David Johansen wasn’t an easy sell on a documentary about his music, even from director Martin Scorsese. Johansen says it was his family that talked him into letting Scorsese film his performance for the documentary Personality Crisis: One Night Only.
Now, he’s happy with the result — relatively.
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“I only cringed two or three times during this film,” Johansen said at Deadline’s Sound and Screen: Television event. “I do live shows, they go up into the ether and they’re gone. So this is like a document of who I was at that moment.”
Record producer Jack Douglas joined Johansen onstage for the panel conversation. Douglas, the film’s music producer, has produced Johansen’s music going back to his time in the New York Dolls in the ‘70s.
“I’ve always been impressed by the lyrics,” Douglas said. “This band musically was more professional so they supported the lyrics. We had some guest stars come in every once in a while.”
Johansen said the New York Dolls formed for one show only but then continued to perform. “I just got tired of singing the same songs over and over,” he said. “I said, ‘If we’re going to keep doing this, we have to make new songs.’ We made new songs and then Jack produced it. It’s a beautiful record.”
He acknowledges he was more present with Scorsese and co-director David Tedeschi for Personality Crisis: One Night Only. He has only fleeting memories of recording with the New York Dolls.
“I don’t remember so much about the first record we made in the early ‘70s, but I know the lights were blinking on the board. It was very pretty,” Johansen said. “This time I was a little more corpus mantis you might say.”
Douglas also recalled a funny anecdote about Johansen telling off producer Todd Rundgren in the studio.
“Todd said to him, ‘You know it’s going to be really great when we put a lot of harmony on it,’” Douglas said. “He goes, ‘Harmony? Are you accusing me of having melody?’”
Check out the panel video above.
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