Since we couldn’t play this year or go to hardly any shows, we watched a lot of late night music documentaries to get our fix. These were our favorites, unranked.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (2021)
Heather: Todd Haynes made something so exuberantly creative here. It hits the head and the heart simultaneously. It’s fascinating to me that Lou Reed knew he wasn’t naturally a great player or singer but was sure he was born a rock star. And he kept making great records long after he won the argument.
Brian: I love art, and I love artists. Sometimes artists can be too arty doing art for art’s sake. I appreciate some of VU’s droney soundscapes and simple & rough pop songs but for the most part this documentary reminded me that this band is pretty terrible and Lou Reed seems like a snob.
STEELY DAN – AJA: CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES (1999)
Brian: This is a master class on how to nitpick and tweak until something is absolutely perfect. This goes against what many rock bands believe is the proper approach to recording and writing but Steely Dan proves that being mind blowingly anal and fighting for a vision can produce something sexy and brilliant.
Heather: This blew my mind. Michael McDonald’s weird backing vocals on “Peg” (“foreign moo-vee!!”), all the wildly different parts they auditioned for each song. Fagen and Becker muttering commentary over each other like an old married couple. The weird celeste in “Deacon Blues.” I don’t think there’s a song that captures the wiry feeling of a 6AM solo cab ride into New York better.
AIR STUDIOS – UNDER THE VOLCANO (2021)
Heather: The ambition of AIR Studios was crazy. It was supposed to be on a moving sailboat but alas George Martin settled for a remote island and they had to roll the massive console in on logs. Recording there seems like the most immersive studio experience ever–and Duran Duran hated it, which says a lot about them. And then the Earth swallowed the studio with back-to-back natural disasters–it’s pretty biblical.
Brian: This satisfied my itch for more behind-the-scenes footage of studio work in remote tropical places. I’ve always fantasized about being locked up in a faraway place with nothing to do but record. One thing that stuck out was how much writing was done in the studio by many of these bands. Ah, the lost art of slowly creating new material while the studio racks up a massive bill that the label will pay, then take out of your royalties.
BEATLES – GET BACK (2021)
Heather: We just finished this the other night, and it took us 6 viewings, but it was edifying, a balm for my black and withered heart. The love between John and Paul is so palpable. I wept through the final rooftop concert because Double Fantasy era John was my first love.
Brian: I loved this so much. It was too short!!! Now I want so badly to see detailed footage of bands recording my favorite records. Let it Be is my least favorite Beatles record, yet I gained so much respect for every member of the band. The working relationship, brotherly love, and work ethic these guys had, all while eating toast. They were sloppy when they were allowed to be and perfect when they needed to be. And I’m happy to know that so much of the drama between Yoko and them was just hype.
PINK FLOYD – LIVE AT POMPEII (1972)
Heather: My whole life, I could never sit through this–instant narcolepsy!–but it is in fact awesome and so weird. David Gilmour is an angel; he exudes a steady grace. Roger Waters strikes me as the kind of guy who’d come up to you at a bar just to mock your shoes.
Brian: I’ve seen this many, many times since my first viewing as a 16 year-old peaking on some stuff I tried for the first time. It was a religious experience. The scene of David singing at the end of “A Saucerful of Secrets” brings tears and chills to this day–I think this is the most perfect male vocal ever recorded, as well as the most amazing video of a male vocal performance. I love this part so much I completely stole it for a song in 1999, two years after Radiohead stole it for “Exit Music (For a Film)”.
BEE GEES – HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART? (2020)
Heather: I do not know what celestial channel Barry Gibb’s spiritual radio is tuned to, but it is the rarest of talent. Also Robin’s voice–what is that? I love Idea or 1st era BeeGees but this made me reconsider Main Course as a pretty cool inflection point. Plus I love watching stuff about sibling bands because I was in one for a long time; it can be painful to make art together when you have the exact same wounds.
Brian: I liked learning much more about the early Bee Gees and how they got sucked into the world of disco. I feel the film tried to overhype their place in disco, but I walked away not thinking that they helped create a movement, but rather appropriated it and sold it out. It makes me wonder what they would sound like under the influences of today’s popular music. Ugh.
ZZTOP – THAT LITTLE ‘OL BAND FROM TEXAS (2019)
Heather: I always thought ZZTop was what happened when three pervy unwashed uncles formed a band. But I was wrong. They are unwashed pervs who also are singular musicians. It gives me great pleasure to imagine them playing a small bar in Texas way back when and the crowd realizing how fucking good they are after about 3 minutes and just losing it.
Brian: It’s so satisfying to see this band perform and learn about their beginnings. They’re much more artistic and weird than people give them credit for. One of the best live bands on earth, and one I still listen to on cassette in my old Chevy van whenever I’m making a run to the dump.
THE SWEET – ALL THAT GLITTERS (1974)
Brian: These guys are simply amazing. In some ways one of the best rock bands ever. Each player was immensely talented and could sing. They put on incredible shows and took control of their management and trajectory. Very underrated. Watch clips of their old stuff!
Heather: I was surprised to learn that the Sweet started as a boy band. I remember reading years ago that Motley Crue idolized them–and it really showed in their early bubblegum Satanism.
WOODSTOCK ’99 – PEACE, LOVE AND RAGE (2021)
Heather: Neither of us could sleep after watching this, it was so dark. The Korn Era totally defiled “alternative” music. This movie was mostly just watching shitty people be inspired to be way shittier, to a very shitty soundtrack. Happy New Year everybody!!!!!
Brian: I really believe that the rage Fred Durst tapped into with the crowd was the seeds of the Trump presidency. Only instead of burning food carts and port-a-potties, they grew up and lit America on fire.
JUDAS PRIEST – BRITISH STEEL: CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES (2001)
Brian: My favorite album by one of my favorite bands of all time. Yes, I grew out of heavy metal when I was 16 but I will always love this band and album. Rob Halford is perhaps the best rock singer of all time and the production on this record is astounding. I love that they recorded in Ringo’s house and used his cutlery to create the clanking “metal” sound on one song. Every single song is great and this doc, though cheesy and slow, gives much insight into that.
Heather: I cried a LOT because I can’t watch Rob Halford without projectile crying. He is incandescent with Love– for his audience and the world. Our friend got us great seats at a Priest show a couple years ago and Rob changed outfits like 8 times. He truly loves what he does!
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