February 10, 2011

MRQE Rewind: 10 Iconic Rock-Docs


With the world premier of Justin Bieber’s 3D documentary, Never Say Never, coming out on Friday, we here at MRQE thought it would be appropriate to compile a list of some of the best iconic rockumentaries ever. Justin Bieber is literally an overnight success making millions of girls (and boys) cry, scream, obsess, and become fanatic over his every move; though, Bieber is a pop-singer who seems quite cookie-cutter. Below we recount some of the most legendary artists and performances ever. From Madonna to the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin, each of their respective documentaries remains as iconic in exploring the true music legends that they were (and still are), and their sometime notorious, yet still renowned performances.


Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) - MRQE Metric: n/a

Madonna is known for her scandalous and infamous ways. Truth or Dare--or on the international markets known as In Bed with Madonna--is a documentary about Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. The film takes the audience everywhere, as the original working title boasts, “On the road, behind the scenes, and in bed with Madonna.” Critics and audiences loved this film because it is one of the most honest glimpses ever into Madonna’s most personal, erotic, and scandalous. She truly is a crazy women and her madness speaks volumes reel after reel. The doc was famously spoofed by SNL, and by comedienne Julie Brown. And, of course, a year later she came out with Sex.




The Song Remains the Same (1976) - MRQE Metric: n/a

Led Zeppelin's concert-rockumentary, The Song Remains the Same--filmed at Madison Square Garden in 1973--gave everyone a front row seat into Zepp’s three-night concert series with the potential to hit millions of viewers. The band was required to wear the same clothes during all three nights of their performances so the editing would seem more seamless; ironically--but it is still evident throughout the film--are the nights where Jimmy Page did not think about this, and is caught wearing a different dragon suit in two of the songs. Regardless, this film has still been praised for its honest portrayal of who this band was and the magic they were capable of producing on stage. And, the fantasy sequences interlaced with the concert footage only added to the mysticism of the band.




This Is It (2009) - MRQE Metric: 72

This Is It, both beautiful and heartbreaking, chronicles Michael Jackson's preparations for his final tour that was abruptly cut short just weeks before opening night due to his sudden, mysterious death in his California home. The doc trails Jackson from beginning to end of his tour preparations--from anticipation to anxiety to acceleration--and plays out almost as the concert that never was, as we see the King of Pop perform his hits during sound checks. Audiences members, for the first time, were given a glimpse into Jackson’s true emotional side. This Is It will forever stand as a hedge stone in Jackson’s record shattering career.




Don't Look Back (1967) - MRQE Metric: n/a

Bob Dylan is a man of his word. He is outspoken, controversial, and also charismatic and charming. Filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, Don’t Look Back follows Dylan on tour across the United Kingdom. This film portrays his most provocative side, as well as, his genuine character, and captures some of Dylan's cynicism towards the press. Don't Look Back also features one of the first music videos, as the opening scene has Dylan flipping note cards in tune with "Subterranean Homesick Blues." A classic in its own realm, Don’t Look Back was selected in 1998 to be submitted into the United States National Film Registry by the Library for Congress.




Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) - MRQE Metric: 76

Motown defined R&B music, and Standing in the Shadows of Motown captures every bit of that definition. Released in 2002, this film documents the session musicians featured on the popular Motown-produced music all the way from 1959, and showcases what it meant to be apart of the thriving Detroit music scene. Starring everyone from Chaka Khan, to the Funk Brothers, to Ben Harper, this film illuminates their untold story, and how American R&B began to spread across the globe.




Gimme Shelter (1970) - MRQE Metric: 86

"The Nightmare at Altamont," Gimme Shelter documents the Rolling Stones fateful call to the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. Produced in 1970, the Stones played a deadly free concert at Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Captured on film is the infamous moment when a Hell’s Angel member stabbed to death young Meredith Hunter, just eighteen years old. Another irony of the film is that famed Star Wars creator George Lucas was one of the producers on set at the concert, though his camera jammed and no footage was ever salvaged for the final cut. A historic film, Gimme Shelter is a stunning realization about the madness that followed the Rolling Stones everywhere.




The Last Waltz (1978) - MRQE Metric: 80

There have been many exceptional concert films, though The Last Waltz directed by Martin Scorsese in 1976 is probably the best. A captivating film about The Band’s last performance, the concert/film feauters guest stars and contemporaries--everyone one from Eric Clapton, to Bob Dylan, to Van Morrison, to Neil Young, and Ringo Starr. It has been rumored that the amount of drug use that occurred during the filming of this rockumentary almost made the film impossible, so much so to the point that there was a supposed backstage room painted white with large plastic noses and an audio track of sniffing noises. While Clapton was at the show, the remaining members of Cream were nowhere to be seen, but oh, the white room!




This Is Spinal Tap (1984) - MRQE Metric: 86

Who says documentaries have to be non-fiction? This is Spinal Tap is "mockumentary" chronicling the fictional account of "one of England's loudest bands." The mock-doc follows the few highs, and much lows of the heavy metal band, Spinal Tap, as we see their career change from their early pop-folk days, to their psychedelic phase, and finally their turn to metal during the mid-to-late '70s. We follow Spinal Tap, as their career takes a large plummet; though the band hardly understands what's going on. Directed by Rob Reiner, This is Spinal Tap takes the audience on a bizarre, yet seemingly realistic look, at small town kids coming into fame in the rock n' roll generation; all the while delivering some of the most iconic scenes and quotes, that, in many cases, rang true with real-life musicians.




Woodstock (1970) - MRQE Metric: 85

Woodstock is one of the best rockumentaries of all time. With its split-screen direction, this film gives a beautiful and enchanting glimpse into the legendary Woodstock Festival of 1969. From Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the classic performance of Joe Crocker and the Grease Band singing “With a Little Help from My Friends.” For anyone who was unable to physically be at the Woodstock festival, this film makes you believe and feel as if you were there.




Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) - MRQE Metric: 87

You may cry or you may laugh. Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a rockumentary that plays out like This Is Spinal Tap; but this is real. Released in 2008 about Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, this film is a heart-wrenching tale of passion; a band that never really broke into the brink of success, but never quit. Anvil! makes you wonder what they did wrong. The band has the praise of great artists like Metallica's Lars Ulrich and Slash, though the collaborative step and support was never truly present. However, following the film's release, the band finally got some breaks. They toured with AC/DC, performed on The Tonight Show (during the Conan O'Brien era), and hit the road in 2010 on a European tour; they even filmed a cameo appearance in The Green Hornet. The film itself won two festival awards.


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