Punk Rock has several sad stories like the New York Dolls. Even at their height, they seemed to be haunted by tragedy. After Billy Murica passed away in 1972, the band pushed through the grief. They released two cult classic albums over the next few years, led by lead singer David Johansen. An icon across genres, Johansen continued performing for the next fifty years. For Personality Crisis: One Night Only, directors David Tedeschi and Martin Scorsese combine forces. They explore his eclectic career using archival footage and footage from a recent lounge show.

Johansen came to acclaim as a member of the New York Dolls, but his acclaim did not end there. Over the two-hour show, Johansen tells stories about his career. As regales the crowd with tales about life on the road, movies, and his alter ego Buster Poindexter.

Tedeschi and Scorsese dive deep into the punk scene. The links between punk and New York place us squarely in one of the hottest music scenes in modern music. Getting Johansen to open up about the Dolls and their accidental path to fame. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Johansen’s self-awareness causes him to downplay his achievements.

Personality Crisis David Johansen Martin Scorsese David Tedeschi
David Johansen in PERSONALITY CRISIS: ONE NIGHT ONLY. Photo credit: Courtesy of Showtime.

The show and interviews depict a humble punk rocker evolving as life allowed him to reach for new opportunities. His honesty about how he found those opportunities makes Personality Crisis less an act of myth-making and more a correction to the record. Yet at the same time, there’s a nonchalant approach to revolutionary choices. As the New York Dolls wore women’s clothing and supported LGBTQ rights, they became villains to others outside the community. Subtle acts that upset the status quo, even in the punk scene, will always be met with anger. Yet the Dolls persisted and Johansen continued to change the musical landscape.

As Buster Poindexter, Johansen explores an entirely different side of his talent. Turning into a pseudo-lounge singer and playing out of his songbook helps the musician take a different approach to his show. Scorsese, known for mixing mediums and genres, becomes a perfect fit to help shape the narrative. After all, one would assume a hardcore punk rocker would live fast and die young. As Scorsese pulls interviews with Johansen at 25 and 65, it’s evident that the singer is brilliant. That allowed Johansen to find new challenges for himself.

Johansen’s understanding of his place in music, as both a creator and mentor, makes him a unique subject. With uniquely qualified directors to bring his story to life, the musician gets the star treatment he deserves. With an excellent sound mix and plenty of entertaining stories, Personality Crisis is an incredible perspective on the most unique punk era.

Personality Crisis David Johansen Martin Scorsese David Dedeschi
Key art for PERSONALITY CRISIS ONE NIGHT ONLY. Photo credit: Courtesy of SHOWTIME.

Alan’s Rating: 7/10

What do you think of Personality Crisis: One Night Only? Let us know in the comments below! Stream Personality Crisis: One Night Only on Paramount+.

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