, keyboards (I didn’t see him but you can hear him)
Syl, Sami, Brian, and Steve just did a tour of Japan, so they’re still at it, sort of. David plays solo gigs around New York City.
And as for Yoko, I don’t know what she’s up to since she did the music for Terror in Resonance. She should do something with the other Dolls one of these years, though.