David Johansen - vocals; unknown personnel in rest of band
When the final curtain drew on the New York Dolls in the mid-'70s, its front man David Johansen regrouped just in time for the new wave and delivered his music via a soulful revue that could rival the shows of Bruce Springsteen, Graham Parker, and other similarly high energy blue-eyed showmen of the time. Both "Funky But Chic," and "Frenchette," were recorded at the Palladium in New York during a 1979 benefit concert for Indochinese refugees. Originally, both songs were key tracks from Johansen's 1978 self-titled debut album, and both would prove not only to be Johansen's live showpieces in his new guise as a suave bandleader, but they would become his most enduring classics in a long and varied career.
Before becoming the world's most notorious lounge singer Buster Poindexter (who pointed the way to the cocktail and lounge music craze) and just after he'd done his time in the pre-punk trenches leading the New York Dolls, Johansen was out of drag costumes and still retained his streetwise edge and rock'n'roll cred. With songs co-written with his longtime bandmate Sylvain Sylvain, Johansen launched his solo career with songs built on the same sense of kitsch and camp the Dolls had, though they traded the ready punk and glam sound for something more roadhouse rock and bluesy gruff. Yet, once a Doll always a Doll--you can still hear the group's inspiration in the songs. "Funky But Chic," concerned as it is with sartorial flair, became a kind of mission statement: "Mama says I look fruity but in jeans I feel rotten." "Frenchette," a piano power ballad that bursts into a ball of flames, is the fan-favorite: Brill Building sensibilities drive the composition, and the Ronettes and the Marvellettes even put in an appearance when they're used to rhyme with Frenchette (as in fake French). The song's refrain, "let's just dance," was a prophetic battle cry, leading the way into the dance-obsessed early '80s.
Soon after the solo years, Johansen would find his fortune with Buster Poindexter. But for a taste of his honest and unembellished rock 'n' roll self, this was the moment in time to catch David Jo.