Music fans have plenty to watch. There seems to be an endless supply of documentaries about music and the people behind it.
Here are four rock documentaries – all excellent.
Top of the list is “Searching for Sugar Man” – out on DVD and streaming. This film won the 2013 Oscar for best documentary. Man tells the improbable story of Rodriguez – an unsuccessful (or so it seems) and enigmatic singer-songwriter who despite two albums never rose above obscurity and cult status.
But wait! There is more to the story. What follows is remarkable. More detective story than music doc – the story unfolds and is a must see for music fans.
“Sound City” is the first film (of many one hopes) by Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl. Sound City is a look back at the legendary Van Nuys recording studio where hundreds of Gold records were made in the seventies and eighties. This film is a labor of love for Grohl as Nirvana recorded “Nevermind” there. Grohl’s rock star status shows in the high production values and access to music industry icons who all weigh in on the studio and what made it great. Rick Springfield notwithstanding!
Showtime rolled out a three and a half hour “History of the Eagles” giving the band its first real close-up (with the full cooperation of the band). It’s well done and thorough – although perhaps a little light on some of the nastier details. Still, there is enough here to know them better and give them some of the respect they feel they deserve. Not sure Henley is the “chronic malcontent” David Geffen calls him – but I am certain I wouldn’t want to mess with either Henley or Fry.
Cream drummer Ginger Baker has been chronicled before – for a good reason – he’s a fascinating loon who just might self-destruct at any moment while on camera. He’s the inspiration for Spinal Taps drummers who spontaneously combust. Journalist turned filmmaker Jay Bulger travels to Africa to hang out with rock and rolls “first innovator of the drum kit” to gain some perspective on his life in “Beware of Mr. Baker”. ERic Clapton, Jack Bruce, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart (and others) chime in on the drummer (incredible) and the man (insufferable). Baker is a man obsessed with cigarettes, the sport of Polo and his legacy as a musician. This is a curiously fascinating film. Not sure I enjoyed it – although glad I watched it.
If Sound City isn’t enough Dave Grohl for you, do yourself a favor and find “Foo Fighters: Back and Forth” – this is a fantastic documentary of one of the great rock and roll stories of all time. Whoever thought the drummer of Nirvana would go to lead a band that would become more popular than Nirvana ever was? This movie tells that story giving lots of screen time to rocks most charming spokesman since Pete Townshend, Dave Grohl. A must see.
Finally, there is “End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones” from 2005. Great band, great story, a great documentary with full access to these members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.