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The Doctor's Feelgood "Rockumentaries"

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Mark Kermode | 09:59 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Oil City Confidential brilliantly tells the story of legendary Canvey Island rockers Dr Feelgood, and is a solid joy from start to finish. But do you have to dig the rock to dig the "rockumentary"?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Dr K

    I enjoyed your appearance at the Edinburgh Cameo on Monday night. Sorry to post on an unrelated topic, but I wanted to get a message to you.

    You mentioned Guy Ritchie's hilarious interview with Mayo for the release of Revolver, with all of its profound numerology. If you want a real laugh, I would highly recommend listening to his recent interview with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment podcast. Ritchie's first film reference in the interview is to kind of compare himself with Terence Malick.....honestly.

    In terms of Ghibli, my favourite would be My Neighbour Totoro for its beautiful simplicity.

  • Comment number 2.

    I just listened to that Guy Ritchie interview, it's truly hilarious. He just rambles on about absolutely nothing - I can see where Revolver came from.

    Anyway, Dr. K - my answer to your question is 'Some Kind Of Monster' - the Metallica documentary you mentioned. I don't give a toffee about their music, I find it to be overrated noise, but the film was fascinating and I would happily re-watch it.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was not a fan when I saw this movie but it won me over ...

    The Kids are alright.

    Really provides context to the music. Gives a flavour of that british Art scene in the 60's that produced the cream of British R&B.

  • Comment number 4.


    Not what you asked for but ... Loved the band, hated the movie?

    U2 - Rattle and Hum.

    Buttock clenchingly BAD.

    So far up itself, it needs a torch.

    Worth seeing just for the Graceland scenes.

  • Comment number 5.

    I never had fondness for The Rolling Stones, but the "rockcumentary" Gimme Shelter (the best concert film of all time) was a fascinating insight into the Altmont Free Concert fiasco.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is Spinal Tap. They've never been any good since "Listen to the flower people"!

  • Comment number 7.

    i honestly can't think of one. i mean, i did not know about daniel johnston or the brian jonestown massacre until i saw the films, but i find the music a lot easier to appreciate once you know where it's coming from (the brian jonestown massacre ARE still going, by the way, i'm going to see them in may). daniel johnston has since become one of my favourite musicians, albeit a very patchy one, because i've genuinely never heard anything like it, and being a home-recording singer myself, i can relate.

    with anvil, i don't think the music is good, but i think it's pretty funny and i can listen to it with a smile on my face, even if i'm not enjoying it in the way the band want me to.

    i haven't seen some kind of monster and i really should. i hate metallica and i can't see my opinion changing after seeing it, but i hear that documentary makes the band look really bad so it's actually in line with my opinion.

    with this dr. feelgood documentary, it just doesn't appeal to me. it doesn't seem to show the band in a negative light, and i find the music so boring and dad-ish that i don't think it would help me to change my opinion on them. i may be wrong, however.

    but to answer your question, no, i can't think of an example of a rock-doc that i've seen and enjoyed but haven't, at least to some extent, enjoyed the music.

  • Comment number 8.

    oh, in relation to recent documentaries that you have enjoyed both the film and the music, you mentioned that you really enjoyed heima, the sigur ros documentary, and rightly so because both the film and the music are beautiful.

    when are you going to respond to all the talk about violence and gore?

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Mark-

    Saw you in the Cameo the other night. Great show and thanks for taking my questions (somewhat silly one about any ideas you have for redeem myself, I was using the pastiche stuff you do on here as reference for a POSSIBLE want for a creative output- you don't though- that's fair enough!

    To reply to this blog though-

    On the contrary I think an interesting twist on this subject is that I used to be a huge (and am still somewhat of a) Metallica fan. Despite that, I HATED Some Kind of Monster. Its very existence inherently has negative connotations and effects on me as a viewer because it embodies what few of Metallica's fan really like about them; their commercialisation. That may count as something pre-disposed and not related to the quality of the film, but it really feeds into the film. Its all manufactured in such a way to heighten the viewers admiration for the band and ultimately sell records. So many of those scenes just come across contrived and formulated for the purpose of the film crew. Its hard to tell whats candid and what is for the benefit of the bRand. (Its comparable to how wrestlers work in character and out of character...they have the company line ('the work'), then their own ('the shoot')

    I think a really great band film I like, which I didn't have any connection to through the band before is;I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco

    The film was actually used as an example in a lecture of mine a few years ago as a reference for copyright law and contracts in the creative industries. Worth a look!

  • Comment number 10.

    re: spinal tap. i watched it again the other day. the bit where nigel's complaining about the small bread is one of the funniest things ever put to film.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Mark,

    I liked Shut up and Sing (2006), but I don't like country music at all. I guess there has to be something in a documentary to draw you in. It wasn’t the Dixie Chicks music which interested me, but how their fan base treated them on their stance on the Iraq War.

  • Comment number 12.

    tsk tsk Mark, the drift is the best album of the last ten years- go have a neil young moment and stare into the abyss=]

  • Comment number 13.

    I can't think of one at all. In the unlikely event that I watch a rockumentary, then it's usually because I like the band to begin with, hence my interest in watching a documentary about them. I think the only film about a band I really dislike that I would WANT to see is Metallica's Some Kind of Monster, because sometimes it's entertaining to watch a train derail and destroy itself, especially one as bloated and ridiculous as Metallica.

    My personal favourite rockumentary is probably Instrument about Washington DC punk band Fugazi. Not a conventional documentary, but it works brilliantly.

  • Comment number 14.

    I recently watched 'Hated: G.G. Allin & The Murder Junkies' and really enjoyed it, despite their music being rather oppressive.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thankyou for pointing out that interesting subject matter doesn't equal good documentary, or vice versa. I can remember sitting in an American motel watching a really absorbing HBO film about the Brooklyn Dodgers even though I don't care in the slightest about baseball. Conversely I practically fell asleep through that ponderous early-70s Jimi Hendrix biography.
    Probably the best thing for a rockumentary to have is lots of film of the band - it really creates that "I wish I'd been there" feeling whether or not you like listening to the records. That Joy Division film missed that; Lots of interesting talking heads but not enough of the music. "We Jam Econo" was a really low budget film about the Minutemen, but it was great, (even in some pub function room in Leeds), because there was lots of rare, (and loud!) footage of a really underrated, and obscure band. I suspect the Dr. Feelgood film is in the same mould.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hey, AndrewsBrain (N0 15) - you are right!

    It's a funny thing - On reflection, I don't really go to films about music artists or bands unless I like the music. Narrow minded or what?

    With sport, however, it does not seem to bother me. I liked 'Breaking Away'- but hate watching cycling; I liked 'Bull Durham - but hate watching baseball; I liked 'Heaven Can Wait' - but am bored to death by American Football - I even found, ermmmm, 'Mighty Ducks' amusing (my kids' fault) - and cannot abide ice hockey.

    Well, what do you know?

  • Comment number 17.

    Dr K,

    You have not even marked our last homework assignment yet!

    Shouldn't you do that first before setting more?

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree with luhspeak_ the Drift is just fantastic (though not quite as good as tilt) scott walker is the most important voice in modern music
    Mark should approach music with the same open mind and patience he brings to films

  • Comment number 19.

    Check outs JAZZ The Secret life of Jane example of a's a true story about a very rich middle aged woman, who wants to make her dream come true by recording a live jazz album, with her own songs, she buys in some of the UK's top Jazz musicians and sets about making the CD...
    However the woman can't sing a note, it's very funny and disturbing!

  • Comment number 20.

    sorry to repeat but it has to be 'somekind of monster'-great doc but i have no time whatsoever for metalica or any other heavy metal band

    also can i include 'slade in flame' as a doc? noddy holder seems a good sport but he sounds like a foghorn

    the wilco doc is worth checking out

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Mark,
    I thought you might be interested in this, there's an exhibition coming up on the 20th of Feb centred around Punk music. The exhibition is called 'We Love 77'.

    77 paintings of different bands that cature the essence of Punk music.

    The opening on the 19th has ex RoxyClub DJ Don Letts from 1977

    There's a video interview with the painters here:

    well I thought it could be news you'd be interested in
    all the best

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear Mark,

    I think you're right about the quality of the film being the important thing. But there's another factor; the PULL factor. I doubt whether anyone could watch Anvil without being thoroughly moved and entertained, but the problem is winning people over and getting their arses in a seat. I've struggled (and failed) to convince several people to watch that particular film. What's more, the excuse is always the same; 'It's not really my kind of thing'. Doesn't that make you want to scream 'But that's the POINT!' very loudly? (often getting you ejected from Starbucks).

    I think it's a documentary thing. People are intimidated by the supposed intellectualism of the format, and therefore will only try it if they've a 'knocked-out fan-type' interest in the subject. Perhaps we need to start placing more emphasis on the director here. Instead of saying 'hey you need to watch this thing about bears', you can say 'it's the latest Werner Herzog'. At the moment such a recommendation often leaves you nursing a rather blank look. But maybe we can raise the profile of the directors worth raising.

    Or am I just asking for yet another celebrity-style cult to develop?

  • Comment number 23.

    the drift is an objectively brilliant album, sure, but it's also a genuine nightmare to listen to and i can't stand it. i haven't even seen 30 century man, i only got it on the basis of the fact that i knew that scott walker did the song of the same name.

    i'm very intrigued about this fugazi documentary. the problem is, so many documentaries have interesting subject matter but are just put together in such a formulaic way that it doesn't really stand out. i mean, 'gonzo: the life and work of dr. hunter s. thompson' was interesting enough, but only because hunter s. thompson was a REALLY interesting guy. that documentary didn't have the personality of, say, 'the devil and daniel johnston'.

  • Comment number 24.

    oh yeah, right! i don't know why you don't like the brian jonestown massacre. they're a bit derivative, but from what i gather, that's not a problem for dr. skiffle. i wasn't sure i'd like dig because i never cared much about the dandy warhols, but i was really impressed with the bjm.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Mark,

    I recently watched the rocumentary 'It Might Get Loud' – basically an excuse to bring Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge together on a Hollywood sound stage to talk guitars. Yes I'm a Led Zeppelin fan and a guitar player so I was likely to enjoy it, but had reservations about the inclusion of The Edge. I don't like U2, with a PASSION.
    But the film made all three guys very human and quite modest almost, all seemingly disarmed by the experience of meeting co-'legends' within an art form they love. Dave 'Edge' Evans featured pretty heavily but his sequences were actually amongst some of the best and I probably found a grudging appreciation as a result.

    Overall I think if you find the story behind music or any form of art fascinating it doesn't need to be about a band, writer or painter you necessarily admire. They are all largely inspiring as human stories – what can be better?

    Oh yeah and all the films you mentioned are great, but where do you stand on dramatised/fictional examples? '24hour Party People' and 'Its All Gone Pete Tong' are amongst some favourites...

  • Comment number 26.

    a few years ago, late one friday night, the BBC showed a rocumentary about the Carpenters that was absolutely fantastic! I think it may have been an anniversary of Karen Carpenters death, and if i recall, they showed an old concert straight after - though i didn't stop up for that one, work and such!

    I'm a sucker for all things Metallica (incidentally, A year and a Half in the life of Metallica is a much better rocumentary than Some Kind Of Monster)and most other Rock music but I found this documentary, told by Richard Carpenter with the help of other big names of the 70s' really engrossing, as it focused more on the hard work they put into their music, and the music itself, rather than the bog standard "lets talk about Karen not eating" for a full hour.

    I never rushed out and bought the entire collection, which is probably all just greatest hits albums just labelled differently a la The Eagles, but I have a new found respect for them and their place in music history

  • Comment number 27.

    Spice World.

  • Comment number 28.

    Don't Look Back (Can't stand the whiney smug face of Bob Dylan but it's a great documentary of a man being a total psycho)

  • Comment number 29.

    i have to say some kind of monster is the best rockumentry from a band i no time for what so ever.

    But the very best rockumentrys in my humble opinion are Dont look back, The filth and the fury and Dig.

  • Comment number 30.

    Years ago i went to see this band that were absolutly terrible on a MONUMENTAL level. They were the most self indulgent, talentless and posturing crap-acts youve ever seen. Halfway into the set a tiny stone henge structure descended from above followed by some small folk dancing around it. It was really bad taste. They made a film about them that was pretty good detailing their descent into a most deserved obscurity, Can't remember it's name though.....

  • Comment number 31.

    @tommus-jay - The Fugazi documentary is unlike most others, it's made up of a mixture of live footage, interviews and incidental pieces filmed by Jem Cohen right from the very earliest days of the band, so there's very little, if any "Hi we are Fugazi, this is a documentary about us", it's more about the history of the band told through their music, shows and a few interview snips here and there. Despite that "cut up" sort of style, it's fascinating. I thought.

  • Comment number 32.

    I saw a documentary when I was a kid about Megadeath and it was one of the most priceless things I have ever seen, it was like a real life Spinal Tap, I cant remember the title, its so many years but if you know it Mark,would you please let me know - nice one - loving the podcast

  • Comment number 33.

    You won't have seen this, but "Rock'n'roll Outlaw", a documentary about the ageing Australian band Rose Tattoo fits the bill. I saw it at the Melbourne International Film Festival a couple of years ago. The band had a small but passionate following in Australia. The movie gave us amateur footage of concerts in Germany to huge stadiums of screaming fans. One of the members had died, another had cancer, so there's an elegiac feel to the interviews, and a surprising element of affection in the way these tattooed old rockers talk about each other and their careers. Musically not to my taste at all, but the documentary was fabulous.

  • Comment number 34.

    No mention yet of The Beatles with 'Let It Be'. It’s an incredibly painful film for any Beatles fan to watch but it’s ultimately this that gives it the interest by giving a real insight into workings of the band and by showing the really life drama of the clashing personalities that led to the downfall of the group (all be it before the fabulous Abbey Road). Perhaps not the greatest but certainly worth a mention as the film that laid the ground work for the likes of Anvil and Metallica’s films as well as the likes of Spinal Tap.

    In contrast to the films of bands falling apart there have been some good rockumentaries such as ‘Flight 666’ the fairly recent film of Iron Maiden on the road. However, by showing a band doing well these tend to be the ones that people forget, which indeed is only natural, and therefore tend to rely heavily on the characters of the band members being engaging throughout. I look forward to seeing Feelgood’s film as they are a band with a particularly interesting history to explore and the characters in the band such as Wilko are always fascinating to listen to so it has the best of both worlds to draw from as well as having some fantastic music to choose from for a soundtrack.

  • Comment number 35.


    yeah, i'm pretty sure i'd enjoy it regardless. 'the arguement' by fugazi is one of my favourite albums, plus i think that ian mackay is a pretty interesting guy. i mean, from what i gather he became some sort of anarchist's icon totally by mistake with minor threat.

  • Comment number 36.

    im not that into the rockumentary but the recent showing of "it might get loud" really caught my intrest. i am no grat fan of any of the three men in this documentary but i really felt, while i was watchin the film, that i could really aspire to these guys as you could really see their passion for guitars. i do reccomend it, even if, like me, rocumentaries are not your thing.

  • Comment number 37.

    I can take or leave the music of Talking Heads (minus the odd brilliant single it's mostly rubbish), but I LOVE Stop Making Sense. Jonathan Demme's brilliant direction puts you on stage with the band in a far more convincing way than any of this 3D nonsense. By having no shots of the crowd but still having the cheers, you get all the atmosphere of the gig but feel like it's a conversation between you and the band rather than just a worship ceremony (U2-3D). Everything about the way the film is staged lifts the music from being decent to great, from the introduction of the band one at a time to David Byrne's big suit. Add in the homage to Dr. Strangelove in the titles and you have a classic film.

  • Comment number 38.

    I remember there was an episode of The Comic Strip Presents ... Bad News Tour. I think the band did actually end up playing at Castle Donington with Adrian Edmondson on lead guitar (a strat gifted to him by Eric Clapton I believe) so not sure if this counts.

    The music was awful but a very funny insight in to the life of 'the band'

  • Comment number 39.

    I suspect if they were to make a Dodge Brothers documentary... that'd be my vote...:)

  • Comment number 40.

    Not a documentary per say, but I found Walk The Line extremely engrossing, and I cannot stand country music!

  • Comment number 41.

    Young at Heart. I'm half as active at 30 than the folks in that are at 85. And they know how to enjoy and work the music that represents a younger generation which should by rights alienate them. A delightful film with humour and pathos.
    But I wouldn't buy the album.

  • Comment number 42.

    This Is Spinal Tap "[Did] for rock and roll what "The Sound of Music" did for hills" Hate 'em to pieces, but loves the film

    On another note, just watched Ferngully in Space, for the second time. First go around I was deeply cynical about the whole ordeal because the obvious and over-hyped plot made me loose faith in modern Cinema. However, I found the perdictablity hystarical the second time, and laughed contstantly. Fine atmosphere, fine porformances (for the most part) but there are only 7 stories, and this one has had it's go.

  • Comment number 43.

    About 30 years ago I was driving a truck for a living and was stuck in Ripon on a wet Thursday night. The only entertainment in the town was the cinema, and it was showing "The Buddy Holly Story". If I hadn't been desperate, there's no way that I'd have considered going to see that, but I'm glad I did. A thoroughly involving tale with an outstanding performance from Gary Busey as Holly.

    I still wouldn't want to buy any of Buddy Holly's records, but I'd certainly watch the film again.

  • Comment number 44.

    I saw 'The Filth and the Fury', a few years ago despite having no interest in the Sex Pistols and thought it was a brilliantly made film.
    Also, does '24 Hour Party People' almost count as a rockumentary?

  • Comment number 45.

    I reckon you do not necessarily need to dig the rock. My brother thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic experience of watching (and enjoying) Oil City Confidential. Similarly my wife (a confirmed non-Feelgood) came away not only exhilarated but positively enthusiastic about the whole movie. As you say Oil City Confidential brilliantly tells the story of Dr Feelgood and the part that Canvey Island played in their success. It is not only moving (Lee’s untimely passing), but thrilling (the live footage) and also funny (Dear Joan!)surely that is the whole point of any cinematic viewing? Oh and this is undoubtedly Julien Temple’s greatest film yet…

  • Comment number 46.

    Forgot to mention; I really like Chet Baker- Lets Get Lost. Perhaps more of a biopic than rockumentary, I just love the haggard and nonchalant cinematography of this film. The whole piece really conveys a feeling of dreaming and the sense of freedom of the time and place.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'd go for "Busted Circuits & Ringing Ears" the documentary about Tad. Although I'm a big fan of a lot of late-80s/ early 90s US indie/ alternative music they are the one band that generaly passed me by whilst I was fanatically listening to the likes of Mudhoney, Nirvana & Soundgarden. The documentary is absolutely brilliant & shows a band who in among the media frenzy surrounding Grunge movement kept suffering bad luck & were often the wrong band in the wrong place at the wrong time. They saw bands like Nirvana who had previously supported them going global whilst they suffered a run of nightmares with record labels (see the whole issue surrounding Giant Records ruining the Inhaler lp's chance of success by getting nervous over the artwork) In spite of all that happened to them frontman Tad Doyle (who I'd previously just known as "The fat bloke from Tad") is still a positive individual & remains witty, charming and gracious throughout the whole documentary. Worth a watch even if you're not a fan.

  • Comment number 48.

    I enjoyed "Anvil" for its story too, not so much for the music. I haven't seen many "rockumentataries", but this year is looking like a good one. So far, I know about an unnamed documentary about Canadian band Rush, and "Still Bill" has just been released in the USA.

    The latter is about singer Bill Withers, who walked away from the music biz in 1985, so thoroughly that some folks think he died, but he's alive, well, and happy to be out of all that.

  • Comment number 49.

    There are several as there seems to be NO documentaries about bands I really like, such as The Psychedelic Furs (hence my blog name), The Cars, Pale Divine (Richard Fortus's old St Louis band, not the current Doom Metal band of the same name) or The Replacements.

    So, I have endured and enjoyed several documentaries about bands whose existence is irrelevent to me.

    Some Kind of Monster: couldn't care less about a bunch of middle aged millionaire metalheads and their personal problems but the film was an interesting look at the workings of such a huge world famous band, particularly to see them working and/or fighting in the studio recording what turned out to be an awful album.

    Shut Up and Sing: crap band, good film!

    The Filth and The Fury: Sex Pistols were nowhere near as interesting as The Clash but this was a superb documentary.

    Joy Division: I much prefer New Order but a nice insight into their history nonetheless.

    Dig!: two horrendous bands and one magnificent film which makes a good case for selling out to a major label and gaining fame and fortune as opposed to playing dingy clubs and fighing onstage with your band mates and generally being an uncooperative ass.

    The Decline of Western Civilization: Penelope Spheeris is at her best when making these rock docs and not making studio hack jobs such as The Little Rascals and The Beverly Hillbillies. It's just a pity that for this film she chose to look at some of the more mundane acts of early 80's LA punk...Alice Bag Band anyone? Give me some Bad Religion please! An intriguing look at a time and place nonetheless.

  • Comment number 50.

    Echo your feeling for Anvil and agree with the vote above for The Filth And The Fury. Lost patience with Metallica (oh grow up!), missed Dig and the others you mentioned but looking forward to the Feelgood doc. The key to this kind of film seems to be a willingness to enter into a small world and let its inhabitants breathe and walk around in in it.
    Who'd have guessed at the life-sucking obsessive intensity generated around vid-game hi-scores (King Of Kong)? And, way too old to take any credible interest in skateboarding I was on-side with the Dogtown and Z-Boys rad boarders challenging the tank-top preppies in competition to 'go low'.
    Similarly out of my familiarity-zone and finally back on topic, Scratch succeeded in making the art of decks'n'discs accessible and credible. The sounds may be so-so but the craftsmanship and sensibility are undeniable.
    The rules forbid films about music you like but I'd feel it a dereliction if I didn't mention Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. I liked Motown anyway, but the revelation that such a small group of human beings made such a big sound and contribution was unexpectedly moving.

  • Comment number 51.

    One of the best documentaries I've seen is about the Flaming Lips. It's called Fearless Freaks' and, like the Fugazi one mentioned, is made up of footage taken over years and includes photos of the singer as a kid, archive home movie stuff of him and his countless brothers pratting about, and an incredibly moving piece about his dead dad.
    it also contains one the most powerful anti-drugs scenes ever on film as Steven Drozd, one of the Lips, shoots up on film. No commentary, no moralising, but ... very powerful.

    I even like the band now.

  • Comment number 52.

    The Future is unwritten, the second in Julian Temple's surpose trilogy of british music. Worth seeing for Strummer having a go at reporters for questioning Topper Heddon being in the band.

  • Comment number 53.

    agree about the fearless freaks. i think, when you look at that and the devil and daniel johnston, one of the biggest advantages those documentaries have is an insane amount of footage. the director of the fearless freaks followed the flaming lips around with a camera for 20 years to get the footage for that film, and that's some hardcore commitment, but it pays off. obviously with the devil and daniel johnston, the man himself just happened to record almost everything he did, but there's something really satisfying about having that amount of footage that allows you to watch these people grow up.

    also, i think enough people have mentioned spinal tap without actually mentioning the key thing about that film - none of it is real. it's not a documentary. it doesn't count.

  • Comment number 54.

    Although i did admitedly has a predisposal to all the music on show, All Tommorows Parties, about the festival of the likened name was a brilliant watch as it focused 50/50 on the crowd and atmosphere of the festival as well as excellent crowd made footage mixed with brilliant edits.All of this sounds like it could be a hugely pretentious and self aggrandising advertisment but it only ever observes and offers no suggestion that the fun on screen is more than made by the people there (I have to also admit that sounds cheesy but i can't think of else to say it). It basically captures the atomised and sporadic feel of festivals while also showing the strange phenomena of having an alternative festivals amongst the redcoats of butlins.

  • Comment number 55.

    Sorry, I mistook 'Rockumentary' for 'Biopic'.
    That's a bit of a worry really...

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm not sure if A Hard Day's Night counts, but I really cannot listen to The Beatles.

    It's not even that I'm a Stones fan, I mean- I prefer Queen.

    It's just there in black and white. Liked the film, can't listen to a Beatles tune.

  • Comment number 57.

    The Beatles Anthology is one of the most fascinating documentary series' i have ever seen.
    Even if you're not a fan of the music, the sheer volume of their acheivements in rock and roll and their influence on the wider culture is astounding and undeniable. the film is wonderfully put together from what must be thousands of hours of footage, and even though every little detail of their career is shown, there is never a dull moment.
    However, Macca's modern renditions of the songs on acoustic guitar are quite cringeworthy, thankfully there are only 2 or 3 moments like that.

  • Comment number 58.

    I know they aren't really doumetaries, but I loved the biopics of 24 hour party people and control, and subsequently actually did get really into the music.

    Also I would love to know your views on The Future is Unwritten the Julian temple Clash/Joe Strummer Rockumentary, I adore it and have looked everywhere to find your review.

    Finally, thanks for coming to the Tyneside, had an amazing time, though you do have to come back as we had to get the train home so couldn't get our book signed :(

  • Comment number 59.


    Johhny Cash - don't care

    Walk the line - liked it a lot

  • Comment number 60.

    A little more on the obscure side admittedly but quite some years back, 1995 I think, I purchased a fabulous still available documentary called 'Sonic Outlaws' which was an-independent-as-they-come film mainly focusing on the famous legal trouble that a group called Negativland found themselves in when they used a sample/reinterpretation of U2's ' I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' spliced together with a famous profanity-laced Casey Kasem outake from 'America's Top 40'.
    The film was also generally about the whole art of copyright and old-school culture jamming; taking bill board adverts, intercepted cell phone call's, media hoaxes and the like and turning them back on themselves.
    The audio interview of Negativland posing as magazine journalists for a fictional magazine whilst conducting a lengthy interview with Bono and The Edge is just a gem; halfway through the interview, Negativland announce themselves as who they really are and let the U2 frontmen know that they and their families have been financially ruined because of the over zealous legal action Island Records took against them. I don't know if it ultimately came to anything but Bono seems rather sincere and responsive to Negativland's suggestion that U2 help them out money-wise....

  • Comment number 61.

    @Jack - I think you might be after "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years". Dir: Penelope Spheeris. Best known for a very very very drunk Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. floating around in a pool on an air bed whilst his mother looks on.

  • Comment number 62.

    Jem Cohen's super-8 documentary "Instrument" on Washington hardcore iconoclasts Fugazi is really excellent. Filmed over more than a decade with the band it really displays how four guys in a room can etch out an existence making really heartfelt powerful music with absolutely no concessions to the music industry at large.

    Hard to be entirely sure that a non fan would find it as compelling but Guy Picciotto is a such an enigmatic frontman and Ian MacKaye always has an interesting perspective on the music industry and what the often misunderstood 'straightedge' band wants to achieve. Funny, weird and politically interesting, it also has some blistering performances.

    Just search youtube for Glueman (live) if you need convinced.

  • Comment number 63.

    Spinal Tap was already mentioned but another rockumockumentary was "The Rutles: All You Need is Cash".

    I heard Dr. K tell a stunned Mayo that he didnt like the music of the Beatles (a half-decent skiffle band, no?) so I am curious to know what he thought of "Let it Be" which is no longer available due to McCartney and Starr's efforts to keep it under wraps.

    One stand out documentary where the music is not of the highest quality but the spirit soars is "Young at Heart". Highly recommended for anyone that missed it.

  • Comment number 64.

    The recent rockumentary on the BBC - Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany was fantastic although absolutely hate the music!

  • Comment number 65.

    i didn't know kermode didn't like the beatles. i'm not sure i value his opinion anymore...

  • Comment number 66.

    No he's right on that one, the Beatles have always been a wholly dreary affair. The football of music.

  • Comment number 67.

    i could understand that comment if you were just talking about the pre-rubber soul albums, but even they're still really good, but i don't know how anyone can listen to rubber soul or revolver and not hear why they're amazing and much better than football.

  • Comment number 68.

    I really enjoyed the Bruce Mcdonald rockumentary the Rawside of Metric. The doc itself was nicely shot with interesting ideas for graphics etc, and a deadpan narration from Julian Richings, all of which allowed me to watch a hour or so about a very dull band..

    Also Hard Core Logo is a fine example of something missed out on the list. hate punk, loved hard core logo.

    I really feel Bruce Mcdonald is mostly unknown in this county, anyone else like his work?

  • Comment number 69.

    hey where did the blog about animations go?

  • Comment number 70.

    +1 about the GG Allin's documentary 'Hated' made by the director of last year's 'The Hangover'.

    'Hated' is an excellent documentary about a very strange musician (not sure he is though!), which has a wonderful fanzine feel to it. Even though the director went to direct 'Old School' which I couldn't care any less about it, 'Hated' is a film I can't recommend enough.

  • Comment number 71.

    Does anyone remember that documetary simply called "Geri" by Molly Dineen, about Geri Halliwell soon after she left the Spice Girls? Never at the cinema I don't think, and I know the music sure ain't "rock", but at least that means it's certainly a good example of music I don't like.

    Excellent documentary though. It's well over 12 years old and celebrity culture has ballooned since then, but this film showed that the writing was on the wall. It's a great study of pop-star addiction to fame and adoration, and a timely critique on the shallow, exploitative nature of the celebrity industry.

    I think this fits Dr K's criteria, and yes I do agree with him. I feel sure that Anvil is probably a great example (although I'm yet to see it) as I wouldn't care for the music but I suspect I'd really rate the film. On the flip side, I saw It Might Get Loud recently as I'm a great Jack White and Led Zep fan, but I wouldn't recommend that to anyone unless they were fans. In terms of how it's made, I'd say it's rather messy and contrived.

  • Comment number 72.

    Yeah, where'd the recent musing (posted Friday 12th) by Dr K on Miyazaki's Ponyo and other recent hand drawn 2D animated films go?
    Miyazaki's Spirited Away was superb, a new film by him is an event.

  • Comment number 73.

    there is no authority but yourself is a very good documentary about a band called crass, and the great thing it does, is it focus's on the communual house in which they all lived, and some still do so now just as much as the band, it documents their lifestyle's equally well, and since they broke up in 1984, it catches up with what they are all upto now, a truly unique band, which makes for a very interesting documentary.

  • Comment number 74.


    dear dr.k,

    i have three q`s for you.

    1. not too far back you felt `uneasy` about watching the more than stunning The Weisse Band/ The White Ribbon. I couldn`t agree with you more. It led me to thinking about the use of subliminals in film and how much they are employed and if its actually legal to manipulate an audience in such a way (ie; flash/cue card emotions titles, popcorn!!! etc).

    2.having used to work many years ago as a theatre house ticket collector i`ve been privvy to witnessing many unknown gems unfold onscreen (a fav memory would be Dead Man Walking), but is there any cases of where its actually better to know what you are getting, in terms of directorial tone or subject matter? (there are no exmples, hence my curiosity)

    3.films or movies? (the term movies used for say, Trannyformers, films for decent pictures). Lets no employ tooo much yank into our etc.

    4.exocist mit billy on bord und still no comment from your good self?! (incidently, the trailer on youtube for exocist 2 is something to marvel. I adore a good trailer and The Hertic has to collapse into the Sooo-badit`s-sublime-Catergory.

    and that is all.
    superb reviewer, glad you won the bride wars.

    james thomas

  • Comment number 75.

    forgot. yes you were spot on about the stunning Dead Presidents, but may i also through a film into your melting pot from the same era...Quiz Show. A real/reel undervalued classic.

  • Comment number 76.

    End of the Century: my partner doesn't care about the Ramones, but he really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than he did, because I do love the Ramones, but it's worth seeing for the footage of Dee Dee's "rap career" alone.

  • Comment number 77.

    Hi Dr Mark,

    How about some documentries I'd like to see, while hating the subject, that haven't been made yet?

    1. Simon Cowell - 'What's Music Got To Do With It?'

    2. Take That - 'Why Should I?'

    3. Cliff Richard - 'Too Good To Be Good.'

  • Comment number 78.

    if i was making a documentary based on take that, i would called it 'take that and party! the true story behind the morrisson's theme tune'.

  • Comment number 79.

    that's 'would call it', not 'would called it' - you should be able to edit posts on this website.

  • Comment number 80.

    Dr K,

    For me it has to be Todd Phillips wonderfully weird and disturbing debut, Hated: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies.

    I would never in a month of Sundays listen to Allin's musical endeavours as they are musically out of my ball park and lyrically a tad unPC (I was surprised to see on Wikipedia that the like of Beck and The Lemonheads have covered his songs).

    The film itself offers an insight into the mangled mind and whacky world view of Allin who delights in offending anybody and everybody he comes into contact with, but in particular with his fans and audiences.
    The footage and commentary ranges form the bizarre to just plain sick and I often found myself disgusted and fascinated in equal measure by the depths of depravity that Allin plunges himself into.

    Phillips has gone onto be a fairly successful comedy director and I'm pretty certain that this documentary went some way to inform his sometimes gross out/shock style (Tom Green's mouse antics in Road Trip, Will Ferrell's Frank the Tank in Old School and Zack Galafianakis in The Hangover). But whereas these are works of fiction , Phillips really hit the jackpot in finding a real-life gross out shocker in Allin.

    This is probably the closest thing to a real horror film that I've ever seen - highly recommended.

    PS) Enjoying the first chapter of your memoir, although slightly disturbed that I can hear your voice all too clearly in my head as I read.

  • Comment number 81.

    Need to see the Hated and Fugazi ones now.

    There are a load of Punk docs which don't really even focus on important bands. Another State of Mind, however, does. But in a really insignificant way, its insight into the early days of Social Distortion and, to a lesser extent, Minor Threat is brilliant because they're kids, making fools out of themselves more than anything else, the film also focusses on the entourage who are nearly all idiots. At the end of it is so clear why McKaye and Ness were the ones to have pushed their art beyond that scene, especially if you watch the commentary and hear Ness berating his younger self.

    On another note, I just watched 'Beyond the mat' A wrestling documentary that had some really great moments in it (particularly the scenes between Foley and his family, which are amplified further when you hear him talk about it on the commentary). If it had just been about Foley it would have easily been one of my favourite docs of all time, despite the fact that I haven't watched wrestling since... around the time it was shot actually. So maybe nostalgia got to me a bit, but overall it's a great insight into his family life.

  • Comment number 82.

    Dr. K,

    Three films instantly spring to mind on this topic, one of which was released just last and was reviewed by your good self on the Mayo programme; Sounds Like Teen Spirit. I have no interest whatsoever in Eurovision; I can't stand most of the music, I dislike the artificiality of the whole thing and the nationalism that it seems to engender I find quite distasteful, so I expected to hate a film about Junior Eurovision. I don't think I've ever been more wrong in my life. It's a really beautiful and uplifting film that perfectly captured the youth and excitement of the people taking part and did a fantastic job of showing what it is that people, or people who aren't me, get out of Eurovision. I won't be watching Eurovision this year or any other year, but I adored that film.

    The other two are I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, about the American alt-country band, Wilco, and Tupac: Resurrection. In the case of Wilco, they are a band who I have never actively disliked, but who I have never really listened to, but I rented the film based on hearing about the way in which it depicts the deteriorating relationship between two of the band members and how it details the often absurd relationship between a band and its record label. Still don't care much for Wilco, but it's a rare behind the scenes look at making an album that doesn't come off as a glorified puff piece, instead providing a genuine insight into the creative lives of its subjects.

    Finally, Tupac: Resurrection. Despite being a hip-hop fan, I have never cared for Tupac Shakur. I always found, and still do find, his music dull and his 'Thug Life' worldview simplistic. However, Resurrection, which consists entirely of interviews with Tupac that are skillfully manipulated so that he tells the story of his life as if he had been, you guessed it, resurrected, fascinated me. By allowing Tupac to speak in his own words, without much, if any, outside commentary, the film gives a glimpse into the inner life of a man who I had previously dismissed as another so-so rapper elevated to a state of martyrdom by his death. By the end, even though I had not come around to liking his music, I found myself liking him as a complex, deeply flawed by intelligent and real person, and felt genuine sadness that he was no longer alive.

  • Comment number 83.

    That last sentence should read "I found myself liking him as a complex, deeply flawed but intelligent and real person".

  • Comment number 84.

    The film "Dig" is the classic example for me. Having had limited listening experience of The Dandy Warholes (apart from a couple of rubbish adverts) or The Brian Jonestown Massacre, there was no vested interest in watching this. Having said that, once I did get familiar with some of their songs thoughout the film, I found both bands completely average and unspectacular to listen to. I didn't go out and persue any of their subsequent work, nor did I care about their back-catalogs.

    The movie is, however, a triumph and I think the fact that the music was so middle-of-the road added to my enjoyment of the film. It seemed to allow more focus on the personalities and relationships within (and between) the bands. The struggle to achieve success commercially, or avoid in the case of BJM, and the conflicting aspirations of the two front makes for a humorous and intriguing spectacle.

  • Comment number 85.

    Surprised no-one has mentioned Meeting People is Easy by Grant Gee about Radiohead. Part tour film, yes, but more a reflection of reluctant stars struggling to cope with and contextualise extraordinary adulation. All the more interesting for the awkwardness of Thom Yorke, yet fascinating for a modern star in this day and age to be so sceptical of the machine he inhabits....

  • Comment number 86.

    I know I'm late with this comment, but a rockumentary I found fascinating about a band I'm probably never going to listen to again is Rok dabla, or Year of the Devil, a Czech film about singer Jaromír Nohavica and the band Cekomor. It's a strange blend of actual footage and surreal narrative, including spontaneous combustion and shades of Spinal Tap.

  • Comment number 87.

    How about ABBA: The Movie, I'm by no means their biggest fan but I can appreciate a good pop tune and as this film shows so could many others. Although today the sound of Dancing Queen acts mostly as an early warning klaxon to the invasion of your local by drunken pink cowboy hat wearing hen nights the film demonstrates just how famous the band was and at times offers unintentional glimpses at the frayed reality behind the glam. also I find the DJ searching for an interview 'plot' is more endearing than annoying.

  • Comment number 88.

    "Soul Power" by Jeffrey Levi-Hinte.

    A brilliant documentary about the soul concert in Zaire in 1974, before the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight.

    I'm not a big soul fan, but this almost got me into the music. James Brown is fantastic.

    Levi-Hinte was the editor of "They Might Be Giants", and found the footage of the concert and put it together.

  • Comment number 89.

  • Comment number 90.

    Slightly off-topic, since it's not so much a rockumentary as a period drama...

    I really like Topsy-Turvy.

    I have a total tin ear for Gilbert and Sullivan, and like most sensible people I find watching their work a toe-curling experience. But the film really establishes the circumstances under which that work was created. By making you understand the inspiration behind it and the circumstances in which The Mikado was written, you begin to appreciate it. Add in a number of cracking performances (Timothy Spall has never been better than the dancing Mikado) and you have a really wonderful film.

  • Comment number 91.

    I'd be wary of using anything by Mike Leigh as a guide to reality.
    The depiction of the Gilberts' marriage is thought to have no basis.

    Jim Broadbent does not get enough lead roles, or Spall, for that matter.

  • Comment number 92.

    Does Everyone Stare.
    A visual documentary put together by Stewart Copeland, from hours of footage he had in his garage.
    I'm not a fan of the Police, but I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. It's a history of the Police from their beginnings touring America in the back of a van, to them musically becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, and finally their eventual parting. What's really good is that it's a visual story. There's not a great deal of dialogue, but what dialogue there is formulated by Copeland showing humour, and perhaps some sarcastic animosity. This joined with the footage and sound track made it a good film. I really enjoyed it.


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