* Viewed at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival
If, like me, you’re a Ramones fan then the title Danny Says will make you think of their song from End of the Century. This is the film version, a biography of their former manager and one of the most influential men in modern music Danny Fields. He’s also almost unknown outside of the music industry which makes the people he’s worked with and the stories he has to tell even more fascinating.
Working as everything from a publicist, A&R man, band manager and magazine editor he was responsible for helping The Doors to break nationally, (until he earned Jim Morrison’s wrath by hiding his car keys after the singer took more drugs than even the hard partying Fields thought was safe). He discovered and signed MC5 and Iggy and The Stooges, (he also introduced Iggy Pop to cocaine) and of course signed and managed The Ramones. He hung out with Andy Warhol and his crowd, including Lou reed and The Velvet Underground. And that’s leaving a lot of names out.
While a lot of the stories are told in talking head interviews with Fields and artists ranging from Alice Cooper to Iggy Pop to Jonathan Richmond but there’s also some great bits of animation especially for some of the more drug fueled incidents, some recorded phone calls and some truly incredible archival footage both from concerts and vintage interviews and tv appearances. It’s a wonderful mix that gets keeps the film from getting stale the way all interview films can, no matter how interesting the topic.
Mixed in with all of the music industry tales there’s also an interesting tale of growing up gay in a time when that could still get you arrested. It adds an interesting touch to the film and gives a different perspective to some pieces of LGBT history. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a great storyteller and genuinely funny whether talking about his first trip to a gay bar or an industry event at a trendy restaurant. Director Brendan Toller could have edited some of the more rambling stories a bit better, but that may also have taken away from the fun of heir telling as well.
Available on VOD and digital download from Magnolia Pictures, Danny Says is a great look back at the music industry before the current age of pre-made pop clones. When record labels were still willing to take chances and the there were still larger than life and truly outrageous personalities for them to take those chances on.