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DVD REVIEW: THE PLASMATICS – LIVE: Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes

DVD REVIEW: THE PLASMATICS – LIVE: Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes
MVD Visual
May 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
9/10

Wendy O Williams in 1979, tits out, nipples covered with gaffa tape, jiggling and bouncing around the stage singing Squirm, Tight Pants and Butcher Baby, before taking a chainsaw to a couple of guitars, remains a fantastically punk episode in the history of rock, and thank goodness the late Wendy’s partner and Plasmatics mastermind Rod Swenson has dug deep in his basement and found these artifacts to share with the world.

Most of the material dates back to 1980 and 1981, with a couple of tracks from 1978 and 1979. All are confrontational, recorded raw and nasty, and feature, at various times, destruction, mayhem, nudity, aggressive punk rock, simulated masturbation and men in outlandish costumes. The sound quality varies from bootleg to TV broadcast quality.

Williams and Swenson were far more than just punk rock uber-freaks: everything they did was grounded in anarchic art, a fact often overshadowed by Wendy’s penchant for revealing outfits and overtly sexual lyrics & actions. In Summer Nights from 1981 she takes pegs off her nipples and hands them to audience members: it’s hard to imagine they were revelling in the teen-sex melodrama of the punked up girl group song on offer, in favour of her irrepressible sexuality.

Williams, who was viciously beaten by (male) Milwaukee police officers after being arrested in January 1981 on charges of simulating masturbation, obscene conduct and (added later) battery to an officer (all charges were dropped), is commanding and charismatic here, especially by the September 1981 festival footage, where, mohawk glaring at the audience full of straights, she owns the stage, deliberately baring nipples and spray painting FUCK on a car body that she then gleefully blows up.

The following year The Plasmatics would release the punk-metal crossover record Coup D’Etat, before Wendy embarked on a couple of excellent solo albums, before, despondent, she would commit suicide in 1998.

The DVD also features an unreleased video clip of Monkey Suit filmed by Swenson at the same time as he shot the iconic cover for the New Hope For The Wretched album, which is ridiculously OTT – the band sitting in a car in a swimming pool, but it looks like its budget was pretty much entirely blown on getting the vehicle into the water, and pales in comparison with her later clips for The Damned and It’s My Life.

This collection shows Wendy in all her confrontational, raw, ground-breaking, anarchic, artistic, statement-making glory, and as such it is essential for all rock scholars.

DVD REVIEW: THE PLASMATICS – LIVE: Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes

Filed Under: CD ReviewsMovie & Theatre Reviews

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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