Our Top Five Must See Music Documentaries
The Filth and The FuryJulien Temple - 2000
‘The Filth and the Fury’ transcends the music documentary genre, it’s a statement on 70s culture from the perspective of the remaining members of most the dangerous band of all time: The Sex Pistols.
Growing up in the 70s, I obviously had heard about the Sex Pistols, however, I knew very little about the band. Then in the early 80s, I watched ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, given I had no point of reference I believed that was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle is told from the perspective of the Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The Sex Pistols were portrayed as senseless puppets and Malcolm was the puppet master who orchestrated the chaos to sell records.
Julien Temple, the director of the ‘Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ was criticized for the portrayal of the Pistols. 20 years later he retells this story from Lydon, Jones, and Matlock perspective. The documentary starts with Lydon’s monologue about the disillusionment of the 70s working class people in the UK; this is cut to a montage of civil unrest, hatred, racism, and disparity of the classes. This sets the scene and provides context about the void in the culture that they filled.
I would recommend the watching of both documentaries, if only to understand how one story can be so different from two perspectives.
The Devil and Daniel JohnstonJeff Feuerzeig - 2005
This is the story of a tortured genius that struggled with mental illness. Described by his peers as the best singer-songwriter of his time, Daniel inspired artists like Kirk Cobain, who referenced his album ‘Hi, How Are You’ by wearing his tee shirt on the MTV music awards.
Daniel had a natural talent for art, songwriting and performance. However, his struggle with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder prevented him from breaking into the mainstream. Saying that Daniel remained pure, raw and real for the entirety of his musical career. It was clear he loved to create and did it for love with passion, not money or fame. After watching this documentary, you will understand why he is such an important figure in the Lo-Fi, Alternative movement. You may also be inspired to create, and live your broken dreams.
George Harrison, Living in a Material WorldMartin Scorsese - 2011
This is the story of the spiritual Beatle, George Harrison. In his own words, he talks about his personal journey to find answers to the eternal questions, explore his consciousness and obviously reminisce about the music.
Before watching this documentary I knew very little about George Harrison, so I appreciated the directorial efforts of Martin Scorsese, who present us with what feels like a very honest portrayal of possibly the greatest band in history, and one of the finest songwriters ever.
Repeat until death
Searching for SugarmanMalik Bendjelloul - 2012
This is the story about two fans that go in search of the truth about a singer whose songs became the anthems for the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa.
The artist in question was American musician Sixto Rodriguez, who was said to have set himself on fire during a show and subsequently died. As the pair dig deeper, they finally uncovering the shocking truth. Obviously, I can’t tell what that is in case you watch it.
Beyond being a great story about a long forgotten songwriter, this film tells the story of a generation of South Africans who used music as their rally cry during the long and bitter fight for human rights.
Warning, by the end of this film, you will be in tears; you will also go online and buy the soundtrack.
Dig!Ondi Timoner 2004
A timeless story of two bands struggles to make it in the music industry. Filmed over 7 years, Dig! follows the fortunes of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Worhols.
The journey these two bands took may have started from the same place. However, call it luck, misfortune, personality clashes or desire to make it, their paths soon diverged. One band went on to become the darlings of the west coast pop scene the other you probably never heard of.
Dig is a blueprint for musicians everywhere; it exposes the potential pitfalls and documents what to expect on that long, arduous road to success.
Personally I recognized traits and characteristics of Anton Newcombe in myself, which was quite concerning for me when I first watched this documentary.