Probably my favourite sub genre of film these days. It seems every week there is a new (and outstanding) music documentary released. A band or entire movement that may have otherwise slipped under the radar. I can’t wait to finally sink my teeth into ‘Marley’ this weekend!
In a crowded field, here are my current Top 5.
#1 BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (1999)
‘I didn’t compose Chan Chan, I dreamt it. I dream of music. I sometimes wake up with a melody in my head, I hear the instruments, all very clear. I look over the balcony and I see nobody, but I hear it as if it was played on the street. I don’t know what it can be. One day I woke up hearing those four sensitive notes, I gave them a lyric inspired by a children’s tale from my childhood, Juanica y Chan Chan, and you see, now it’s sung everywhere.’ – Compay Segundo.
Oh my word. Havana! The Buildings, the cars, the streets… and that music!
This film is intoxicating for sure. After briefly quitting music in the early 2000’s this inspired me to pick up my axe (drums) again. The passion, laughter and tears on display are so real you’ll be reaching for the nearest box of tissues. Then you’ll be reaching for your travel agents number. If this doesn’t make you want to jump on the first plane to Cuba you don’t have a pulse.
#2 SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012)
Won’t ya hurry
Coz I’m tired of these scenes
For a blue coin
Won’t ya bring back
All those colours to my dreams‘
Wait? Who is this guy? He’s brilliant! Sixto Rodriguez is like Bob Dylan if Bob Dylan could sing. The social and political commentary, it’s all there. And the songs are great! The story focuses on his mythical status in South Africa and how he became ‘bigger than Elvis’ on the other side of the world when no one knew who he was in his home country.
#3 ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (2008)
‘I can answer that in one word… two words… three words: we haven’t got good management.‘
This charming yet frustrating tale follows the greatest Heavy Metal band to never make it, ‘Anvil’ (doesn’t get any more metal than that!). Spinal Tap-level 11 bad luck follows these poor guys and sabotages them at every corner. I had to keep telling myself ‘but there’s a movie now… they HAVE to have made it now… surely?’. Well you’ll have to watch to find out, and don’t call me Shirley!
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a ‘Metal Fan’, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a human story about overcoming odds, following your dreams, and reaching for the top. Hold up that sounded like 80’s montage lyrics!
#4 THUNDER SOUL (2011)
I don’t want to say too much here. This is a staggering story of the alumni from Houston’s Kashmere High School Stage Band, who return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for the 92-year-old “Prof,” their beloved band leader who broke the color barrier and transformed the school’s jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s.
It’s good, it’s VERY good. Trust me.
#5 THE WRECKING CREW (2015)
‘What the Funk Brothers did for Motown…The Wrecking Crew did, only bigger, for the West Coast Sound’.
Doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of the others on this list. But i’m a huge fan of the Wrecking Crew and their staggering output. Being somewhat of a ‘session musician’ myself i was aware of them. If you aren’t, prepare to be astounded! The team who played for any number of hits by ‘The Monkees’, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra… the list goes on and on and seemingly doesn’t end.
Other highest recommends!
THE LAST WALTZ (1978)
TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM (2013)
MUSCLE SHOALS (2013)
A BAND CALLED DEATH (2012)
SOUND CITY (2013)
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (2002)