Our Top 10 David Johansen Songs list presents the best David Johansen Songs like “Hot Hot Hot,” “Heart of Gold,” “Frenchette” and many more. Before embarking on a solo career, New Yorker David Johansen was part of the proto-punk group known as the New York Dolls. He has also an alternate alias name, Buster Poindexter. Long before becoming an actor and musician, he was born and raised on Staten Island. His birthdate is January 9, 1950.
New York Dolls
Before joining the New York Dolls in 1971, Johansen served as a lead singer for a local band named the Vagabond Missionaries. While with the proto-punk band, there were two studio albums recorded and released. The first was an eponymous album, which was released in 1973 and the second was 1974’s Too Much Too Soon. Although the musical material was favored by the music critics, the fans were not quite as enthusiastic. Neither album managed to merge as a commercial success story.
When Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders left New York Dolls in 1975, this left David Johansen, Peter Jordan, Tony Machine, Chris Robison, and Sylvain Sylvain on their own until 1976. After this, Johansen opted to embark on a musical career as a solo artist. In 1978, he released the self-titled debut album that had fellow New York Doll, Sylvain Sylvain, perform with him. The second album was In Style, which was released in 1979. Sylvain Sylvain was still part of David Johansen’s lineup.
As a solo artist, David Johansen, along with Sylvain Sylvain, covered many songs from the New York Dolls‘ roster in concert since it was Johansen who wrote most of them. Building a solid reputation as a premier stage performer, his two live albums, The David Johanssen Group in 1978 and 1982’s Live It Up are two recordings from his discography that have been regarded as musical gems. When the album, Here Comes the Night was released in 1981, it featured Blondie Chaplin of the Flames and Beach Boys fame. This is the album Johansen’s signature single, “Heart of Gold” came from. This album further established how talented David Johansen was as a singer and songwriter, as did 1984’s Sweet Revenge.
Starting in 1987, David Johansen assumed the pseudonym, Buster Poindexter, and was often accompanied by a band known as The Uptown Horns. Together, they performed a mix of songs that catered to the genres of calypso, jazz, lounge, and novelty. As a group, they often performed with Saturday Night Live’s house band between the late 1980s, going into the 1990s. While under the name of Buster Poindexter, he recorded and released his first hit single, “Hot Hot Hot.”
As Buster Poindexter, Johansen first recorded and released an eclectic composition of music, along with the band, The Banshees of Blue. Buster Poindexter’s Happy Hour was the third of four studio albums he recorded and released under this pseudonym, which featured a heavy influence of jazz as it revolved around the topic of alcohol. The fourth and final album released as Poindexter was Buster Poindexter’s Spanish Rocket Ship, which had a mixed theme of calypso, Latin jazz, and R&B music. According to David Johansen, his Buster Poindexter was the bane of his existence.
Starting in 2000, David Johansen performed country blues music along with his new group, The Harry Smiths. The band got its name as a tribute to the man behind the Anthology of American Folks Music, a three-album recording originally from the era of the Roaring Twenties. The music featured in 2000’s David Johansen and The Harry Smiths and 2002’s Shaker, were mostly cover songs originating from Harry Everett Smith himself.
In 2004, the New York Dolls experienced a revival when Johansen reunited with Sylvain Sylvain, along with Arthur Kane as the trio embarked on a concert tour. In 2006, the group released the album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Just like the previous albums the New York Dolls produced in the 1970s, it earned critical favor. Cause I Sez So was recorded and released in 2009, then 2011’s Dancing Backward in High Heels.
As an Actor
In addition to enjoying a career as a musician, David Johansen was also bit by the acting bug. Off and on, for a span of three decades, he had acting roles in various motion pictures and television series programs. He appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past in Bill Murray’s 1988 box office hit, Scrooged, as well as Looney for the 1989 Richard Dreyfuss movie, Let It Ride, just to name a few. When not acting before the camera, Johansen also served as a voice actor, namely for an episode of the animated Teen Titans series and 2021’s animated film, Centaurworld.
The Show Goes On
David Johnson remains a prolific singer-songwriter, even as he hosts his Sirius Satellite Radio weekly program, David Johansen’s Mansion of Fun. The music featured on the show includes a wide variety of material coming from musical artists such as Duke Ellington, Billy Joe Shaver, and Phil Spector. As an artist, he was also commissioned to compose, write, and perform music for a variety of projects stemming from theatrical stage productions to movie soundtracks. He was also commissioned by New York City’s Council of the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island due to this is where his original roots came from and how he remains deeply connected to the place he still calls home. The versatility behind the man’s arsenal of music is as vast as his talent. In addition to the twelve studio albums to his credit, David Johansen also has five compilation albums. As for hit singles,
Top 10 David Johansen Songs
#10 – Bad Boy (as Buster Poindexter)
“Bad Boy” was a big hit for The Jive Bombers after it was released as a single in 1957. It has since become a favorite cover song among musical groups such as The Escorts and Sha Na Na. David Johansen, as Buster Poindexter, also covered this fan favorite in 1987 and performed it with such genius that if one didn’t know any better it was his own. As Poindexter, David Johansen was at his prime as a solo artist since the breakup of the New York Dolls in 1976. “Bad Boy” was a phenomenal number that mixed blues and jazz, a style that became a niche for David Johansen, before and after his stint as Buster Poindexter.
#9 – Don’t Start Me Talking
As David Johansen and the Harry Smiths, “Don’t Start Me Talking” was a cover song that was featured on the group’s self-titled album that was released in 2000. This infamous blues song originally performed in 1955 by Sonny Boy Williamson II was a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at the time. Forty-five years later, Johansen covered this tune as one of the songs featured as one of the many tributes directed towards the history of blues and folk music.
As a live performer, David Johansen was at his best, a talent his fans and peers definitely appreciate. It is rare for musical talent to sound even better live than they do in a studio. In Johansen’s case, he remains among the few who don’t need to add hype in a live performance just to get the crowd going.
# 8 – Poor Boy Blues
In 2000, David Johansen and the Harry Smiths performed the song, “Poor Boy Blues” as one of the tracks in the group’s eponymous album. Considered one of the oldest blues songs in music history, “Poor Boy Blues” witnessed Johansen and his group perform their version of this song with excellence. Regarded as a man who has an ear for good music and knows how to cover it well, Johansen found himself leaning more in favor of folk music styles as opposed to the punk genre he catered to when he first entered the music scene in the late 1960s. Johansen’s live performance of this song is fantastic, especially as a lounge number, which was his true niche as a musician.
#7 – Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby) (as Buster Poindexter)
When Lulu released “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)” in 1969, it became a modest hit on the American and Canadian music charts. On Canada’s RPM chart, it peaked as high as number sixteen while on the US Billboard Hot 100 it was a number twenty-two hit. It has since been covered by a number of artists, including David Johansen. As Buster Poindexter, his 1987 version was notable enough to win over the nods of approval from music critics and fans alike. This beautiful ballad highlighted Johansen’s vocal talent in a manner that added a hint of magic to turn it from extraordinary to super-extraordinary. It is no wonder he was such a Saturday Night Live favorite.
#6 – The House of the Rising Sun (as Buster Poindexter)
The traditional folk song, “The House of the Rising Sun” revolved around the misfortunes of a person living in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are several lyrical variations of this song but the most popular was the 1964 version performed by The Animals as an electrified folk number. Regarded as the first folk-rock hit, it topped the official music charts in Canada, the US, and the group’s home base, the UK. As Buster Poindexter, David Johansen’s 1987 version of his performance of this song is definitely worth the listen. The original roots of “The House of the Rising Sun” still remain in question but historians specializing in musical folklore believe it has a connection to the broadside ballads that were performed between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As for the direct reference to New Orleans, the story has it “The House of the Rising Sun” earned its American heritage as far back as 1905 when it was sung among the miners as a tragic tale that emanated from the American Civil War era.
#5 – Frenchette
“Frenchette” was originally a New York Dolls tune, written by David Johansen, before he performed it as a solo artist. The song made references to The Marvelettes and The Ronettes, as well as pointing out that a romance from France is really nothing more than a “Frenchette.” As a solo artist, “Frenchette” was recorded as the final track from his debut album, which was released in 1978. It was one of many songs that were originally performed by him as he while he was with the New York Dolls. The beauty behind Johansen’s music began at the beginning as his incredible vocal talent was enticing enough for the listener to want to hear more. When the instruments break in to liven up “Frenchette” it added to Johansen’s encouragement to simply get up and dance.
#4 – Personality Crisis
Technically, “Personality Crisis” was a song originally credited to the New York Dolls as it was the lead track from the group’s self-titled album, which was released in 1973. It was their debut album that received tremendous reviews by music critics but the fan base didn’t seem quite ready yet to receive the band’s proto-punk style. This song was written by David Johansen, along with the band’s guitarist at the time, Johnny Thunders.
Among the fans of New York Dolls and David Johansen, “Personality Crisis” is often mentioned as a personal favorite. Rightfully earned as such, “Personality Crisis” remains a fantastic classic rock anthem that may have seemed ahead of its time in 1973. When David Johansen performed this as a solo artist in concert, he literally poured even more life into “Personality Crisis” which rightfully earned him the admiration of fans who were in awe of his live performances. Featured on the 1982 album, Live It Up. This song was fantastic when it first came out via New York Dolls and remains fantastic as a genuine David Johansen classic.
#3 – Funky But Chic
1978’s “Funky But Chic” was a single recorded on David Johansen’s debut album as a solo artist. It was one of many songs Johansen collaborated with fellow New York Doll bandmate, Sylvain Sylvain and has earned its place as a major fan-favorite among the listeners as soon as they hear it. When it comes to appreciating classic rock, “Funky But Chic” definitely fits the bill as Johansen’s vocal talent demonstrated why he became a music critic favorite. Known for catchy lyrics, along with a quirky sense of humor, it shouldn’t come as any surprise he became a Saturday Night Live regular performer come 1987. When bringing up the name of David Johansen, failing to mention “Funky But Chic” as one of his signature songs could be deemed unacceptable.
#2 – Heart of Gold
From the 1981 album, Here Comes the Night, “Heart of Gold” was a tune that would also be featured on the 1987 album, Buster Poindexter. The fan appeal of this song was considerable, despite its failure to make an impression on any official music charts. Considered one of his signature songs, “Heart of Gold” was performed as a soul left in the cold who perhaps felt he was misunderstood as something he’s not as he blamed society for his troubles. What made “Heart of Gold” special was Johansen’s decision to break away from the style of music he was best known for as a member of the New York Dolls. It was a classier number than his previous works, which shed new light on the man and his vocal talent.
#1 – Hot Hot Hot (as Buster Poindexter)
“Hot Hot Hot” was the first hit single for David Johansen while he assumed the name of Buster Poindexter. This classic was first released in 1982 by Arrow and it was a number fifty-nine hit on the UK Singles Chart and was a dance floor favorite worldwide. It had since been covered by a variety of recording artists from various corners of the globe, including David Johansen. As Buster Poindexter, he covered this hit single in 1987 and it became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, as well as a number forty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Sung as a lounge singer, which was the Poindexter image Johansen took upon himself, “Hot Hot Hot” garnered a considerable amount of attention as it, along with the song, couldn’t seem to get enough airplay when it first came out. It’s safe to say the tropical aura of “Hot Hot Hot” is one of David Johansen’s, er, Buster Poindexter’s signature songs.
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Top 10 David Johansen Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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We Gotta Get Out of This Place/Don’t Bring Me Down/It’s My Life (aka the Animals Medley) live Sadly overlooked.