Sep 012012

David Johansen is a talent of limited means but huge brass balls. His huge brass balls have always been the driving force in a career that has straddled underground cred and occasionally somewhat anonymous public adoration. Mach schau!, David, and more power to you for delivering through the guises of drag queen, lounge lizard, and bloozologist.

Despite his limitations as a singer, I was always intrigued by the “real” David Johansen, the wannabe Jagger under all the make-up and nylon firing up songs in The New York Dolls, the guy who came out of the gates on his first solo album with the excellent single “Funky But Chic” and who had a minor hit with a live medley of Animals songs. That Johansen was a guy I could best identify with. He was still putting across his meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n roll with style and fun, certainly, but doing so in a straightforward manner, without the rock star bullshit that had gotten out of hand in the late-’70s. I was trying to find a way to do something like this with my friends and our little band. This possibly imagined Real Johansen was leading the way toward a rock scene in which I could fit.


  11 Responses to “Personality Crisis: If Only David Johansen Could Have Allowed Himself to Be David Johansen”

  1. I have to know a bit more about post-Dolls Johansen to say I have even a cursory knowledge of post-Dolls Johansen but I do like the New York Dolls quite a lot (to me Funky But Chic is a NYD song).

    Part of that is an admiration for the cover songs they did. Anyone who has the good sense to cover one of my favorite soul tunes of all time – Showdown by Archie Bell & the Drells (and, btw, happy 68th birthday to Archie albeit a day late) – has a couple of check marks on the asset side in my accounting. And then there’s Give Him [Her] A Great Big Kiss complete with the “L-U-V love” intro. And Don’t Start Me Talkin’. You gotta love them.

    And aside from the covers, there’s some great originals too (Funky But Chic, Personality Crisis, Looking For A Kiss).

    So why is there this part of me that feels it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, that there’s not much there there?

  2. I don’t think there is much there there, Al. I think he’s wisely reinvented himself a few times over for the sake of keeping what he’s got fresh.

  3. bostonhistorian

    Not to get too far off topic, but al, have you seen this live version of Tighten Up?

  4. YES, I’ve seen this before. I love that performance and the washed-out colors!

  5. No, I never had and I thank you for rectifying that situation. There’s an awful lot to love in that clip.

    Clicking on the link beneath the video to find out about Upbeat, I see it was a local Cleveland show. I wonder how many such local music/dance shows there were? I remember watching the Lloyd Thaxton show way back when in Philly (not that it was local to Philly – I think it was from LA – but it was shown there). Man, I used to love that show.

  6. When I say no there there I was referring to the Dolls. Did they have no there there? Or did they have there there which wasn’t due to solely Johansen but was contributed to by Thunders, et al?

  7. Re-reading that last post of mine, it seems like I stumbled onto a lost scene with Jerry Seinfeld & George Costanza…

  8. With special guest Bill Clinton.

  9. I really enjoy his raspy, super low, New Yawk accented voice. I think it’s great for R ‘n R.

    I don’t hold it against an artist when they take on a goofy side project that they simply enjoy, and through dumb luck it ends up being more successful than the approach that is closer to their heart.

  10. machinery

    In the 90’s he was tapped to be the voice of American Express and did the commercials, nation-wide, for about 8 years. A producer friend of mine had to take him step-by-step through those first voice over sessions. He later said that David gratefully admitted that he made more money on that gig than he ever did in all his days doing music.

  11. I love his vision, but with a few exceptions, he’s always lacked decent songs to sing.

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