Performed by the New York Dolls and written by David Johansen and Johnny Thunders of the Dolls.
I caught the movie Get Him to the Greek Last Night (bawdy, funny and worth the ticket) which concerns the efforts of a well-meaning music lackey trying to get a drug-addled, alcohol-soaked rock star whose made excess a lifestyle from London to Los Angeles. Along the way, the duo finds themselves coming to New York for a TV interview. As they enter the City, the film runs through a montage of rock clubs, hip scenes and icons all played over a soundtrack of the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis.” In that instant, it becomes clearer than ever that “Personality Crisis” is a perfect New York Song.
No one song can capture all of the essence of New York City, but this rave distills the crazy energy that careens from reckless parties to scary encounters all with a wide-eyed enthusiasm. Robert Christgau nails the Dolls and this song when he writes, “It takes brats from the outer boroughs to capture the oppressive excitement Manhattan holds for a half-formed human being the way these guys do.”
They Dolls invented glam rock and cut a path the New York punk groups could follow and widen, boys tottering on towering heels swapping lipstick and mascara backstage and ready to fight anyone who got in their way. This song sounds like a 4 a.m. street party that the cops can’t shut down. John Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain wield guitars like flame throwers; David Johansen struts, stutters, screeches, howls and croons and Jerry Nolan’s breakneck drumming keeps its all from spinning out of control. Sure, you can hear the Stones in there – what hard rocking band didn’t take off from the Stones? – and you can hear some Mark Bolan and the Stooges, but there’s also dashes of the girl groups these boys loved so much, just listen to their efforts to harmonize in the chorus. Is it fair to say that had the Dolls not sprung up in the early 70’s, we wouldn’t have had a Ramones and Blondie in the late 70’s?