Danny Says (unrated, 105 mins, ★★★)
Danny Fields, the gadfly-entrepreneur of US pop and proto-punk, is attracted to “crazy people”, he says, and the dark side of showbiz. As a music manager and all-round trend-setter he helped to launch Jim Morrison and his California combo the Doors, Andy Warhol’s hip inhouse band the Velvet Underground and such rackety Detroit acts as Iggy and the Stooges and MC5.
Admittedly much of this music now looks silly. Perhaps it always did. By the time Morrison hit Los Angeles in 1967, like a psychedelic Frank Sinatra, the hippie heyday had peaked and the acid trip was no longer so fruitful or freak-out free.
Fields, born Daniel Henry Feinberg to Jewish parents in Brooklyn in 1939, is nevertheless no dreary advert for drug-induced excess. He is a recognised authority on Motown, for one thing, and has written a reliably good biography of the vegan celebrity photographer and Eastman Kodak heiress Linda McCartney.
With his antic appearance (wild dark hair, dark starey eyes), Danny as a young man seems to have fallen into the erratic genius category. He was not interested in making money but, following his instincts, signed up bands he liked. Drugs played their part. By his own account, Fields undertook some dangerous chemical expeditions to the mind’s antipodes in the company of, among others, a naked Jim Morrison.
Brendan Toller’s irreverent, feature-length documentary of Fields, Danny Says, fathoms the rock’n’roll underworld with all guns blazing. Having dropped out of Harvard Law School in 1960, Fields decamped to Greenwich Village in Manhattan, where he explored the downtown music scene. “I wanted to make some trouble,” he says. As editor of the teen-fan Datebook magazine he made much of John Lennon’s shock-horror “more popular than Jesus” remark, which almost destroyed the Beatles after American Bible Belt zealots took to the streets in protest.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection