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5 Rock N’ Roll Documentaries To Binge Watch With Your Band
Invite your band mates over, grab some 40’s, order a pizza and take notes! Sup Doc has assembled 5 of the best Rock N’ Roll documentaries to binge watch. Oh, and maybe invite your drummer too? We know he can be a pain but he does own the van!
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Since 1978, Anvil has become one of heavy metal’s most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts. In 2006, after a fledging European tour Anvil sets out to record their thirteenth album and continue to follow their dreams. This documentary has everything! Dreams chased, dreams squashed, dreams chased again.
This is the sound of optimism: “Everything on the tour went drastically wrong. But at least there was a tour for it to go wrong on.” The optimist is Steve “Lips” Kudlow, lead guitarist in Anvil, a band you’ve never heard of. In 1973, he made a friend named Robb Reiner in Toronto, who had a drum set, and they vowed to make rock ‘n’ roll until they were old. Now they are old, at least for heavy metal rockers.
“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” is a documentary about the moderate rise and long, long fall of their band, where musicians in the two other slots came and went, but Lips and Robb rocked on. “How many bands stay together for 30 years?” asks Slash of Guns N’ Roses, in a backstage interview. “You’ve got the Stones, the Who, U2 — and Anvil.” Yeah. And Anvil.
SOME KIND OF MONSTER
In 2001, Metallica goes into an improvised studio in San Francisco’s Presidio to create a new album from scratch. They’re starting with “no riffs, no songs, no titles, nothing.” For reasons that must have seemed excellent at the time, they invite two documentary filmmakers to film them in this process. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have made some of the best documentaries of all time, including “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996), which follows the trial and conviction of three heavy metal fans who almost certainly had nothing to do with the grisly murders they’re charged with.
Sinofsky and Berlinger possibly thought this assignment would be more routine, even music-driven. In fact there is little music in “Metallica” and a great deal of talking, as the three band members (lead singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett) recruit their producer, Bob Rock, to play bass. There is another recruit: A therapist named Phil Towle. The relationship between Hetfield and Ulrich has become poisonous, and Towle’s assignment is to bring peace and healing — or at least the ability to function.
Albert and David Maysles‘ famous documentary “Gimme Shelter” (1970), centers around the Rolling Stone‘s ill-fated free concert at the Altamonte Speedway. It is the best rock film ever made. It is. And you don’t have to like the Stones — or enjoy rock music — to appreciate why the picture holds such a privileged place in film history and American culture. A cult classic, “Gimme Shelter” is more than a concert film. It’s a multi-layered manuscript upon which social, artistic, historical and cultural ideas are scribed.
A BAND CALLED DEATH
“This is the Ramones, but two years earlier.” — Questlove of The Roots on Death
In the 1970s, three teenage brothers, David, Dannis and Bobby Hackney, formed a rock ‘n roll band called Death. They grew up in Detroit, with loving supportive parents who gave them only one credo: “Back up your brother.” Death never got very far, and their story is a fascinating one, told beautifully by Jeff Howlett and Mark Christopher Covino in their new music documentary “A Band Called Death.” David, the visionary, who came up with the band’s controversial name, died of lung cancer in 2000. F. Scott Fitzgerald may have been right: there may be no “second acts in American lives,” but “A Band Called Death” is a portrait of the good fortune and recognition that can come your way if you just stick around long enough. But it also delves movingly into the bittersweet feelings that come from being a pioneer, someone who is right before it is time. It tells what it’s like to withstand a decade of professional rejection, followed by two decades of total silence, and what it’s like to endure unimaginable loss.
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
This 1981 is about the Los Angeles punk rock scene and was directed by Penelope Spheeris. In 1981, the LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the film not be shown again in the city. The film’s title is possibly a reference to music critic Lester Bangs’ 1970 two-part review of the Stooges’ album Fun House, for Creem magazine, where Bangs quotes a friend who had said the popularity of the Stooges signaled “the decline of Western civilization”. Another possibility is that the title refers to Darby Crash’s reading of Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West). In We Got the Neutron Bomb, an oral history of the L.A. punk rock scene collected by Marc Spitz, Claude Bessy claims that he came up with the title.
The film is the opening act of a trilogy by Spheeris, depicting music scenes in Los Angeles during the late 20th century. The second film, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988), covers the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of 1986–1988. The third film, The Decline of Western Civilization III (1998), chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in the late 1990s.
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