I love rock documentaries, even bad ones. The great thing about them is, you don’t have to be a fan of the band or music being featured to enjoy the film. Here is a list of some that I think are really fascinating, in no particular order. I believe these are all available on Netflix, except the Decline Of Western Civilization movies.
Another State Of Mind-1982
This film documents an ill-fated tour by two punk bands, Social Distortion (still together today) and Youth Brigade. They fix up an old school bus, and hit the road, to mostly disastrous results. Fans of old school punk will see many familiar faces, including Ian MacKaye of Fugazi. This was 1981-82, and punk rock was still far outside the mainstream.
Memorable Scene: As the tour disintegrates with money problems and the bus constantly breaking down, a roadie and member of Youth Brigade quit, and take a Greyhound home.
This is what documentaries are all about. This film was shot over 7 years, and chronicles 2 L.A. bands, that are rivals/friends, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and The Dandy Warhols. While the Dandy Warhols go on to huge success in Europe, The BJM disintegrate under the ego and drug problems of their leader, Anton Newcombe. Absolutely fascinating from start to finish. More info here.
Memorable scene: The BJM get into a brawl onstage at the Viper room, in what was to be a showcase for a label that was about to sign them, blowing the deal. A career destroying moment, caught on film.
Made by now famous director Penelope Spheeris, part one focuses on the L.A. punk scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and part two, the L.A. metal scene of the late 80’s. Part one features interviews with long dead punk icon Darby Crash, who committed suicide shortly after the film, as well as Lee Ving from Fear, now an actor, and the band X. Really interesting stuff, even if you hate the music. Shot in gritty black and white, the film really captures the rawness of early punk.
Part two, “The Metal Years” is a cult classic, having only been released briefly on VHS, and now pretty much unavailable, and not on DVD. It is however, played often on VH1, as well as the Sundance channel. Ultimately became a scathing expose of the bloated L.A. metal scene of the 80’s. A must-see.
Memorable scene: WASP guitarist Chris Holmes swilling vodka in a pool, in full leathers, getting sloppy drunk, in front of his mom. Actually, a painful scene to watch as he clearly has some issues, but rockumentary gold!
This film chronicles the rise and fall of Seattle Grunge, as told by almost all of Seattle. If you were into that, it features just about anybody who was anybody in that scene.
Memorable scene: An itern (I think) at Sub-Pop records, recounts a story about how People Magazine contacted her about popular “Grunge Terminology,” and she proceded to make up slang on the spot, which People printed.
This is not available anywhere, I’ve only seen it on Sundance. A doc about tribute bands, this one hits home to me, as I know a bunch of guys in tribute bands. Generally, the tribute band is the last refuge of aging never-were’s, who just don’t want to quit. In this film, we get the story of four tribute bands, a Kiss, a Queen, a Judas Priest, and a Monkees, as well as some obsessed tribute band fans. This film is painful to watch, but I can’t look away. We get a glimpse into how some of these guys start to think they are the rock star they are portraying, and also of the sad reality as these guys, mostly in their late 30’s or early 40’s, realize they are not going to be rock stars in their own right. Compelling film, if you get a chance to see it. Here is the website, but it’s never updated.
Memorable Scene: There are so many, but I’ll go with a scene where the Kiss band is auditioning a new Gene Simmons, at obviously, one of their mom’s house, (these guys look to be about 35), and the guy auditioning is a total freak, who won’t listen to instructions, and jumps around like an idiot. Really tough one for me, as I’ve been a part of many auditions, and dealt with guys just like this.