Brendan Toller / USA / 2015 / 105 minutes
The old saying “in the right place at the right time” is seriously true in the life of music promoter and manager Danny Fields. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, Fields seems to have had more than his fair share of being (intentionally and unintentionally) in all the right places throughout the history of American East Coast rock ‘n’ roll. It’s very good fodder for a documentary, featuring all your favourite bands.
Danny Says is a film-compendium of these outrageously incredible moments, featuring Danny himself and anybody who was anybody in New York City music and art from the mid-sixties onwards. He faithfully recounts (for starters) the time he stopped one of Warhol’s women committing suicide in front of Warhol himself, the time his magazine published the legendary “bigger than Jesus” Beatles interview, the time he introduced Nico to Jim Morrison with almost catastrophic effect, the time an acid trip in Newport lead him to Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins hotel room and the time Iggy Pop destroyed an entire highway overpass with a single tour bus. The pinnacle of all these moments is when Fields recalls the time Jim Morrison’s ruffled reincarnated spirit (in the form of a dog) vomited all over him. The pair hadn’t been on speaking terms since the Nico incident a few years earlier.
Almost unbelievable stories aside, the most precious moments in this film are made up of Danny’s own cassette recordings of conversations recorded in the seventies. These are played from a cassette player on screen and feature Danny having a casual telephone catch up with Nico, a strung out Iggy Pop speaking candidly about methadone in 1971, and an incredibly sweet recording of Lou Reed listening to The Ramones for the first time in 1975, where he proclaims the band as far superior than anything else including Patti Smith, and even himself.
All this from Fields, a quiet, shy Jewish boy who discovered himself and his sexuality while at Harvard Law School, “fucking and stealing” his way through Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties. Danny’s genius comes to the fore when he discovers the raw, revolutionary talent of MC5 and their support act The Stooges, resulting in perhaps the recording of the finest American punk records of the 1970s. Testimony is lovingly given in endearing interviews with Wayne Kramer and Iggy Pop.
Danny’s pride and joy is the discovery of The Ramones, where he faithfully recounts the time he loaned three thousand dollars from his mother in order to become the band’s manager. By the end of the film we’re left a little unclear where Danny is at just now, and what’s happened since the Ramones, but his legacy and lore on American popular culture in that most important time for rock ‘n’ roll is absolutely the stuff of legendary status.