David Johansen is a man of many musical hats. Or, in the case of the New York Dolls, the glam-punk pioneers he fronted first in the 1970s and then again in the '00s, a man of many wigs.
When he plays a headlining show at Underground Arts on Friday, however, the 63-year-old chameleonic performer will be wigless. He won't be fronting the Dolls. That ragingly louche hard-rock band reunited at the behest of Morrissey at the Meltdown festival in London in 2004. Starting with One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This in 2006, they went on to record three latter-day albums with Johansen and Sylvain Sylvan as the only surviving members.
And he won't be camping it up as lounge lizard Buster Poindexter, his pompadoured smoothie alter ego whom he's recently revived with a small band and fresh repertoire, playing gigs at posh venues like the Café Carlyle in Manhattan.
He won't even be doing the deep roots and blues music he specialized in as David Johansen & the Harry Smiths in the early '00s.
Instead, the Staten Island native will be coming down the New Jersey Turnpike with a full band in tow under his given name. He used it on a series of solo albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s that produced bracing FM radio hits like "Funky But Chic" and "Frenchette."
"David Johansen is a rock thing," says the singer , talking from his home in Manhattan. "It's a really hard-rocking band."
True to his shape-shifting nature, Johansen has several acting gigs on his resume, including a taxi-driving Ghost of Christmas Past with Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988). He hosts a freewheeling weekly radio show on Sirius XM satellite radio called the Mansion of Fun, which covers the range of his musical tastes, from African music to big-band jazz to girl-group pop.
"I do a bunch of different things, and I like doing them all," he says. "It's not like I have a favorite or anything. I like doing a bunch of things, and it keeps them all interesting. I like to sing, you know. I really like to sing. It's in my DNA. The more opportunities for it, the better."