Between 1965 and 1975, Danny Fields hung out with the Velvet Underground at Andy Warhol’s Factory, caused a nationwide controversy by publicizing John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” quote in a teen magazine, was the press agent for the Doors, signed the MC5 and the Stooges to Elektra Records, and managed the Ramones.
Brendan Toller’s superb documentary “Danny Says” is partly about the searing, serrated rock ’n’ roll that surged underneath mainstream American pop in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But it’s even more about how one man kept showing up just in time to see one countercultural phenomenon after another.
The main selling point of “Danny Says” is the archival material, which includes rare live footage of some of the most exciting bands in rock history, as well as 40-year-old audio tapes of Fields’ conversations with Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Nico and others.
Music buffs will want to see all these now-famous folks in their obscure early days. But they’ll come away admiring a man they’ve barely heard of before.
A gay New Yorker with cutting-edge tastes and a world-weary air, Fields comes across in this film as opinionated, but also stung by a career spent setting up other people for success. (“Everything took too long to happen, and I couldn’t stick around,” he groans.)
What emerges is a rich portrait of one of 20th century pop culture’s great facilitators, whose keen observations, quirky personality and natural affinity for the outré helped greatness happen.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood