Hands up who saw the film about the Eagles – History of the Eagles: The Story of an American Band – just this week broadcast by the BBC. All four hours of it. If you’re in the UK, you can catch it on the BBC iPlayer until the weekend. As well as home movies and archive footage, it contained new interviews with both current and former band members, retelling the story of their acrimonious splits and not really trying very hard to hide the simmering resentment that still exists all these years later. Wonderful stuff.
It got me thinking about the many other music films that have been made to present the history of our favourite musicians (albeit often to serve primarily as promotional tools intended to boost sales of something, somewhere), and which of these in fact appeal most broadly to both the casual and more committed fan. Because unless you’re a real aficionado, you might just watch them eventually on TV and not pay a penny for the privilege, just because you vaguely recall a good story and want to be entertained by it.
The Rolling Stones’ Crossfire Hurricane was beautifully done, I thought. Directed by Brett Morgen with new interviews in audio only and running just short of two hours, it ran in cinemas first and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray (with bonus features, naturally).
I remember watching the six-part Beatles Anthology on TV on Sunday nights in 1995, a hefty eight volumes when it came to being released on VHS. I thought at the time that ten hours was probably a bit much to sit through, even for the Fab Four, and have to admit, I’ve not watched it since the original television broadcast.
Another that bored me at times, I have to confess, was U2’s grainy Rattle and Hum – from 1988.
Of course, I must mention Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home (2005), about Bob Dylan’s early career up until 1966, and give a respectful nod also to D.A. Pennebaker’s annoyingly apostrophe-less Dont Look Back, his 1967 fly-on-the-wall documentary about Dylan’s 1965 UK tour.
In fairness to the BBC, they have made some very good films about Pink Floyd: The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, available on DVD and originally a BBC ‘Omnibus’ programme from 2001, being perhaps the finest of these.
Another I enjoyed was Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (2006) and one that I keep meaning to see is The Importance of Being Morrissey (2002).
There are loads more, so please do add suggestions. Preferably true documentaries rather than performances with interview footage squeezed in-between numbers (as with Live at Pompeii, which I expect will be a favourite with most readers), and biopics, most of which are horribly corny anyway. Increasingly popular anniversary retrospectives can also be worthwhile, if not a tad self-indulgent at times; Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson: BAD 25 springs to mind as being particularly well-crafted, even if the eulogising from celebrity fans might well have turned stomachs.