If you’re anything like me—and since you clicked on this to begin with I’d expect there are decent enough odds that you’re more or less in the zone—chances are that if you saw DOA: A Right of Passage, your viewing lived up to its subtitle (disregarding the right/rite thing). It’s a 1980 documentary/celebration/post-mortem of Punk Rock’s first wave, and it centers around the Sex Pistols’ disastrous 1978 US tour, cut with interview and concert footage of other key and not-so-key UK bands.
Furthermore, there’s a good chance that even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve still seen bits and pieces of it. That famously sad Sid-and-Nancy-in-bed interview was culled from DOA, as is the footage you’ve probably seen of the Sex Pistols’ calamitous Texas gig, and the San Francisco performance at which they broke up—some of that footage later turned up in Julien Temple’s The Filth and the Fury. Some famous footage of X Ray Spex playing “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” is from DOA as well. But despite being one of the most important punk docs, it’s also sometimes been one of the most difficult to see; before the era of everything existing on YouTube, it was a hard-to-find videotape, and it went out of print so fast that legit copies today can be prohibitively priced. The one time I ever saw it all the way through in a sitting back in the day was on an nth-generation dubbed videotape full of sound drops and those acutely VHS-y tracking glitches that seem retro-charming now but were annoying as fuck back then. It made it to the art houses for screenings in the late ‘80s, but though it came to my town’s cinematheque, I missed it for reasons I can’t even remember anymore. Amazingly, there has never been a soundtrack album, nor has there been an authorized DVD, except for one almost a decade and a half ago, released and region-coded for Japan only.
That last bit—about the DVD, not the soundtrack album—is at long last being rectified. In early December, MVD Rewind is releasing a restored hi-def Blu-Ray/DVD set of the film bundled with a hefty booklet by Punk magazine’s John Holmstrom, and a making-of documentary. The value of a hi-def version of a doc shot on hand held 16mm shaky-cam is debatable, but I’m looking forward to seeing the thing both in its entirety AND with a semblance of visual and sonic clarity.
A terrific feature of the doc is the inclusion of vox-pop interviews with audience members at the Pistols’ shows—a valuable primary documentation of just how incredibly polarizing punk was when it was new. This clip, provided exclusively to Dangerous Minds by the American Genre Film Archive (thanks, Bret), collects some of the best of those moments:
Absent from that clip are PRICELESS remarks Bernard Brooke Partridge of the Greater London Council made a propos of the nineteen page list of conditions placed upon clubs that would dare endeavor a Sex Pistols booking in London, and the notorious scold/censor/regressive reactionary Mary Whitehouse generating one of history’s richest lodes of clueless irony when she referred to the idea of personal freedom as “The most regressive, reactionary philosophy that you could ever, ever propagate.” It’s amazing how the powers that be felt so threatened by music. If only it still had that power…
It seems fitting to close this all out with an amusing bit—the ONE band featured in DOA that went on to achieve zero notoriety, zero significant cult following, and zero enduring repute. Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy a few minutes with Terry and the Idiots.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Sid and Nancy’: The sitcom
Filthy lucre ain’t nothin’ new: there are Sex Pistols credit cards now.
BASS IN YOUR FACE: Excellent footage of the Sex Pistols’ notorious San Antonio gig