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Shout Factory presents
The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk and New Wave (1977, 1978, 198)

"The Sex Pistols was going to be the absolute end of rock and roll, which I thought it was. Unfortunately, the majority of the public, being the senile animals that they are, got that wrong. Too bad. All's they want is image. Something with flash."
- John Lydon

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 03, 2006

Stars: Tom Snyder
Other Stars: Paul Weller, Joan Jett, Bill Graham, Kim Fowley, Elvis Costello, John Lydon, Keith Levine, Iggy Pop, The Plasmatics, Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Jam, Robert Hilburn, Allan Carr, Robert Townsend, James Michener, Rev. Donald Wildman, Frank Capra, Ricky Schroder, Jerome Smith, Rick Horowitz, Rev. Rex Humbert, Kelly Lange
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 05h:31m:00s
Release Date: January 24, 2006
UPC: 826663814590
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C+B- B

DVD Review

During the mid-to-late 1970s, late night television host Tom Snyder was a sarcastic cynic, a chain-smoking interviewer who wasn't shy about mumbling inside jokes to the crew and occasionally launching into some memorably argumentative discussions with guests; he was a refreshing alternative for the time, and his blunt style was suited for the midnight time slot of The Tomorrow Show. One of the things I recall about Snyder and his show was the way it more or less embraced new music (we're talking the so-called punk and new wave era), and even if the host admitted cluelessness about genres, it was one of the few places a Patti Smith or The Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams might get some couch time to talk about things.

Shout Factory has put together an interesting time capsule two-disc set focusing on a small part of The Tomorrow Show's parade of punk and new wave artists, with broadcasts ranging from 1977 to 1981. It's a stellar sampler, buoyed by live performances from Elvis Costello (New Lace Sleeves, Watch Your Step), Iggy Pop (Dog Food, Five Foot One, TV Eye), The Plasmatics (Head Banger, Master Plan), The Jam (Pretty Green, Funeral Pyre) and The Ramones (I Wanna Be Sedated, The KKK Took My Baby Away, We Want the Airwaves).

While it's always great to catch a live song from vintage-era Costello or The Jam, being able to enjoy the oddball antics of The Plasmatics—who blow up a car onstage during their 1981 appearance—really makes this one worth a look. It was the band's second time on Snyder's show, and I wish footage of that first time had shown up here, with their signature chainsawing of a guitar, but I'll take what I can get. The kick-your-ass presence of a growling Wendy O. Williams, wearing a tiny plaid skirt that barely hides her panties forced some quick camera cuts back then, and watching guitarist Ritchie Stotts barrel into the studio audience, flailing and flopping on some elderly members is a hoot, though why the same footage was used twice during the two songs they perform here is beyond me.

But this release isn't all live music, and where things get really unusual are in the interview segments, spearheaded by an infamous June 1980 appearance by the former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, now going by his real name, John Lydon. As part of the band Public Image Ltd. (PIL), Lydon and softspoken bandmate Keith Levine push Snyder's hot buttons by being either obnoxious, vague or hostile, repeatedly dancing around questions. Lydon plays things dumb as a fox, perpetuating his bad boy image by playing up how he hates his image, a masterfully circuitous schtick that does exactly what he intends, which was to create controversy. Even just being interviewed, Lydon's wild-eyed presence reinforces his place as one of rock's most iconic frontmen.

There's a more positive moodshift during The Ramones 1981 slot, with guest host Kelly Lange (who seems pleasant but looks horribly out of place) finding the band uncharacteristically chatty in between songs, with the rarity of bassist Dee Dee Ramone coming across as amazingly lucid and personable. Other notable segments include a young Patti Smith, initially looking nervous and apprehensive, appearing with Snyder in 1978, chatting about her inspiration, while a 1977 roundtable discussion of the then new state of music featuring rock promoter Bill Graham, LA Times music critic Robert Hilburn, rock svengali Kim Fowley (in full rouge), The Jam's Paul Weller and ex-Runaway Joan Jett.

The Tomorrow Show was indeed a quirky forum for the bubbling musical underground, a video stump to get the message out. As the figurehead, Tom Snyder was like an inquisitive uncle, the one who knew enough to be dangerous and didn't mind shaking up the beehive once in awhile. The show was a little loose, the host a bit different. I can't imagine The Plasmatics fitting in half as well anywhere else.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All the material here is presented in its original format, and the quality is nothing short of nasty more often than not. Blame it on the poor condition of the source material, but smeary colors, blurry edges and frequent video noise make some of the segments look positively ancient, and while I wasn't expecting pristine transfers I was certainly expecting things to look a little better than this.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Nothing flashy or especially noteworthy on the audio side of things, with a flat 2.0 Dolby Digital mono track delivering discernible interview segments, but understandably lacking during the musical performances. Some hiss here and there, as well as the expected clipping in spots prevent this from being anything more than serviceable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 37 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, X: Live In Los Angeles, The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There aren't really any extras (aside from a couple of Shout Factory trailers on the first disc), but high marks for the way the material is laid out, which allows viewers to be as selective as they wish. Each disc has a Play All feature that will run through all the shows back-to-back-to-back, with the ability to see the non-music related interviews with the likes of Allan Carr, Frank Capra, Ricky Schroder or James Michener. Also included is the ability to view each show in its entirety separately, or via the "Just The Punks" option, allowing only the segments featuring the musical guests. Lastly, a "Songs" option further subdivides the subject matter, isolating the 12 songs performed, so jumping right to The Plasmatics' Master Plan is nice and easy.

Disc 1 is cut into 22 chapters, while Disc 2 has 15 breaks.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

During the punk/new wave hey day, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder was one of the few bastions for mainstream network exposure. This two-disc set from Shout Factory cherry picks some of the better moments, a cross-section of interviews and live performances dotted with some of the movement's most influential and notorious artists.



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