New York Dolls’ David Johansen – Does Rock’n’Roll Kill Brain Cells?

Testing musicians’ memories after a lifetime of abuse


Who selected the New York Dolls track, ‘(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown’ as his favourite record of all time on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs?
“So this is a quiz, huh? OK, it was probably Morrissey, by process of elimination, and eliminating everyone else. He’s a big fan of ours, he’s what we call a booster.”


In the 1988 film Scrooged – in which you starred as the Ghost Of Christmas Past – what year do you first take Bill Murray back to in your time-travelling taxi?
“Oh shit. 1959?”
Wrong. It was 1955
“At least I was in the right decade (laughs). I remember better now, y’know, Bill Murray had his brother playing his father in that scene. I’d just come from lunch with him and he was rattling off one-liners like no-one’s business, and I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. I was like a deer caught in the headlights. We’re still good buddies – he got me that gig.”


2004’s Meltdown Festival was something of a reunion for New York Dolls, but can you name three
other bands on the bill?

“(Laughs) Well, there was a puppet show, a fire-eater, and some dame doing monologues…”
Wrong. You could have had The Ordinary Boys, The Libertines, Nancy Sinatra, Sparks, Loudon Wainwright III, Ari Up, Cockney Rejects or Damien Dempsey

Complete the following lyrics: “And you’re a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon…”
“Change on into the wolfman howlin’ at the moon”.
Correct. ‘Personality Crisis’

Who provided guest vocals on your 2006 album ‘One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This’?
“This I remember. Michael Stipe and Iggy Pop.”
Correct. You could have had Tom Gabel too


Who supported the New York Dolls at your legendary one-off show at London’s 100 Club in 2009?
Wrong. Spizzenergi
“I stand corrected.”
For a bonus point, can you recall who was reportedly in the front row of that same legendary show?
“Uh, Boris what’s-his-name? The Mayor of London. Boris Johnson and his entourage of fancy friends.”
Correct? We were going to say Paul Simonon and Bobby Gillespie, but your answer was better
[NB – A City Hall spokesman could neither confirm or deny this. “The Mayor can’t remember,” he said.]

What were you reportedly arrested for after a gig in Memphis?
“Er, let me think. Was it inciting a riot?”
Correct. We heard you were dressed as Liza Minnelli when they took you in…
“Well, yes. I’ll allow that to go on record.”


Which 2010 film features the New York Dolls track ‘We’re All In Love’?
“Jesus, I have no idea.”
Wrong. It was Kick-Ass
“I think I missed that one.”


You appeared on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross in 2006, but can you name one of your fellow guests on the same show?
“Lily Allen. I think George Clooney
was there too?”
Correct for Lily Allen, but it wasn’t George Clooney, it was Adam Sandler. There was also celebrity chef
Jamie Oliver

“Close. You never actually see George Clooney and Adam Sandler in the same room, though, which leads to speculation. That was quite a good selection of guests, wasn’t it? That would make a superb dinner party.”


How many times do you say the word “hot” in the extended version of your alter ego Buster Poindexter’s infamous song ‘Hot, Hot, Hot`’?
“Um, 203.”
Wrong. It’s 137
“Ah, well, you’ve probably got the mini extended version. You need the ‘Hot, Hot, Hot (All Day Dream Version)’ (laughs). ”

Total Score 6/10
“That’s great, because when I was in school sometimes I would get one or zero out of 10 on tests. I’ve clearly been doing something right over the years. It’s called clarity.”