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Various Artists

Nightclubbing: The Birth Of Punk In NYC DVD/CD

Review by Gary Hill

Here we have a documentary that really shines the light on some common misconceptions, while telling a fascinating, although often not so pretty, story. It should be mentioned that if you have  a problem with a lot of explicit sexual references or talk about drug use, this is probably not the documentary for you. With that out of the way, though, let's get into this.

First, I mentioned misconceptions that are brought up here. First, up is just the very idea of "punk rock." Punk is a label that, particularly at first, was thrust upon acts. It's mentioned that The Ramones were not happy with that label, saying that they were rock and roll, not punk rock. Another interviewee mentions the weirdness of putting bands as different as Blondie, The Ramones and The Talking Heads all under the same musical banner.

You know, I categorize and classify music at Music Street Journal all the time. Here's the thing, such classifications are always subjective. Art in general, and particularly music doesn't fit into tight little boxes. When boundaries are put on it, it always seems to naturally push beyond those boundaries.

When it comes to punk, that means that the origins of punk are not as clear cut as one might think. Some consider the Velvet Underground to be the start of punk. Others put that on Iggy and The Stooges. I've heard Blue Cheer and The MGs both mentioned before. The New York Dolls are also contenders in the minds of many. The Sex Pistols clearly put the punk rock label out there into the public consciousness, but the origins obviously started earlier.

The next misconception is that punk rock started at CBGB. Again, we have to consider that the whole label is questionable in itself, but CBGB was clearly an important part of the picture. New Another New York Club, Max's Kansas City was at least as integral to the development, though.

This documentary is the story of the punk movement at Max's. There has been so much attention paid to CBGB, that Max's often seems overlooked. Running from 1965 to 1981, it was a big part of the New York scene, both music and beyond.

We're told about all the stars who hung out there, with Andy Warhol referenced as the force that brought that level of attention to the club. He was a regular, and Warhol brought a scene with him that grew on its own within the confines of Max's.

The story is told through interviews, footage and more. Some really big names are interviewed including Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Steve Stevens and more. It really is a long list that's packed full of well-known names.

The long and short of it is that if you think you know the story of New York's original music scene and the origins of punk rock, and you don't know about Max's, you are really missing a lot of the background. You need to check out this video. This set includes both the DVD and a soundtrack CD. The DVD includes some extras, with the deleted clips probably the most interesting, but the short featurette titled "Survivors' Guide to 70s NYC w/ Neon Leon and Sonny Vincent" is well worth the watch, too.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2023  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at:




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