This week’s Stuff to Watch doubles up as a Stuff to Listen To in the form of six carefully chosen documentaries exploring the music, lives and talent behind some of the world’s most famous live acts.
Each documentary has one thing in common – the guitar. We’re not just talking rock and roll here either, as blues, country and punk music are also on the menu. So sit back, turn the volume up to 11 and rock out from the comfort of your desk, sofa or even workplace.
It Might Get Loud
What would happen if you took Jimmy Paige (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs) and put them in a room together to talk about the guitar? Luckily we no longer have to wonder as this lovingly shot and beautifully edited rockumentary brings together three of the finest guitarists alive today for a deep musical discussion.
Regardless of how you feel about each individual act there is no arguing that these three have each defined a unique sound and style over the years. The opening shot sets the scene for the rest of the production, as we see Jack White constructing a makeshift “guitar” from a pickup, some wire and an old glass bottle.
Johnny Cash – The Last Great American
This BBC documentary takes a look at one musician who influenced so many, and delivered his signature sound into the record collections of millions the world over. Not only was Johnny Cash a hit amongst the country music fans but his lyrics and riffs also proved a hit with rockers and punks alike.
Cash died in 2003 and so it’s up to a panel of individuals who knew, loved and were shaped by his music to tell the tale of this extraordinary singer-songwriter whose music meant so much to so many people from different walks of life.
End of the Century – The Story of The Ramones
Exploding out of New York City in 1974, The Ramones are by far one of the most influential punk bands of the era. This documentary takes a look at the band’s story, complete with interviews, archive footage and live recordings as well as interviews with those who were touched by the raw sound emanating from Queens, New York City.
This version (hosted on Google Video) has hardcoded Spanish subtitles over the top, which at first are a little distracting but soon easy to ignore thanks to the fascinating tale of a group of misfits who made it huge (but never touched the US Billboard chart’s top spot).
Cream’s Farewell Concert
After only playing together for roughly two years, UK rock group Cream played their final gig in London’s Royal Albert Hall on 26 November, 1968. The group which introduced Eric Clapton to the world are seen here on top-form, and the whole performance is interspersed with interviews and vox-pops from the time.
One thing to note in this 60s production is the cinematography and editing which is pretty-damn-sharp for the time, especially considering the manual nature of editing back then (something that’s easy to take for granted in this era of digital video).
Woodstock – 3 Days of Peace & Music
Woodstock really needs no introduction and has gone down in history as one of the greatest events ever to take place on farmland. This lengthy documentary provides more than three hours of footage and features footage of the set-up, acts and of course the crowd who made the event such a hit.
It’s raw (the film has a R-17 rating), full of great music and provides real insight into the spirit, atmosphere and general debauchery that has characterised this world famous event. A must-watch for all music festival fans!
The Clash: Westway to the World
A personal favourite of mine, The Clash are another punk band who set the world alight to the tune of “London’s Calling” and “Rock the Casbah” to name but a few of their more popular hits. This documentary takes recently shot interviews and intersperses archive footage to build up a detailed picture of the band’s rise, peak and eventual demise.
With each member leaning towards slightly different musical preferences the film demonstrates how this led to creative differences, often causing rifts within the rebellious four-piece. It also produced some of the finest punk music ever to emerge in the era, and what better way to celebrate than with a damn-fine documentary?
Hopefully there’s enough rock, punk and distorted goodness here to keep music fans happy for a few nights in front of the TV. If you’ve got any other favourite music documentaries then don’t forget to add them in the comments – if they’re freely available then that’s even better!