SXSW15 Review – Danny Says (2015)



“You could make a convincing case that without Danny Fields, punk rock wouldn’t have happened.” The New York Times

Danny Says is a documentary about the life of “The Mayor of New York City” Danny Field, a journalist, self-proclaimed groupie and one of the most influential music industry executives during the punk movement.

Danny grew up in Queens, New York. Highly intelligent, he studied at University at Pennsylvania and Harvard Law. Bored and disinterested with collegiate life he moved to New York City and quickly fell in with Andy Warhol and the Factory scene, becoming life long friends with the Velvet Underground, Nico, Edie Sedgewick and Warhol.

Danny quickly became editor of Datebook magazine. In this role he was responsible for publishing the “Beatles are bigger than Jesus” John Lennon quote. This started the USA backlash against The Beatles and marked the beginning of the end of the band’s live performances. In the film Danny talks about the uncomfortable situation he experienced years later when addressing the subject with Paul whilst out for dinner with mutual friend Linda Eastman (soon to become McCartney). He later moved to teen celebrity rag 16 Magazine and was instrumental in making an unlikely pop star out of Alice Cooper.

His connections and eye for talent not going un-noticed, Danny soon became an A&R rep for Electra Records, helping to give some life to the predominantly at the time folk record label, he brought in The Doors, The MC5, The Modern Lovers and Iggy and the Stooges, who he managed for a spell alongside The Ramones.

Being dubbed as “The Mayor of New York City” it’s not a leap to compare him and the film to “The Mayor of the Sunset Strip”, Rodney Bingenheimer and the 2003 film about Bingenheimer’s life (imaginatively titled The Mayor of the Sunset Strip). Their careers ran parallel on either side of the USA, though whilst Danny found music close to home in New York City, Bingenheimer is hailed more for exposing British music, particularly glam rock, to the LA scene through his English Disco and radio show. As a film and style Danny Says totally compliments The Mayor of The Sunset Strip and the two films would be perfect double bill. However, I would say Danny is less of an oddity and a more real and relatable a character than how Bingenheimer comes across.

What makes this film something special for music fans is the exclusive access to Danny’s personal archives of conversations with his musical friends. At one point you hear a tape of Lou Reed listening to The Ramones for the first time, which feels like an exciting and special moment to listen in to. There are also exclusive interviews with musicians ranging from Judy Collins, Jonathan Richman, Richard Manitoba of The MC5 and Iggy Pop.   Iggy Pop is as ever entertaining, though honestly I’ll never be able to watch him without imagining that insurance advert puppet!

In the film Danny recounts many anecdotes about his celebrity friends, including one rather insane story about the day Nico and Jim Morrison met for the first time. Sometimes the stories are accompanied by footage, but the film also includes animations that help to bring the stories to life. The animation team includes Emily Hubley, daughter of renowned animators John and Faith, sister of Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo. (I still have to work out if my branch of the Hubley family is connected, but I like to imagine we’re distant cousins). Emily has been working as an animator since the late 70’s but your most likely to recognize her style from her work on the film version of glam musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Danny Says is a film that has all the content for a great music documentary, the interviews, exclusives and the insane rock and roll stories. However, what really comes across in this film is Danny’s passion and vision for music. He also has a very human and humble approach to his achievements and the role he has played in the success of the bands he’s worked with. Danny Says is film for all music fans to enjoy and be inspired by.


Alice Hubley

Genre: Documentary, Music Venue: SXSW15 Rating:15 Running Time: 105 mins Director:Brendan Toller Cast: Danny Fields, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Judy Collins