I’ve recently been watching Beware of Mr Baker, Jay Bulger’s fascinating warts-and-all documentary about the legendary drummer Ginger Baker, and it got me thinking again about an idea I had when we last updated the music books lists* – how about a similar list of recommended music documentaries? Contemplating the music films I’ve seen over the years and rummaging through my own DVD collection, I found more than enough to start a decent list of the films I’d recommend, which you’ll find below. However, I bet you’ve got loads of other suggestions for me and I’d love to hear them! You know what to do – tweet me or comment here, and we’ll see if we can compile the ultimate music documentary list…
The list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name and the year of the film’s release. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary element. I’ve included one radio documentary, but I suspect there are plenty more of those too. Most of these films are available on DVD, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube. If you want any more information on any of the films on the list or why I chose them, just ask!
NOTE: As of October 2015, a lot of the videos featured in this playlist have sadly disappeared from YouTube. However, I’m leaving it up for what’s left, and because there are a number of other sites linking to it.
It’s hard to believe that it’s now ten years since John Peel died. It’s still hard to believe there will be no more listening to his show on headphones, half-asleep under the duvet: no more sessions from obscure and noisy bands from the middle of nowhere making you go ‘wow!’, no more grinning as Peel played yet another record at the wrong speed, no more cheeky on-air references to his beloved family and equally beloved Liverpool FC.
For the generations of music fans who grew up on John Peel’s legendarily eclectic and very human late night Radio 1 show, he opened the door to a whole new world of music – the kind of stuff you’d never hear on daytime radio, let alone find in mainstream High Street record shops. For all sorts of young and up-and-coming bands, it became a badge of honour to be invited in to do a Peel Session, and, although quite a few of these acts never went much further than the famous Maida Vale studios, many of the bands he championed did go on to much greater things.
Personally, off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen very different successful bands and artists I love who I first heard on Peel’s show. So, to celebrate this year’s #KeepingItPeel, I put together this playlist of great Peel Sessions (below) from every decade of his broadcasting career, along with a few moments from the man himself (including his fascinating 1990 Desert Island Discs and the famous moment on air when he played The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ twice in a row).
Compiling this playlist was a real labour of love – there were sessions I vividly remember, sessions I’d forgotten, and some superb ones I’d never even known about in the first place. And on many of these recordings you can hear the voice of Peel himself, crackling out of the ether ten years on. I hope you enjoy my choices, and be sure to let me know if there’s something I might have missed. Send me any interesting links in the comments here or on Twitter and I’ll check them out.
Now crank up the volume….
Nine years ago, on 25th October 2004, one of music’s great spirits left us. The word ‘legend’ is bandied around a great deal, but John Peel really was a legend – indeed, if you are a serious music fan, I can guarantee that a large percentage of your collection wouldn’t actually exist without him. He is still held in such affection by so many music lovers simply because he was one of us. He just got lucky and ended up on the radio, sharing his passion for music with generations of fans who religiously tuned in to his late-night Radio 1 show to hear what wonderful strangeness he was playing this time (often at the wrong speed – gotta love that vinyl!)
And his influence continues to this day, which is why Peel fans everywhere celebrate #KeepingItPeel every 25th October by posting something Peel-related online to honour his memory and legacy. This year, I decided to keep it simple and post the video to his favourite song ever (in fact, the opening lines to this glorious slice of pop-punk are carved on his tombstone) – and a truly classic song it is too….
Today is the seventh anniversary of the DJ, broadcaster and all-round music legend John Peel‘s unexpected and much-mourned death in 2004. As one of the many, many music fans of all ages who loved his Radio 1 show and were inspired by the incredibly varied and hugely eclectic music he played, I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us; no longer playing strange records at the wrong speed and introducing an extremely unprepared world to the musical delights of death metal and the likes of the Aphex Twin. So, today I’m celebrating John Peel Day, and #KeepingItPeel in order to honour the great man’s memory and legacy….
It’s possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays… – RHJ Brooke, John’s housemaster, in one of his school reports.
Born John Ravenscroft to a well-off family in Cheshire on 30th August 1939, he spent his youth at Shrewsbury, a well-regarded public school, where he fell in love with 50s rock ‘n’ roll (much to the annoyance of some of his teachers!), before going on to do his national service in the Royal Artillery – which he didn’t enjoy very much at all:
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy.
Time was always flexible in the hands of the late Douglas Adams. Well known for his intimate distrust of deadlines (“I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by”, as he famously once said) and his spectacular bouts of writer’s block, he was thus an incorrigible procrastinator of the first order when it came to writing, and, on occasion, apparently had to be locked into a hotel room in order to complete the final draft of whichever novel he was writing at the time, only to be let out at intervals by his publisher for ‘supervised’ walks in case he should try to make a run for it!
He was, however, also a complete and utter genius. And I’m not the only one who reckons so; not by a factor of at least 15 million worldwide – as wildly improbable as that may sound (and, after that, anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem, as Trillian so wisely puts it). His books are held in great affection by people of all ages, all across the galaxy, and have now been translated into more than thirty languages (presumably not including Vogon, as they lack all sense of poetry).
The story of how this rather tall, very funny and, sadly, now equally late genius came to write the cult classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novels, which celebrated their thirtieth anniversary on October 12th, is (unsurprisingly) equally unreliable time-wise. There are several versions of the moment inspiration struck, some which are more true than others. To a given value of true, of course.
UPDATE: THERE WILL NOW BE HIGHLIGHTS OF UKRAINE V ENGLAND ON BBC1 TONIGHT (SATURDAY 10TH OCTOBER) – TUNE IN TO MATCH OF THE DAY AT 10.15PM.
An Occasional Series of Short(ish) Rants and Ramblings about the Beautiful Game
Honestly. Who’d be an England fan? I ask (yet again) in all seriousness, as the latest installment in the long-running soap opera of supporting the national team rolls into town again late tomorrow afternoon. Or rather it doesn’t. Because, unless you are one of the (approximately) one million England fans who a) is prepared to actually fork out up to fifteen quid to watch the game on a tiny monitor, and b) has a fast enough internet connection, or c) is mad enough to pay the ticket prices demanded by the ‘selected’ Odeon cinemas who are showing the game, you won’t be watching the Ukraine v England World Cup qualifying match tomorrow; not even in the pub, which fact alone is enough to make me weep into my pint – if I wasn’t actually drinking a cup of tea instead.
For a change, this isn’t Sky depriving your average England fan of her fix of qualifying matches and friendlies, despite the oft-bemoaned fact that their sports packages (plus the equipment, plus installation…) are financially out reach for many. Tempting as it may be (and tempting as it always is), this is not an anti-Murdoch rant – for a change, ol’Rupey-baby isn’t responsible for this particular balls-up.