I'm an avid music documentary watcher and will quite happily sit there and check out films even if they're about bands I don't really like. To me, there's something fascinating about a good music documentary which allows us to peek behind the PR veil and marvel at the musical wrong-turns and horrific wardrobe malfunctions inherent to many an artist.
Don't get me wrong, I'm there to celebrate the great music too, but after spending most of my own life in music I find it sort of comforting to see others having to figure out how to deal with the unpredictable nature of talent, luck and timing. Of course, there's the not-so-little matter of drink, drugs, ego and money to factor in as well, and a great music documentary should never shy away from the shadier side of the record industry.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the best music films give you a start, middle and an end. Here's five I've really enjoyed recently. Click on any of the titles or photos to link to the documentary.
OK, if I'm honest I haven't actually seen the whole movie yet, but what a premise! Take Sparks, musical visionaries and confounders of the modern world and pair them with one of the world's most original movie directors and get them (and a varied cast of talking heads) to try and explain those 25 albums of pop weirdness. Magic is guaranteed! Even the trailer is brilliant. I just hope I gret to see the whole thing soon...
Strangely poignant and deeply evocative music doc(s) that hone in on what the band was up to before their careers as pop stars. Some surprising revelations but always very funny, part one is up on YouTube, but you'll have to pay to see the rest!
3. WHY AM I DOING THIS? (A FILM ABOUT TOURING)
For anyone who has spent far too many hours illegally cramped inside the back of an unsafe Transit van, Eric Fundingsland's movie gets inside the heads of unsigned touring musicians and asks 'what exactly were you thinking...' It ain't glamorous but it's very funny and it's also the absolute truth as to why so many of us will drive for hours on end to play to three people (and a dog).
I had absolutely no idea who Clarence Avant was before I watched this excellent Netflix music doc. Wow! What a guy! Clarence is a seemingly unstoppable one-man powerhouse who operated largely behind the scenes in black music and popular culture over the last five decades. With lots of famous faces and talking heads singing Mr A's praises, we even get ex Pres' Obama and Clinton dropping by to add their thoughts. A stellar music doc everyone should see this.
One of those covid rainy afternoon decisions led to me to load up this little gem courtesy of YouTube. Chas Hodges was a musician with quite a pedigree and this BBC4 film does a great job of digging up some priceless pre 'Rabit' footage of the man in action. You feel for Dave Peacock too, who by the end of this film is a man left without his musical sparring partner and close friend. Give it a try-you won't be disappointed.