Five Docs That Rock

May 5, 2011

I probably spend way too much time enjoying music — concerts, CDs, iTunes, Sirius, rock autobiographies, Palladia, VH1 Classic and feeble attempts to learn some new riffs on my Stratocaster. Even the occasional blog post, like this one.

From classic rock, hard rock and alt rock to heavy metal, glam metal and hair metal — if it includes three chords and a Marshall stack, you can count me in. I particularly love rock ‘n’ roll documentaries, and I’ve seen several good ones recently, so I thought I’d share some recommendations with our loyal Peepshow readers.

I’ll leave out some of the obvious classics like “Woodstock”, “Gimme Shelter,” “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” and one of my personal favorites, “The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years.”

So, here are five documentaries released in the last few years that you must see if you like rock music.

5) “It Might Get Loud” — The film showcases the history of the electric guitar through the eyes of Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. It traces the musical careers of the three icons from the first time they picked up a guitar and culminates with a summit, where all three musicians gather to swap stories and share styles, influences and techniques. Of course, they jam as well. If you enjoy good guitar work, make the 90-minute investment and check it out.

4) “Foo Fighters: Back and Forth” — The Foo documentary came out recently as part of the massive marketing push around the band’s latest album. It’s very entertaining, featuring plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, and the story of the band is told from start to finish through sit down interviews with current and former band members. It starts with Dave Grohl’s Nirvana days and ends with the recording sessions for the new album, which were done in his garage. Good stuff and Grohl’s sense of humor is on display throughout.

3)  “Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son of a Bitch” — I don’t like Motorhead, but I really liked this documentary about the band’s legendary lead singer. And I think you’ll like it too. It is a very real look at Lemmy’s life, which consists of living in a junk-filled apartment off the Sunset Strip, sitting at the famous Rainbow bar playing the trivia machine, carousing in Los Angeles with some of his famous friends and relentlessly touring around the globe. This guy is one of a kind and the film crew followed him for three years, capturing the 65-year-old living the same lifestyle he did in 1968. Good material and plenty of appearances from some top rockers with Lemmy stories to share.

2) “Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage” — Great storytelling, well preserved old footage of the band growing up together in Canada, concert footage ranging from early days playing in gymnasiums to their arena tours. The movie brings to life the 40-year history of the world’s biggest cult band in a way that makes you appreciate their unorthodox approach – going against the grain of the music industry at nearly every turn and still churning out 24 gold records. The band members are really talented, really smart and this documentary is really well done. Trust me.

1) “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” — When I first started watching, I was convinced this was a Spinal Tap inspired mockumentary, but it’s not. Anvil is a real band. They have been together for more than 30 years and I don’t think any band has ever continued to persevere in the face of despair like Anvil has. The centerpiece of the movie is the band’s effort to record a new album and launch a European tour – which goes nightmarishly bad. They are literally playing to 3 guys in a dive bar one night, then fighting with each other and fighting club owners for payment the next. And their woefully underqualified promoter puts them in bad situations at every turn. It ranks high on the unintentional comedy scale, but it is also kind of inspiring. These guys just won’t let their dream die. And the best part is that the film put them back on the map. Since its debut, they have opened for AC/DC, played large-scale festivals and made their way back through Europe on tour – successfully this time.

I know there are so many great music documentaries out there. Tell me what you think of these selections if you’ve seen them and please pass along some recommendations for me to add to my viewing list.