The Beatles have done it, The Rolling Stones keep doing it, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan and Led Zepplin gave it a shot and even The Who had a go. Rockumentaries are a way of the past and a thing of the future. While in the past, it was an exciting way to get unheard of insight to a rockstar’s life on the road, rockumentaries have now become a medium for pop and rock stars to sell themselves as normal human beings with extraordinary jobs. Once upon a time, filmmakers shot with almost exclusive insight into the crazy lives of sex, drugs and rock and roll. These days, 1 Direction, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have turned these documentaries into a kind of marketing strategy to appeal to fan bases and show a quasi-intimate, final edit control, kind of version of their lives. Today, we look back to the true rockstars and savvy filmmakers to enjoy the top 5 rockumentaries of all time.
The Last Waltz
Tagline: It Started as a Concert. It Became a Celebration.
When it comes to rockumentaries it seems that Scorsese can do no wrong, the man has a gift for making his mark without stealing the spotlight, asking the right question and capturing the best answer. The film focuses on The Band’s 1976 final performance, after spending sixteen years on the road together but unsurprisingly it turns into so much more. The documentary celebrates rock and roll at its finest with performances from Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison just to name a few. Scorsese sends The Band off with a warm farewell and a cheering crowd in The Last Waltz.
Madonna: Truth or Dare
Tagline: The ultimate dare is to tell the truth.
Madonna: Truth or Dare is a documentary that follows Madonna through her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour. The woman is on top of her game, domineering and utterly controlling, she holds power over what the camera sees and doesn’t see. However, we can forgive her for this because there is very little that Madonna would deny the camera. Between insulting her celebrity friends, talking to her father about her sexually suggestive dance moves and that “bottle scene”, Madonna lets her fans into her world. Talking to her dancers, both gay and straight, she opens up discussion on celebrity, sexuality, stardom and love. Definitely one to watch, if only to see Kevin Costner call her show “neat”.
Tagline: The music that thrilled the world … and the killing that stunned it!
In 1969, Albert and David Maysles followed The Rolling Stones as they played a free concert at Altamont. The filmmakers captured the scene as almost 300,000 fans showed up to a concert manned by Hells Angels. Inevitably, disaster and chaos ensued and the camera can only watch as Mick Jagger’s playful dance moves come to a halt as fights break out amongst the crowd. The Hells Angels murdered a young black teenager and injured numerous others while The Rolling Stones looked on in horror as they lost control over their beloved crowd. A harrowing watch and a sad end to the hippie era of Woodstock and free love.
The Doors: When You’re Strange
The Lizard King
What is it about Jim Morrison? We just can’t seem to get enough of The Lizard King; the shaggy hair, soulful eyes, and poetic lyrics have hooked more than once generation despite his short lived existence. The Doors: When You’re Strange follows the band chronologically with archival footage from studio to stage and everything in between. Jonny Depp lends his oddly fitting voice to the documentary as we watch Morrison rise to fame and eventually fall to death and join the ever tragic 27 club.
It Might Get Loud
Tagline: ”It might not affect the way you play guitar, but it will change how you listen.”
A Rockumentary with a difference. Rather than follow a specific person or band, Davis Guggenheim takes an explorative look at the ever present electric guitar in his documentary It Might Get Loud. With the help of Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page, White Stripes’ Jack White and U2’s The Edge, the film discusses the importance and beauty that guitar has in rock and roll. The three famed musicians praise the instrument, the genre and those who have mastered the sound. Jack White makeshifts his own guitar with wood, nails and string, The Edge takes us back to a time where U2 were a bunch of school boys, and Jimmy Page takes us through the making of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. A loving tribute to one of rock and roll’s finest instruments.
– Sinann Fetherston
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