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Laramie Movie Scope: Danny Says

Danny Fields and all the influential artists he influenced

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 14, 2017 -- This documentary, directed by Brendan Toller, details the storied career of Danny Fields, a kind of Zelig of the music scene in the 1960s and 1970s, influencing a number of influential rock and roll performers.

According to this documentary, Fields (born Daniel Feinberg on November 13, 1939) had the ability to instantly recognize talent, and from this, he gained the ability to promote and encourage musicians he discovered, using connections he developed with influential people, record companies and the media. He has been described by some as a gadfly.

Fields himself admits to being somewhat of a gadfly, but also said one of his main goals as a young man was simply to find people like himself so he could have friends. He said he had no friends growing up. He did not fit in with his family, or at college (graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of Pennsylvania in 1959, then briefly attended Harvard Law School and New York University). He became one of the first openly gay people on the pop music scene in New York.

Fields started writing for different magazines, including the teen fan publication Datebook Magazine. There, as managing editor, he arranged to buy some British articles for reprint in the United States, including one that had John Lennon's famous quote that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” That comment was noticed by a conservative disk jockey who stirred up so much religious opposition there were record burnings and threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The resulting death threats were a contributing factor in the Beatles' decision to stop touring. Fields tells the story in the film about his admission to the Beatles of being the gadfly behind this enormous controversy.

Fields was not really a fan of the Beatles. He liked edgier bands, like The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, and punk rock bands. Fields talked his way into a position at Elektra Records, promoting the hit band The Doors. He suggested the hit song “Light My Fire” be shortened as a single so that radio stations would be more apt to play it. Fields successfully promoted the band, but he and Doors lead singer Van Morrison became enemies. He recommended Elektra sign the influential bands MC5 and The Stooges, bands which helped to popularize punk rock.

Fields became part of Andy Warhol's Factory social circle early on, where he became friends with German singer-songwriter Nico and the Velvet Underground (which included John Cale and Lou Reed) the late actress Edie Sedgwick (a distant relative to actress Kyra Sedgwick) and numerous other people in the Warhol crowd. These relationships put Fields in contact with many influential people in arts and entertainment.

After leaving Elektra, Fields discovered the seminal punk band The Ramones and, after borrowing some money from his mother, became the band's manager. He got them signed to Sire Records. The Ramones' tour in England directly inspired the band The Clash, and many other punk rock bands. The Ramones wrote the song, “Danny Says,” about Fields.

Fields later discovered singer-songwriter Paleface and helped him land record contracts. Later, Fields would write books about musicians, including a popular book about Linda McCartney that was turned into a TV miniseries.

The film is built around interviews with Fields and others who know him, with a liberal amount of music performance clips, and a great soundtrack of music that Fields had a hand in developing. One of the more compelling numbers is black and white footage from an early performance of the hit Motown single, “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas.

Watching Martha and the Vandellas kicked off some songs in my head and inspired me to pull out my copy of the documentary film, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” and listen to the Funk Brothers play some great Motown music in concert, right after I watched this film. It also reminded me of when I first heard the Velvet Underground back in the 1960s. Some people didn't like that kind of avant-garde music, but I did. Lots of great music and memories in this movie. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)