Radical: “Wendy O. Williams & the Plasmatics: Ten Years of Revolutionary Rock and Roll”

By on August 31, 2017

Now streaming on Night Flight Plus is the two-hour 2006 rockumentary Wendy O. Williams & the Plasmatics: 10 Years of Revolutionary Rock and Roll, spanning their decade-long career.

The music documentary features rare live concert footage and official videos (including pretty cool behind-the-scenes footage of Wendy climbing from a moving car into an airplane), rare photos and newspaper/magazine clippings (including Wendy’s court appearances), interviews with former band members, ex-road crew dudes, various music critics and rock magazine publishers, and much, much more!

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As narrator Tricia Basanyi says about the Plasmatics at the beginning of the film’s intro:

“Anti-disco, anti-complacent assembly-line rock, anti-bullshit, anti-finality and anti-formula art, they were without a doubt in many people’s minds the most radical band in the history of rock!”

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As we’ve mentioned previously, during our 1980s run on the USA cable TV network, Wendy O. Williams appeared several times on “Night Flight” and also on our “Radio 1990” segments, and she guest-hosted an episode of the latter show too, interviewing Tommy Lee and Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe back in 1985, at the time they were in our New York studio, promoting their third album, Theatre of Pain.

Now we have this feature-length documentary of this truly radical band — produced and directed by Randy Shooter for “Quantum Timecode Productions” and distributed in the U.S. by MVD, Night Flight’s content partner — which provides a historical narrative of the band’s history, from their early punk to their later metal phase, offering up the most comprehensive and personal look yet at Wendy O’s band and their music that is currently available.

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The band’s official website says it better than we can in their summary of his unique DVD release (also distributed by MVD):

Banned in London, busted in Cleveland and Milwaukee, the legendary Wendy O. Williams (aka “Queen of Shock Rock,” “Queen of Punk,” “Dominatrix of the Decibels,” and “High Priestess of Metal”) and the Plasmatics, the band of changing musicians built around her by radical anti-artist Rod Swenson, revolutionized American culture and music creating a seismic shock wave still being felt today.

“Way more than a rock band,” as John Levy said in a recent interview on VH1, Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics “were a phenomenon.”

They introduced the mohawk to mass American culture, fused punk and metal when these groups despised each other and produced stage shows which included the chainsawing of guitars and the blowing up of full size cars that Roman Kozak of Billboard called “The absolute limit of what can be accomplished in rock and roll theatrics” and have yet to be equaled today.

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First performing in 1978, by 1981 they were introduced by Tom Snyder on his late night TV show as the “greatest punk band in the world.”

By 1982 their next album, whose companion video had the fearless Williams driving a school bus through a wall of TVs, climbing to the roof and jumping off before it blew up, was described by the LA Times as the “best slice of heavy metal since the last AC/DC album.”

The following album, produced by Gene Simmons of KISS (and featuring Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and others) got Williams a nomination as “Best Female Rock Vocalist of the Year” and an accompanying video had her going from a moving car to an airplane on a rope ladder without a safety harness.

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Here for the first time in over three hours of material, featuring a two-hour “rockumentary” including live and other footage never released before, as well as an additional hour of live and video performance footage, is the story of the full ten jaw-dropping years, the eight studio albums, arrests, controversy, triumphs and challenges, plus interviews with critics, historians, band and crew members most of it never seen before.

This DVD shows why Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics were an absolute one of a kind, and why in the words of rock critic and historian Malcolm Dome Wendy was completely “in a league on her own.”

(By the way, the original DVD contains an additional hour’s worth of material; we’re streaming only the two-hour “rockumentary” portion of this DVD release on Night Flight Plus)

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Wendy and guitarist Wes Beech at CBGB, circa 1979 (photo by Rod Swenson)

If you’re a true Plasmatics completist, you won’t find too much here about Williams’ post-Plasmatics career as an environmental advocate, nor is there much about her childhood, or her death (she took her own life in 1998, at just 48 years old) but be sure to read our previous Night Flight post, which goes into much more depth about Williams’ life and careers, both on and off-stage.

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Also, you won’t see any contributions here from the band’s guitarist Richie Stotts (he’s edited out of much of the live footage and there are no interviews with him either), but until Swenson — who at this point is the chief caretaker of Wendy O. Williams’ and the Plasmatics musical archives, providing a lot of the live footage we see here — compiles a more comprehensive rockumentary that features an even more expansive approach, this is the best documentary out there on Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics.

Watch Wendy O. Williams & the Plasmatics: 10 Years of Revolutionary Rock and Roll, now streaming for our subscribers over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.