The rock documentary is a classic format, a genre producing a litany of excellent and memorable flicks. These movies range from the musically sublime, like Gimme Shelter, to the explosively hilarious, such as Spinal Tap – recently voted the greatest ever comedy film. Overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of the big pictures, though, are a nest of hidden gems. Covering everything from landmark music festivals to the lesser-known personalities of band members, they provide extra flavor and insight to the world of rock.
Beware Of Mr Baker
Anyone who knows anything about percussion will be aware of, and perhaps a fan of, Ginger Baker. As the founding member of seminal psychedelic outfit Cream, his drums on Toad have been described by the Denver Post as a endlessly copied 15 minute barrage. Covering his life is the lesser-known gem Beware Of Mr Baker. Directed and produced by Jay Bulger, with the expertise of Erik H. Gordon and Fisher Stevens, the documentary has been lauded for it’s honest approach to Ginger, not compromising in any way and producing a refreshing and engaging bio picture of a superstar. Like many other smaller pictures, the low-key nature of the documentary allows for a greater insight.
Anvil! The Story Of Anvil
If you’ve heard of Anvil, it’s probably because you’ve had an opportunity to dig out their documentary. Described by one IMDB reviewer as being one of heavy metal’s most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts, the documentary follows them post-tour in 2006. The film focuses on their ups and downs as they tour and record, and the struggles of finding cash to make music. In one segment, vocalist Steve Kudlow tries – and fails – to take up a job as a sunglasses salesman to find some extra cash to finance their recording.
Anvil! received critical acclaim and a celebrity following. This includes, according to Kudlow, legendary Scottish rocker Jethro Tull. It’s well worth the watch, especially for aspiring musicians looking for inspiration.
Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen is a household name, and 2016 saw the world saddened by his passing. Many people will not be aware of Ladies and Gentlemen…, which provides a fantastic insight into Cohen and his history as a poet and novelist, long before he launched his hugely influential music career, which the NYT note is now the subject of an exhibition. Of note is the claim, made in the biography of film-maker Don Owen, that the documentary originally sought to interview multiple poets before settling just for Cohen, given his charisma. Watching this picture will be perfect to give an insight into the mind and motivations of one of soft rock and folk music’s greatest ever lyricists and influences.
Rock documentaries are often epics and produce classic viewing material. Behind the impressive power and lure of larger pictures are the lesser-known, hidden gems of the genre. Picking a few of these up and taking a closer look could give you insights into some of rock’s best stories.