David Johansen, DJ

As it appeared in the May 5-11 issue of Time Out New York, minus the lovely artwork and graphics: MAY 5–11, 2005 l TIME OUT NEW YORK 1 6 5

A Doll’s house
David Johansen’s Mansion of Fun
pushes the free-form-radio envelope
By Joe Nick Patoski

The best radio DJ in the city
crafts his show with a global
perspective that could have
been honed nowhere else. Between
songs, he spouts Hindu mysticism
laced with vaudeville shtick in a
woozy barroom growl. And like almost
everything else good in New
York, he’s hard to find and you
gotta pay to hear him. But even if
you never listen to another program
on Sirius Satellite Radio, the $3.25
weekly admission to The David
Johansen Mansion of Fun Show
(airing Fridays from 3 to 9pm) is a
bargain indeed.

Johansen is a throwback to the
era of progressive radio when the
people running the board and spinning
the songs actually chose the
music they played, enabling them
to create particular moods with
the natural flow of their sets. In his
case, he opens new horizons for the
already quirky nonformat of the
Sirius Disorder channel. You want
free-form? Try Olu Dara, Dave
Brubeck, the Bush Tetras, Mary
Wells, Big Bill Broonzy, Bread,
Chuck Berry and Maria Callas
all strung together. According to
Johansen, it’s all NYC’s fault. “Ever
since I was a kid, I noticed this
Gershwinesque vibe, that every
neighborhood you walked through,
there’s music blaring out of speakers,
from front doors, from stores.
You could walk down 14th Street
and hear Tito [Puente] and Ismael
Rivera blasting out, and you’d
go ‘My God! What’s that?’ You
walk into the Village and you hear
Country Joe and the Fish come out
of a store, and go, ‘Ahhhh…,’ and
on and on and on. Good music stops
you in your tracks.”
The program is also informed by
his other pursuits—his gig as lead
singer of the recently re-formed
New York Dolls, his days as lounge
fixture Buster Poindexter and more
recently, crooning blues classics as
frontman of the Harry Smiths. The
influences show up on the playlist.
The only constants are the Electric
Flag’s “Groovin’ Is Easy” as the
opener and Billy Joe Shaver’s nugget
o’ wisdom “Old Chunk of Coal”
at the end.
The Mansion of Fun title comes
from the Indian sage Ramakrishna—“
That’s what he called
the planet, the earth,” Johansen explains—
but the mystical mumbo
jumbo between songs (“Particles to
atoms to cells to organisms, letters
to words to sentences to paragraphs,
you’re in Johansen’s Mansion of Fun
where everything transcends and
includes”) is harder to explain. “I
remember Rosko [a legendary New
York disc jockey in the 1960s] did
that kind of stuff, but he was very
mellow. I just think there’s like so
much negativity being spewed into
the world in every possible form of
technology. I just want to do a positive,
fun, feel-good-about-you-andyour-
world-type of a show.”

“I’m a digger,” Johansen explains.
“I like to go back to when they first
recorded things, all the way up to
this new Ted Nash record. Just last
night, I was listening to the big Latin
radio station and there were a couple
things I dig—[African-Brazilian]
batucada, because it’s got that
cheap guitar with the pickup sound
on it, and this Dominican sound
where these guys are really tearing
their heart out. But I’ve noticed it’s
starting to get kind of homogenized.
Two years ago, it all sounded like it
was recorded in the jungle.”

But Anne Murray? “I’m into a
lot of guilty pleasures,” Johansen
says somewhat defensively. “It’s
Part of which involves being an
evangelist for opera. “A lot of people
who have eclectic tastes maybe
have never really explored arias,”
he says, explaining his penchant for
playing Maria Callas. “Every classic
opera has a fuckin’ big hit. I don’t do,
like, what they call ‘deep cuts.’ I play
the fuckin’ hits. And people will say
‘You know what? I never realized
how soulful that stuff is.’ ”

Or how good it sounds on the
radio—especially right after “Roll
over Beethoven.”

The David Johansen Mansion of
Fun Show airs Fridays 3–9pm on
Sirius Satellite Radio channel 24

Cool photo that was taken at the very same Stubb's afternoon show Andy and I saw during South By Southwest accompanies the article with David Jo's mystic loincloth in full view. The caption reads....."ECLECTIC BOOGALOO David Johansen (right, with his New York Dolls
bandmate Sylvain Sylvain) is as unpredictable onstage as he is in the booth."
Jesse Sublett declared the show the very best of SXSW 05 and I will not argue. But he's even better as a radio disc jockey.
If you want to see the whole story and the photos, e mail me and I'll send you the pdf.

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