The cream of New York new wave/punk filmed live at CBGB's when the scene was just beginning. Includes performances by Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads, the ... See full summary »
The cream of New York new wave/punk filmed live at CBGB's when the scene was just beginning. Includes performances by Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Heartbreakers, the Shirts, Wayne County, the Marbles, the Dolls, Miamis, Harry Toledo, and the Tuff Darts (w/Robert Gordon). Written by
Many people will dismiss this film because it is basically soundless home movies with live music tracks from other performances dubbed over. The film was shot in grainy B/W, the camera is usually static with only a zoom lens to pan in and out, and we hear only bits and pieces of songs. Well, I think that's excusable for a film of this subject. The first roots of the punk/new wave scene were real' garage bands. MTV was still four years away. The rock music scene was comprised of mega-bands (like Yes, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull) that filled stadiums and promised little other than a good light show and a contact high from grass. Another alternative was the leisure suit/gold-chain disco scene, which was completely void of soul despite the R&B origins from which it sprang. Then there was the worst of the worst. I was in high school at the time and I chose the 40-minute walk home most days (and there were no walkmans in those days!) rather than have to listen to Barry Manilow and Linda Ronstadt on the school bus's radio. Needless to say, music in 1976 was either nauseatingly bad or overproduced to the max, and the music scene was saturated in cocaine, hot tubs, and Quaaludes. Enter this new scene so new that it didn't even have a name (it was first coined `punk' when it reached England and was embraced by working class kids). The attitude with these new bands was disenchantment, the music was simplistic, and the performances were raw and unpolished. This new American music never really was `punk' because it lacked the energy to even be about being against everything (with the exception of Patti Smith). It wasn't angry, or expressive or flashy. If one could call it anything in fact, it would probably be Loud Inertia.
So, if one is to make a documentary about loud inertia and stay truthful to its form, it would have to be as stagnant, simplistic, raw, and unrefined as the music. Most of the bands in this film had not yet signed to a label at this time, and few of them ever played outside of NYC. Their audiences were what one might call the riff-raff of society. So, who had the money to buy a video camera or even a sound camera? Ivan Kral and Amos Poe obviously had the insight to record the performances on their 8mm home movie cameras and probably something like a cheap cassette recorder. I doubt they ever considered their efforts to be as directors. They were simply fans with cameras, and that makes this film an uncultivated document of a seed that would sprout into a whole movement. I can't say I enjoyed watching this film or that it even captured many of the aspects of what made some of these bands great (by the time I saw most of these bands in '77 & '78, they had already developed somewhat musically). However, this film is in itself something unpretentious, uncompromising, and far, far away from what would soon be labeled, packaged and manufactured by record companies and music videos. There are other documentaries that are more entertaining, and that fully explain the phenomenon of this new music scene. But I think the music and images this of film candidly show what the real essence of this era was all about. It may look static, but it's pure, original, and sincere which let's face it, is the antithesis of MTV and most music today.
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