The 10 Greatest Rock Documentaries of All Time, Part 2

by Bill Gibron

30 May 2013


5 - 1

#5 - The Nomi Song

Another outstanding biography of another oddball performer. Presenting a kind of future shock harlequin facade and singing contemporary songs in a castrati’s operatic falsetto, Nomi became a fixture of the underground club scene both in New York and, later, the rest of Europe. He even made an unsettling appearance during the 1979 season of Saturday Night Live. Laden with amazing performances from the man (his stage work always resembled a weird horror show sci-fi experience if imagined by a Germanic Parliament/Funkadelic) as well as insights into his troubled life (as a gay man, he was witness to the AIDS epidemic first hand), it’s a stunning story of an amazing artist.

#4 - Made in Sheffield

You think punk was the real wake-up call the dinosaur sodden music industry needed? Keep dreaming. As proven by this provocative overview of the rise of synthesizer-based pop in England, the most experimental and in your face sounds were coming from the tiny title community. Bands like ABC, the Human League, and Heaven 17 merged with avant-garde acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Comsat Angels to create the definitive post-modern movement. Sure, anyone could pick up a guitar and bash out three monotonous chords. But the Sheffield sound revolutionized the entire industry, an influence that can still be felt in today’s high tech Auto-tuned world.

#3 - The Wrecking Crew

It’s a shame that massive rights issues are keeping this amazing film from a wide release. Those who remember the sunny Summer of Love and the music that came both before and after will instantly recognize the sound created by this collection of seasoned studio musicians. Heck, they were Brian Wilson’s “house band” during his time as the Beach Boys mastermind. Without them, there’d be no Pet Sounds or “Good Vibrations”. With interviews featuring the surviving members as well as rare performance footage, the result is a revelation, a window into a world which crafted the soundtrack for an entire era.

#2 - Let It Be

It was meant to be a return to basics, a chance for the Beatles to toss off the trappings of their late ‘60s psychedelia and ‘get back’ to being a rock band. What it turned into was a celluloid testimonial to a once great act slowly falling apart. The cameras were supposed to be there to capture the magic of making music. What it caught instead were squabbles, sadness, and the certainty that the Fab Four weren’t going to stick around much longer. Sure, the guys came together to make one more amazing album (Abbey Road), but this is the real story of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

#1 - The Clash: Westway to the World

They were the rock star answer to the Sex Pistols, a band that broke the pure punk mold to become a movable feast of genres and approaches. By the time Mick Jones was “fired”, the Clash had conquered the pop charts as well as the concert stadiums. But as this timeless documentary illustrates, there was so much more to their story than “White Riot” or “Rock the Casbah”. With infighting and personal problems in abundance (including drummer Topper Headon’s drift into heroin addiction), we see that, as much as they succeed onstage, they struggled behind it. It’s a truth that makes their talents all the more epic.

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