The elusive Rodriguez, mysterious no more.
As a lover of rock documentaries, two films have come to light recently that made me drool in anticipation: The Light in the Attic-aided Searching for Sugar Man, about the resurgence of mysterious psych-folk icon Rodriguez, and Charles Bradley: Soul of America, about soul singer and "Beacon of Love" Bradley's career success in his sixties after a lifetime of trying. Both have the makings of classic rock and roll films, with a down-and-out protagonist who makes good and whose creative contributions are finally appreciated. I can't wait to see both, and Searching for Sugar Man opens Friday, Aug. 24 at the Harvard Exit (see Brian Miller's related post). But in the mean time, let's see what you can watch right now on Netflix that will scratch your rockumentary itch.
The elusive Rodriguez, mysterious no more.
10. Kill Your Idols
Named for a Sonic Youth song, Kill Your Idols aims its lens at the wildly experimental post-punk scene of New York in the '80s. But it doesn't stop there, tracing the links those bands created to present artists, including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
9. We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
With a lineup of talking heads including Ian MacKaye, Flea, Henry Rollins and Thurston Moore, you can't go wrong with We Jam Econo, which chronicles the tragic story of uncompromising punk greats the Minutemen and their role in the '80s hardcore scene.
8. Hit So Hard
The only doc on this list with a Northwest connection, Hit So Hard looks at the life of Patty Schemel, the drummer for Hole, as she struggles with addiction and fame. The best part: She didn't turn into Courtney Love.
7. Fela Kuti: Music Is the Weapon
1982's Music Is the Weapon is considered the definitive Kuti doc, telling the story of the Afro-beat creator's activism in his home country of Nigeria and showing him performing at his nightclub the Shrine.
6. Heavy Metal in Baghdad
What could be more punk than making rock music against all odds, even when your country is at war? That's the situation the protagonists of Heavy Metal in Baghdad find themselves in in 2003, shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Vice follows the Iraqi metal band Acrassicauda along their difficult journey to make music in the throes of the Iraq War.
5. Stones in Exile
If you're in the mood for rock and roll mythology, there's no better place to start than the story of the recording of the Rolling Stones' magnum opus Exile on Main St. Excess abounds.
4. You're Gonna Miss Me
Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators was known as a stunningly creative songwriter during the heyday of the underground Texas psych band. But he soon fell off the map due to mental health issues. You're Gonna Miss Me tracks his rediscovery and revival after 20 years as a near recluse.
3. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
If you missed this when it came out, get thee to a computer, stat. Scorcese's look at Bob Dylan's cultural legacy came at a moment when Dylan seemed to be on everyone's minds. The film, which limits itself to the years 1961-1966, aka Dylan's rise as a folkie and his controversial switch to rock, and includes interviews with the man himself, as well as Allen Ginsberg and Dave Van Ronk, both of whom passed away before the completion of the project.
2. Last Days Here
I was struck to the core by David Marchese's profile of Pentagram singer Bobby Liebling in the April 2011 issue of Spin. Liebling, Marchese described, is a 57-year-old former heroin addict who's missing part of his arm from his addiction and is married to a woman half his age. He's also one of the pioneers of doom metal with his band Pentagram, who were most active in the '70s and '80s. Last Days Here examines Liebling's attempt at a comeback while struggling to overcome his demons.
1. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
The struggling musician turned good may be a documentary cliché by now, but Anvil! The Story of Anvil is likely the film that started it all, or at least the recent infatuation. Anvil were an influential but struggling metal band when a former roadie started filming them; now they've opened for AC/DC and played the Tonight Show. Plus, they've finally been able to quit their day jobs. Heart-warming!
What's your favorite rockumentary? Add it in the comments!