Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music – Your Choices

I knew you wouldn’t let me down! Just as it was with the music books, I’ve been sent so many suggestions of must-watch music documentaries that I’ve had to compile a separate list. And there’s some fantastic stuff here – almost every musical genre you can think of is represented on your list; pretty much something for everyone, whatever your tastes run to.

Again, we’d be here all night if I were to list everyone who contributed to the list (there were a lot of you…). You all know who you are – a big thank you to everybody involved, on and offline! If, after perusing these selections, you still think there’s something missing, have a look at my original list of documentaries first. If it’s not there, then please feel free to leave a comment or tweet me, and I’ll add it to this list.

As before, the list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name (if known – I have been unable to track down the director details for some of the BBC productions), the year of the film’s release, and any other necessary information. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary aspect. One or two have a fictional and/or comedy element – this list does indeed go up to eleven… Most (but not all) of these films are available on DVD or can be downloaded/streamed online, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube.

1991: The Year Punk Broke (Dave Markey, 1992)

20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville, 2013)

A Band Called Death (Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett, 2012)

All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music (Tony Palmer, 1977) Note: Seventeen part TV series.

Amy (Asif Kapadia, 2015)

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2008)

Art Will Save The World (Niall McCann, 2012)

Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (Michael Rapaport, 2011)

Beautiful Noise (Eric Green, 2014)

Belle and Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister (R.J. Bentler, 2013)

Benda Bilili! (Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye, 2010)

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 1967) Note: Sometimes titled ‘Don’t Look Back’ with an apostrophe.

Chas & Dave: Last Orders (Julian Hendy, 2012)

Chet Baker: Let’s Get Lost (Bruce Weber, 1988)

Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements (Gorman Bechard, 2011)

Crass: There Is No Authority But Yourself (Alexander Oey, 2006)

Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story (Robert Bralver and David Ferino, 2011)

Dancing In The Street: A Rock And Roll History (Karen Walsh, 1995) Note: BBC TV series.

Dig! (Ondi Timoner, 2004)

DOA: A Rite of Passage (Lech Kowalski, 1980)

Dr Feelgood: Oil City Confidential (Julien Temple, 2009)

Edwyn Collins: The Possibilities Are Endless (James Hall and Edward Lovelace, 2014)

End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones (Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia, 2003)

Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart (Gorman Bechard, 2013)

Ginger Baker in Africa (Tony Palmer, 1973) Note: Originally broadcast as part of the BBC Omnibus strand.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel (Gandulf Hennig, 2004)

Hawkwind: Do Not Panic (Simon Chu, 2007)

Heartworn Highways (James Szalapski, 1976/1981) Note: Conflicting release dates depending on source.

Heaven Adores You: A Documentary Film About the Life and Music of Elliott Smith (Nickolas Dylan Rossi, 2014)

Heavy Metal (Helen Gallacher, 1989) Note: Originally broadcast as part of the BBC Arena strand.

Hit So Hard: The Life & Near-Death Story of Patty Schemel (David Ebersole, 2011)

Howard Goodall’s Story of Music (Various Directors, 2013) Note: Six part series broadcast on BBC2.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (Sam Jones, 2002)

Imagine: John Lennon (Andrew Solt, 1988)

Incredible String Band: Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending (Peter Neal, 1970)

Instrument: Ten Years With The Band Fugazi (Jem Cohen, 1999)

In The Club: Eric’s (Granada, 2003) Note: Granada TV documentary short, unknown director.

It’s Not Repetition, It’s Discipline: A Film About Mark E. Smith & The Fall (Troels Holmstrom, Jesper Hedeager Madsen & Lars Kjelfred, 2015)

Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You (Serena Cross, 2002)

Jethro Tull: Fish ‘N’ Sheep ‘N’ Rock ‘N’ Roll (Jeremy Lack, 1987)

Kurt and Courtney (Nick Broomfield, 1998)

Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles and Bernard Knowles, 1967) Note: Knowles is uncredited in the titles.

MC5: A True Testimonial (David C. Thomas, 2002)

Meeting People Is Easy: A Film By Grant Gee About Radiohead (Grant Gee, 1998)

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Jessica Wise, 2005)

Mistaken for Strangers (Tom Berninger, 2013)

My Secret World: The Story of Sarah Records (Lucy Dawkins, 2014)

Neil Sedaka: King of Song (George Scott, 2014)

Nick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, 2014)

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: The Road to God Knows Where (Uli M. Schuppel, 1990)

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: God Is In The House (Fabien Raymond, 2001)

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Martin Scorsese, 2005)

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records (Jeff Broadway, 2013)

Put More Blood Into The Music (Charles Atlas, 1989) Note: Originally broadcast as part of ITV’s South Bank Show strand.

Punk Britannia (Sam Bridger and Andrew Dunn, 2012) Note: BBC TV series.

Reggae Britannia (Jeremy Marre, 2011)

R.E.M by MTV (Alexander Young, 2014)

Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae (Stascha Bader, 2009)

Ronnie Lane: The Passing Show (BBC, 2006)

Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage (Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, 2010)

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijack, 2006)

Scratch (Doug Pray, 2001)

Separado! (Gruff Rhys and Dylan Goch, 2010)

Seven Ages Of Rock (Various Directors, 2007) Note: Seven part BBC TV series.

Soul Boys of the Western World – Spandau Ballet: The Film (George Hencken, 2014)

Springsteen & I (Baillie Walsh, 2013)

The Adventures of the Son of Exploding Sausage (David Korr, 1969) Note: ‘Silent’ short by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart (BBC, 1997) Note: Narrated by John Peel.

The Beatles Anthology (Geoff Wonfor and Bob Smeaton, 1995)

The Beatles Story Note: The toughest one to track down! Details vary by source so much, I’m not including them here.

The Blues (Various Directors, 2003) Note: TV series produced by Martin Scorsese.

The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins (Les Blank and Skip Gerson, 1968)

The Blues: Red, White and Blues (Mike Figgis, 2003) Note: An episode of the Scorsese-produced TV series ‘The Blues’.

The Decline of Western Civilisation (Penelope Spheeris. 1981)

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005)

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith (Dione Newton, 2005)

The Fearless Freaks: The Wondrously Improbable Story of The Flaming Lips (Bradley Beesley, 2005)

The Grateful Dead Movie (Jerry Garcia, 1977)

The Monkees: Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968)

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (Eric Idle and Gary Weiss, 1978)

The Wrecking Crew (Denny Tedesco, 2008)

Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (Charlotte Zwerin, 1988)

This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984) Note: Yep, all the way up to eleven!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down A Dream (Peter Bogdanovich, 2007)

Tupac & Biggie (Nick Broomfield, 2002)

Upside Down: The Creation Records Story (Danny O’Connor, 2010)

We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen (Tim Irwin, 2005)

Who is Poly Styrene? (Ted Clisby, 1979) Note: Originally broadcast as part of the BBC Arena strand.

You’ll Never Walk Alone (Jerome de Missolz, 1992)

You’re Gonna Miss Me: A Film About Roky Erickson (Keven McAlester, 2005)

And if you haven’t had enough after all that, here’s an absolutely brilliant YouTube playlist of music documentaries and the like, compiled by the most excellent @contra_flow – I am in total awe of the time and effort it must have taken to put together (and I have form in the ridiculously long list department, as you know)!

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3 comments

  1. SidneyP

    …i asked the other side of my collective hive musical mind and they said…

    Dig! (2004)
    Brian Jonestown Massacre vs. Dandy Warhols!
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388888/?ref_=fn_al_tt_5
    (for now) https://youtu.be/sHwpl5_Fx5c

    Heaven Adores You (2014)
    Elliott Smith
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2244889/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
    http://heavenadoresyou.com/
    (for now) https://youtu.be/0rp5y3gzzWM

    Howard Goodall’s Story of Music
    …not on iPlayer (boooo)
    All 6 episodes available on YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=howard+goodall%27s+story+of+music+

    • trickygirl

      Good call, sir!

      ‘Dig!’ is on the list, but the other two aren’t.

      Haven’t seen the Elliott one yet….

      The Howard Goodall series is very good indeed, if I remember rightly.

      Thanks!

  2. Pingback: October Update | Another Kind Of Mind

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