Punk Rock. Plasmatics. Wendy O. Williams. These are inexorably linked together. Wendy, the charismatic lead singer of the chaotic Plasmatics, and later on her solo career, lived as she died; on her own terms.
Now, “lost” tapes have been “found” by Rod Swenson, the manager of the band. I put “lost” and “found” in quotes as it is well known Swenson is first and foremost a showman, a salesman of the highest order and I wouldn’t put it past him to have kept these “lost” tapes in reserve, waiting until the right time to release them.
Seeing as how it’s been nearly twenty years since Wendy’s death, the timing seems a little coincidental. But never mind, we’re not here to pontificate on release dates, we’re here to listen to sonic obliteration and feast our eyes on glorious 70s VHS clarity.
The event kicks off at CBGB’s in July of 1978, a favourite hangout of Wendy and the Plasmatics. The quality and sound is pure punk rock. Some of the ‘classic’ Plasmatics stage antics are hinted at, but this is clearly a band still finding themselves. Wendy isn’t sporting a Mohawk for example.
From there the tracks jump in chronological order and we see the classic Plasmatics lineup in short order. Jean Beauvoir in his Star Trek sunglasses and Ritchie Stotts is now sporting his classic blue Mohawk, makeup and women’s clothing.
By this time, Wendy’s look is in full swing. Electrical tape, bushy Mohawk, leopard spandex and sledgehammer ready and willing to work over the crowd, either with purring or screaming, it was all good to her. Costumes, chainsaws, mayhem and explosives went hand in hand at a Plasmatics show. If you didn’t emerge half deaf, you weren’t there.
As the shows progress, the camera work become more elaborate, shooting from high angles, multiple angles, colour and monochrome, smoke dischargers and other assorted trickery. The stage props too, progress. (Now) classic muscle cars, giant pentagrams, custom outfits for the musicians, moving spotlights and so forth.
The tape ends with a music video for “Monkey Suit” which replicates the look from the album it was taken from (New Hope for the Wretched, their debut album.) At a shade over one hour it’s too short by far but it gives a good glimpse into the early formation of one of the most influential punk acts ever to hit the stage. If you are a Plasmatics fan, then this is a must have or even if you are just curious about the band it’s money well invested. I’m looking forward to seeing more “lost” tapes.