Buster Poindexter – Hot Hot Hot

Buster Poindexter
Year :
The B-52s / New York Dolls / Richard Cheese

When David Johansen created the Buster Poindexter persona, he gave himself an outlet to put out goofy lounge music. Why he needed this outlet, I can’t say. When he recorded a cover of Arrow’s “Hot Hot Hot,” I doubt he ever intended it to be the song he would be most remembered for. I assume he just made it so he could put Bill Murray in the video.

Whatever his deep (or not) reasons were for making the Buster Poindexter albums, David Johansen now has to live with them. This is not something that excites him. He’s been fairly open about his regrets with “Hot Hot Hot” in particular, calling it the “bane of my existence,” after it become a karaoke and wedding staple. I suppose this is what happens when you take a feather-light dance song and cover it with gin-soaked sequins.

I don’t love “Hot Hot Hot,” and I don’t have much interest in the music of Buster Poindexter—but I’m glad both exist.

The first time I ever heard the name Buster Poindexter, it was from my older sister pointing him out as the cab-driving ghost of Christmas past in Scrooged (a criminally underrated Christmas movie). For quite some time, I knew him first and foremost by this name, and as an actor. I’m not always proud of my past. It wasn’t until talking with a friend years later that I would hear of the New York Dolls. This friend was a huge fan of their music and their glam/punk/drag-queens-on-heroin aesthetic and hated that Johansen had ruined it by creating the commercialized abomination of Buster Poindexter. This seemed harsh to me, but I was wrong about his name and occupation, so what did I know? What I did know was that it was clear to my friend that Johansen was a sell-out, and nothing sounded worse than that.

Culture is always changing. This is seemingly obvious, but people seemingly need to regularly point out that “right now” (whenever “people” happen to be talking about these things) is a weird or unique time in modern culture. This claim is almost always true, making it neither weird nor unique. Music, film, and television are always in a state of call and response—everything is some sort of answer to what came before, even if that answer is a defiant one. By its nature, music tends to be at the forefront of this ever-changing state, and listeners are always looking for the next thing. This is all well and good, but what happens when artists themselves change? There is an expectation that the bands we love not put out the same album over and over again, but when that next album is too different we often rip them apart for “abandoning their sound.” If it’s their sound, shouldn’t they have the choice to abandon it? If someone said that you were only allowed to listen to or be interested in one genre of music for the rest of your life, you (as the well-rounded, unable-to-be-categorized individual that you are) would find it ridiculous. But we often hold musicians to this same standard, and without even giving them the leeway that an entire genre might include. Listening to music outside of your comfort zone is usually an exciting experience, even if the music fails to make a lasting impact, so why wouldn’t we want to listen to a musician make music outside of his or her comfort zone? As far as I’m concerned, one of the things that made The Beatles so great was their willingness to jump from sound to sound. (You could make a case that The Beatles made these jumps on individual songs and not as much for entire albums, therefore never staying too far away from being a pop or rock band for too long, and you have a little bit of a point, but that point is really just about marketing.)

Listen, I’m not saying the results are always great when an established artist branches out, and sometimes it can be a little ridiculous. Growing weird facial hair doesn’t make a country musician a rock star. If you, as a fan of music want to criticize someone for failing when they try something new, that’s your right as a consumer. Let’s just try to make sure the David Johansens of the world don’t feel it’s a risk not worth taking.

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Matthew Belair (@14Belair42) grew up on the classic rock of his parents and the 90s alt-rock of his older sister before discovering other genres to love, all of which are cool, hip, and in no way embarrassing to admit publicly.

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