1. The Smashing Pumpkins: Graceful Swans Of Never (2001)
Frontman Billy Corgan’s explanation for the documentary is simple and straight to the point:
“It’s your basic behind-the-music story. Band has nothing, band tries hard and band gets success […] Friends, drugs, and wives. The whole thing falls apart. Everybody cries. We used to at the beginning, when we’d do interviews, say we were determined not to become a cliché. At the end of the day we became every cliché, as you can imagine.”
Graceful Swans Of Never covers the band’s history from the late 80’s to when they were just a “band with nothing who tried hard”, through to the period when they started to “get success”, and right up until (at the time) their last show together in late 2000.
2. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)
Since forming in 1978, Anvil have released 15 studio albums and have been cited as having influenced ‘The Big 4’ (Megadeath, Slayer, Anthrax, and Metallica). The documentary features interviews with some of the biggest names in metal who have also been influenced by this band, including Lemmy, Slash, Scott Ian, Tom Araya, and Lars Ulrich.
Oddly enough and despite their efforts, Anvil never achieved the same success as the bands who they influenced so heavily. As the documentary begins it shows a list of the headliners at Super Rock Festival, held in Japan in 1984: Scorpions, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi. Those bands went on to become household names and sold millions of records over many years. Not Anvil, however. Try as they might, Anvil have always been that token retarded friend to some of the biggest names in rock ’n roll history.
This doco also highlights the financial strain bands face with members being forced to take out second mortgages, as well as detailing bassist Glenn Five’s stint with homelessness. Anvil get repeatedly kicked in the dick throughout this movie, but notwithstanding this they just keep on fucking playing, writing, and gigging – and are rewarded with a bit of a feel good moment for all their efforts.
I hadn’t even heard of the band until I sat down to watch this documentary, but I’m glad I did. It’s damn well worth the watch.
3. Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You (2002)
A man with the world at his feet at the time of his death. The potential to become one of the greatest and biggest musicians known to man. A voice we’d all kill to have, with the looks to match.
Jeff Buckley was on the verge of becoming the heir apparent to Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, until tragedy struck before he could release his second album. At just 30 years of age, Buckley went for a swim in the Mississippi River, when a speed boat passed which created a wake and caused him to drown.
This 2002 documentary revisits the short life of the young artist. Including interviews and contributions from not only those who were close to him, including his mother, but also the likes of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Brad Pitt, Patti Smith, and Chrissie Hynde.
It tells the story of how he was shadowed by the ghost of his father, as people recall seeing him for the first time and how they were captivated by not only the resemblance in looks but also the uncanny similarity in his voice to his father’s, Tim Buckley, a folk singer who also died young. The rare footage of Buckley’s early performances are hair raising to say the least, and with much of Buckley’s music a constant presence in the background, this film is a must-watch for Buckley fans!
4. John Lennon: Imagine (1988)
This film bridges the two musical phases together as a member of The Beatles and as a solo artist.
As the documentary begins it takes you to a moment where Lennon is asked, “What’s the tune to ‘Imagine’?”, to which he sings part of the song as his reply. Maybe this is significant. Maybe it isn’t. Personally, I’d give my left testicle to be a fly on the wall in that room, being one of the first to hear ‘Imagine’ and having no idea how huge it would become, or the effect it would have on people in the future. You can’t pay for moments like that and being able to watch that moment, makes my hair stand on end.
Being able to sit back and watch footage of John Lennon in the studio makes this documentary a must for any fan of music. He makes it look so easy it is embarrassing. The documentary is packed with interviews with the man himself, as well as his fellow band mates in The Beatles, live footage both with The Beatles and as a solo artist, extensive insights into Lennon from growing up learning guitar through to adulthood, stardom, footage of him dealing with bonkers fans outside his house, love and eventual death, and everything in between.
It seems to have everything and I fucking loved watching every second of this!
5. Lemmy (2010)
Subtitled ‘49% mother fucker, 51% son of a bitch’, Lemmy is a doco about, you guessed it, Lemmy. After the legend’s recent passing it would be fucking criminal not to add this documentary into the list.
Packed with interviews by friends and admirers including, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Duff McKagan, Marky Ramone, Peter Hook, and David Brock to name a few. Among the interviews it shows that even though Lemmy was an absolute rock god, not all famous musicians live the glamorous life like we are led to believe. Lemmy pretty much lived in a shit box – a shitty little two-bedroom apartment for over 20 years, apparently without cleaning it once.
You get to hear about the music Lemmy enjoyed, and the man had quite a range in musical taste. The doco also talks about not only Motörhead, but the other bands he has been part of, his diabetes, his love of touring, and his on par love of The Rainbow Bar (a big reason why he has kept his shitty apartment for so long was the close proximity to his favourite bar), his time as a kid, gambling obsessions, family, his time as a roadie with Hendrix, and how he used to not only score drugs from Jimi but take acid daily and a shit load more.
So go on, pour yourself a JD, throw this doco on, and get an insight into the life of one of rock’n’roll’s biggest legends, Ian Fraser Kilmister (a.k.a. Lemmy).
6. David Bowie: Five Years (2013) [BONUS]
As I was compiling this list, news broke of yet another music legend passing away, David Bowie.
Throughout the doco we get to see footage highlighting the man’s growth and evolution as an artist throughout his career, making him an icon of our time.
Five Years is more a celebration than anything else, but in this time of sadness I think celebrating the life of this legend is exactly what is needed.
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