Take five: 5 of my favourite music documentaries
If you're feeling too lazy for a full-on film, or simply want to learn more about the history of some of rock's greatest legends, take a look at this list of documentaries.
They will provide you with a fascinating look at the musicians who have defined the past 50 years of music.
1. Long Strange Trip (2017)
Long Strange Trip entails the 30-year-history and story of the Grateful Dead, who are perhaps one of the most important bands in popularising what we know as a 'jam band'. Their music fused elements of psychedelia, rock, jazz—to name a few—and were renowned for their unique style. This documentary details where the band started, from living and jamming together in their communal home on 710 Ashbury Street to touring the world and gaining a devoted fanbase, known as Deadheads. The band's career is nothing short of awe-inspiring—which makes this documentary a fun and interesting watch. What's great is that the documentary remains honest and authentic as lead-singer Bob Weir doesn't stray away from some of the darkness that surrounded the band. The film was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music Film in 2017. You can currently watch the documentary on Netflix.
2. Gary Numan: Android in La La Land (2016)
Gary Numan was one of the most important music figures of the 1980's. His electronic visionary brought synthesized electricity the new-romantic sounds characterising the 80's era. His music was unique and futuristic, often predicting the electronically dependent reality of our modern era. Despite critics claiming his music as somewhat absurd and his character as robotic, Numan's fans have always been devoted and loyal - today, Numan continues to sell out packed-out shows with music just as fresh and innovative today. Android in La La Land details both the highs and lows of Numan's career and provides an in-depth look into both his fast-paced life in the 1980's to his more relaxed, wholesome life today where he resides in Los Angeles with his family. What's interesting about this documentary is how it reveals details of Numan's Asperger's syndrome, which hindered him in many respects but also helped him to produce and inform the music he had envisioned. Thankfully, today people are much more educated and informed of such disorders, but in the 1980's, Numan was ridiculed by newspapers as a 'freak' for his sometimes unconventional behaviour. Overall, the heartbreaking experiences Numan faced has paved the way to who he is and the music he makes today. Android in La La Land reveals Numan's integrity, morality and authenticity in revealing his often dark past, and how he deals with his troubles today. For fans of the eclectic music of the 1980's, and of course Gary Numan.
3. Supersonic (2016)
Liam and Noel Gallagher are both controversial characters in their own right. It seems to many, you either love or you hate them. Whatever your opinion on the brothers and their music, it is undeniable that British-made music documentary Supersonic beautifully displays the often turbulent career of Oasis to a perfect tee. The documentary entails the roots of their career, to playing to small crowds in dingy local pubs, to crowds of 125,000 at their world-renowned shows at Knebworth. The film closely details the height of their success in the 1990s, featuring interviews with members of the band and people who associated with them, as well as backstage footage and interviews. Overall, the movie is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in the careers of perhaps one of the last bands of the 1990's who reached seminal success in the then fast-approaching millennium. It is this which makes the documentary so gripping - that the 1990's we're so clearly a completely different time, making their success something which perhaps can never be repeated again.
4. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
Since Nirvana's rise to fame in the 1990's, Kurt Cobain has become a type of hero to many. It is undeniable that his band's music inspired a generation of people who could confide in the sometimes angry, yet sincere lyrics spurted from the mind of Cobain. In 2015, Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain worked together with director Brett Morgan to create the critically-acclaimed movie-documentary Montage of Heck, which dispels the often romanticised ideals associated with his suicide and instead provides a more bleak reality into the often troubled life of Cobain. The authenticity and honesty of the documentary is evident through the inclusion of Cobain's own home movies, journals and audio recordings, meaning a lot of the information comes from Cobain himself, rather than from the mouths of researchers. The film includes never-before-seen artwork, music and photographs which convey both the sensitivity and creativity which Cobain was bound to. Overall, the movie is guaranteed to satisfy the interest and curiosities of Nirvana fans worldwide and depicts both the successes and downfalls which both Cobain and the band experienced.
5. The Punk Singer (2013)
The Punk Singer devotes 80 minutes to the career of feminist singer Kathleen Hanna, an inspiration to thousands of girls worldwide. Together with her bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, Hanna was a central figure in the riot grrrl movement which sought to encourage female empowerment in an age of prominent sexism, racism, rape, and domestic abuse. The documentary entails the movement, which involved a DIY ethic of zines, art, political action and activism. Director and producer Sini Anderson uses a variation of interviews and archival footage to detail the life and career of Hanna, from her work with various punk bands to the more recent tragedy where Hanna became debilitated and diagnosed with Lyme disease. This is a must-see for anyone interested in the riot grrrl movements of the 1990's and the music which characterised it.