The Plasmatics, formed by lead singer Wendy O. Williams and manager Rod Swenson in 1977, were at the forefront of the first wave of American punk, getting their start at the legendary CBGB with their first gig in July of 1978. Their taboo-busting stage show gained them a huge cult following through the early 80s, featuring the shock antics of Williams, who was prone to wearing little more than electrical tape over her nipples and short school-girl skirts, while chainsawing guitars in half and blowing up cop cars onstage. Wendy O. Williams, who sadly passed in 1998, was one of rock’s all-time ballsiest performers, and her act lead to 1981 obscenity arrests in Cleveland and Milwaukee, where she was also beaten by police and received a charge of battery to an officer (which was later dropped, along with the obscenity charge).
Rod Swenson, the Plasmatics manager, shot all of the band’s conceptual videos and many of their live shows. Much of that show footage has never been released and was thought, for a time, to be lost.
During a recent move of Plasmatics/Wendy O. Williams archive material, a cache of unlabeled boxes was found, containing footage of the early shows shot by Swenson. Though much of the material had degraded over time, a restoration and salvage job saved many of these historic performances. A DVD release has been prepared and is currently available as a pre-order. The DVD contains sixteen songs recorded at various venues between 1978 and 1981.
Dangerous Minds has obtained a clip from this footage, which is the earliest known Plasmatics live video. It was recorded at CBGB on July 26, 1978. In the clip, we see a very stripped down, early version of the group. Neither guitarist Richie Stotts, nor Wendy has their signature mohawks yet, Wendy’s actually wearing a shirt, and they haven’t at this time started blowing up cars on stage. The stylized visual punk “look” of the band isn’t here in this early footage, but the band is raging and Wendy is a bouncing ball of energy. Not only is this a fascinating glimpse of the band getting their start, but the song, “Want You (Baby), kicks all kinds of ass too.
Here’s the amazing previously unseen footage from that early gig.
The trailer for the upcoming DVD, titled Plasmatics - Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81 is below:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Insane footage of The Plasmatics annihilating the stage on German TV show, ‘Musikladen’ in 1981