Danny Says is a documentary on the life of Danny Fields, about whom you could certainly make a case that without him the development of punk rock may not have happened. If you are a fan of the Velvet Underground, The Stooges or The Ramones, you may have seen this picture before. The Ramones even wrote a song about Fields (which is where the film’s title comes from).
Fields started out in the ’60s writing for teenybopper magazines, and his first real moment of fame was, when acting as editor of Datebook magazine, he published the infamous “more popular than Jesus” quote by John Lennon. Ironically, Fields thought the Beatles were really lousy and much preferred The Byrds or The Rolling Stones.
He soon started working for The Doors as a publicist, and was responsible for Jim Morrison and Nico’s short-lived affair. This is told through a hilarious animation sequence and Fields’s dry wit. He then became Elektra Record’s “label freak,” and went up to Detroit to check out some band called MC5 that Elektra were interested in signing. He also saw some trailer-trash kids while he was in town who were building the foundations of what would become punk rock: The Stooges.
Fields saved Nico’s career as well, because he already was a big part of the Factory inner circle, and even got Atlantic Records to bring out the Velvet Underground’s Live at Max’s Kansas City album. He also openly gay well before the gay liberation movement happened, lived with Edie Sedgwick for a while during the ’60s, and did more drugs than you can imagine at the same time, but this was ’60s and ’70s.
Music was getting stale by the mid ’70s, but Fields soon discovered four kids with bowl haircuts and leather jackets who turned out to be The Ramones. They are soon playing the UK, and the rest is history. One of the film’s numerous highlights is the moment Fields plays them to Lou Reed for the first time, who is just floored by what he hears and admits he is now irrelevant. The entire conversation is available as a 40-minute special feature, which is fascinating, even though Lou Reed uses the racial slur of “spade.”
Through extensive interviews with Fields and around a dozen other people, like Iggy Pop, Tommy Ramone, Seymour Stein, etc., director Brendan Tollerses tells Fields’s story from the mid ‘60s to around the beginning of the ’80s. Fields has more stories than almost anybody from the time period, because he was there from the beginning of alternative music with The Velvets to The Ramones, setting a template for what you still hear in the music of today. Danny Fields comes across as engaging, insanely smart and absolutely hilarious, and you could listen to him all day telling his stories. There is never a dull moment in the whole film: it’s a fascinating insight into why your favourite bands even got a chance in the first place. Iggy perfectly sums him up with this quote “Danny’s a connector, he’s a fuel line, a place where things are liable to erupt.”
The disc is fairly packed with features. Danny Fields does a Q&A, and Brendan Toller supplies an interview talking about the many-year process of making the film. Some deleted scenes and a newly restored version of the Nico “Evening of Light” video, which also features The Stooges, are also included.