Here’s something you don’t get every day: Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist for the ’80s glam-punk band The New York Dolls, was interviewed by the Jerusalem Post. The subject? What it’s like to be an expatriate Egyptian Jew whose family was kicked out of the country.
Within three years, the family had immigrated to the US, initially to Buffalo, and then to their final destination of Queens, New York. For the young Egyptian immigrant, music was a way to fit in and to avoid getting beaten up on a regular basis.
“Growing up, we had to fight. Every ethnic group in the US tried to kill us. I became friends with the Dolls’ first drummer Billy Murcia because he was an immigrant, too, from Colombia, and we lived in the same neighborhood in Queens and kinds hung together for mutual survival,” said Sylvain, who adopted his first name as his last name because he thought it would look good on marquees.
Punk has a long and glorious history of Jews (the Ramones, Malcolm McLaren), a large part of it recounted in Steven Lee Beeber’s The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s, encyclopedic in its approach (although, personally, I find it ridiculous that the book doesn’t deal with anyone beyond the early ’80s). But I can’t think of any glam rock that’s fallen into this category–besides, of course, David Bowie’s bizarre religious experimentation.
Thanks to Gerald Burstyn of World Jewish Digest for the tip-off.