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Film

The surprising friendship of Bill Murray and New York Dolls frontman David Johansen

@Russellisation

An icon of alternative music, David Johansen is one of the industry’s most subversive and eccentric voices, having released six solo albums among his discography for New York Dolls and his strange alternative identity, Buster Poindexter. Beginning his career in the late 1960s, the frontman found further success throughout the late 20th century and arguably invented punk during his time in the New York Dolls. 

The influential punk rock band released two albums during their time at the top of the industry, New York Dolls in 1973 and Too Much Too Soon in 1974, with a large majority of the material written by David Johansen alongside the guitarist Johnny Thunders. Though the band were received well critically, they consistently failed to reach commercial success and, frustrated by their stagnancy, Johansen sought a solo career in 1976. 

With a unique performance style and eccentric image, David Johansen quickly became a cult icon of subversive art in the 1970s, well reflecting the burgeoning cultural scene that was flourishing in America at the time. Reciprocated by the likes of the Ramones, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, a new, rebellious movement was formed that rallied a whole generation of counter-cultural youth.

Such a revolution wasn’t just happening in music either, with every facet of American culture being overtaken by artists, comedians and filmmakers that were striving to tell challenging contemporary stories. Such can be seen in the likes of directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and John Waters, with respective films Apocalypse Now and Pink Flamingos, as well as in the ever modernising comedy of the likes of Robin Williams and Bill Murray at the end of the decade. 

Why Bill Murray found ‘Scrooged’ harder than ‘Ghostbusters’

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In one of the most surprising collaborations of 20th-century popular culture, comedian Bill Murray and the New York Dolls frontman David Johansen joined forces on several occasions, combining the impressive weight of their two creative minds. Having enjoyed a successful ‘70s and early ‘80s in the media limelight, David Johansen was tempted into starring in the subversive Christmas comedy, Scrooged, by his friend and co-star, Bill Murray himself. 

Drawn to each others’ idiosyncratic eccentricities and natural sense of humour, the pair became a formidable duo behind the scenes with Johansen playing the Ghost of Christmas Past alongside Murray in one of the festive film’s most memorable scenes. Though, this wouldn’t be the only time the two would collaborate, as he would once again appear with Murray in A Very Murray Christmas in 2015. 

David Johansen has forayed into several other films without the helping hand of Bill Murray too, most notably in the peculiar cinematic enigma, Freejack, an action sci-fi starring Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Anthony Hopkins and other peculiar faces. No role, however, was able to match the obscure success of his collaboration with Bill Murray in Scrooged. Long live the iconic partnership.