The Birth of Punk Rock in NYC review – cheap thrills. Film review by Nick Hasted

Bankruptcy, rubble, rape and murder: Manhattan in the 70s could be dark, as several New York punk memoirs show. The compromise was art, smoking and burning in stinky, crucially cheap degradation. Punk was only a symptomatic part of a crumbling Lower East Side where old beaters, folks, jazzers, poets, theater, film and visual artists also lived.

Danny Garcia’s point Nightclub doc is to stake Max, claim Kansas City as a punk epicenter, and challenge CBGB’s legendary status. Despite a few key interviewees, his low-budget, naïve film does no one any favors.

Max’s has always been part of the founding myth of New York punk, the place where the New York Dolls played and where Bowie met before fame and Lou Reed after the Velvets. But its greatest notoriety was pre-punk, when Warhol personally held court in his back room, the psychic temperature of which is captured in Mary Woronov’s film. Swimming Underground: My Years at the Warhol Factory. The former Factory and Chelsea daughter remembers her first visit, “stuck in the doorway where all the dummies were hesitating”. “When I finally left Max’s,” she wrote of a later occasion, when Andrea Whips would usually dance across a table and surprisingly insert a bottle of champagne, “it was four in the morning and it wasn’t there was no lower level to sink to.”

Patti Smith first ventured into the back room in 1969, after Warhol’s heyday, when the now ‘absent money king’ made it ‘the social center of the underworld’ . Smith’s just children other records rose later that year and were among the few dancers when the Velvet Underground played Max’s to maybe 100 people and began their rock ‘n’ roll transition. Both writers make you miss the chance, the talent, or the tenacity to discover a place they have imbued with poignant experience.

Garcia calls simpler witnesses, which give a more messy, perhaps more realistic picture. Generic rock is mostly a movie soundtrack that is clearly short of money for a lot of relevant music or, apparently, chronologically relevant stills from chameleon artists such as Bowie. Nightclub has images of Ruby & The Rednecks, the Testors and Sid Vicious at Max’s. If you were in the mood to travel back in time to those golden punk nights, it gives a good idea of ​​how ordinary, even horrific, they could be. There’s something disheartening and chastening about a movie that’s too cheap to feed our fantasies.

The tension between these two types of story is caught when Warhol’s right-hand man, Ondine, told Woronov late in life, “If I can’t tell them the simplified version and they can’t imagine the real one – what am i supposed to say? ?”

Alice Cooper in a nightclubAnyway, Alice Cooper is doing a great service by recalling the first incarnation of Max, where future stars such as Springsteen and Bob Marley were introduced to the industry. Max’s New York Dolls “wreck” residency is portrayed without sentimentality, as is their stealthy return there, after dropping out of a tour due to lack of good dope in Florida. Doll manager Marty Thau, one of many interviewees who died during Nightclubplayfully mocks “that shopkeeper” Malcolm McLaren, who hacked New York style for the Pistols.

Max’s closed in December 1974, when first owner Mickey Ruskin’s money ran out. It soon reopened under Tommy Dean and was plugged into the brewing punk scene by new booker Peter Crowley, an important voice here on the club and the pragmatic reality of music. The Heartbreakers, the spin-off of Johnny Thunders’ Dolls, were, we’re told, a Max band. Hilly Cristal’s dog shit smeared CBGB was disgusting from a health standpoint and paid bands less. But the Ramones, Television, Blondie and Talking Heads were his bands.

Sid Vicious in a nightclubNightclub Helpfully asserts Max’s continued punk prominence alongside CBGB, also reserving the Ramones and the rest, until its closing party in 1981, when the Beastie Boys backed Bad Brains. Prosecuting the owners for allegedly photocopying $100 bills in the basement had color-killed the club.

An extra cinema short film, Sid: The Last Curtain, is more rounded and revealing. Footage from Sid Vicious’ 1978 Max residency shows a scratch band including two ex-Dolls playing a post-VU grind as he lanky shouts. “He did his best,” admits Nick Marden of the Stimulators. “He didn’t kill himself…he hit a few notes.” Harley Flanagan of the same group adds an epitaph to this talentless 21-year-old star, variously portrayed in a Nazi or Texas Chainsaw Massacree shirt, and the scene in which he and Nancy Spungen were kind of sacrificed. “He was a kid…and he wasn’t even a musician. His whole point was that he was an asshole. It was punk rock. »

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