Mojo20 Recommends // Music Documentaries

Myself and Stuart have recently found ourselves watching, recommending and discussing a lot of music documentaries. We thought we’d recommend some of them to YOU. Here’s what we think you should definitely watch:

God Bless Ozzy Osbourne
This Jack Osbourne produced documentary provides us with one of the most honest accounts in to the life of one of music’s most prolific icons, Ozzy Osbourne. Charting the highs and lows throughout his life, we get a chance to hear from the man himself and those closest around him. It’s a wonderfully made piece of film showing us everything from Ozzy’s fairly well hidden emotional side when talking about the loss of loved ones to his intense ritual before any performance he gives. It confirms him to be one of the most dedicated musicians out there and shows no sign of giving up entertaining the masses. Talking of the masses, we see within this documentary that some of Ozzy’s fans are the most loyal, energetic and crazy ones out there. Whether you’re an Ozzy fan or not, prepare to not leave your seat throughout this.

Foo Fighters / Back & Forth
Chronicling Foo Fighter’s rise to success, this documentary offers a very intimate insight in to the lives of one of the world’s most successful rock bands. Focusing in the beginning in Dave Grohl’s personal success with Nirvana, it briefly touches upon his thoughts and feeling’s in to the death of band mate and best friend, Kurt Cobain. Not wanting to take the documentary down the path of another “Who killed Kurt Cobain?’ investigation, it quickly starts focussing on the creation of the band. Grohl tells how people disliked him for starting a new band. These were surprisingly hardcore fans of Nirvana and felt that Grohl shouldn’t be in any other band than Nirvana. It shows how much work goes in to the thought process of every song, album and concert; all of which have excellent results and they’re not happy unless they have a perfect show every time. With insights from every Foo Fighters band member past and present, there really isn’t a better documentary on these guys out there.

Sound City
Sound City was one of the most famous recording studio’s in America. There’s a chance however that you’ve probably never heard of it. I almost guarantee that you possess an album which has been produced there though. With albums from artists such as Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Arctic Monkeys, Wolfmother, Queen of the Stone Age, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and Rage Against The Machine; the genre of music was eclectic and everybody enjoyed recording at the studios knowing it would be an experience they’ll never forget. In 2011, the studios closed. With fond memories of the place, Dave Grohl purchased various pieces of equipment from the owners. Becoming one of the most prized possessions in his house, he now owns the infamous ‘Neve 8028 analog mixing console’. With this and an army of musician friends, they went about producing one final album with the equipment. The documentary charts the history of the studio and also the history of music production, something I feel everyone will enjoy learning about. It strikes the question, ‘Is digital production really better?” This is an absolute must watch documentary for anyone who likes music. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like, just enjoy it.

No Direction Home
No direction home is the in-depth biography of Bob Dylan, following the makings of one of musics biggest names, and a man who has spent 40 plus years evolving and adapting his style from a strict folk traditionalist to an electrically charged rock star, from a born again christian, to a legend that continues to push the envelope. This documentary details the years between his birth and introduction to music, up to 1966 when he was in the middle of his electric invasion, which was met with disdain and disappointment from his established fans. Martin Scorsese doesn’t hold back as he tracks down and interviews anyone and everyone involved in the green folk revival of the early 60’s, including big names that helped Dylan reach the heights he did such as Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. It’s an honest and intrusive documentary that sees Dylan at his highest and lowest, it shows his funny side, and even Bob himself lets his normally sturdy walls down, for a down to earth look at how he felt throughout the various transitions of his career. For any Dylan fan, it’s the best documentary ever, for any non-Dylan fan it’s probably even better, because after 204 minutes, you’ll certainly be a fan.

The Band / The Last Waltz
Billed as the last live performance by legendary rock group The Band, Martin Scorsese created one of the greatest music spectacles of all time in The last waltz. With the majority of the live performances from the night caught on tape, and a series of follow-up interviews with the group themselves, it’s the perfect look back, and the perfect introduction, to one of musics most important, yet underrated bands. Held on Thanksgiving day 1976 at a ballroom in San Fransisco, the Band played for what became over 7 hours, giving the fans in attendance everything they wanted and more. The documentary highlights the best bits, which not only includes some amazing performances of classics like ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and ‘Stagefright’, but also special appearances by some celebrity friends that loved and respected the Band, and wanted to give them the send off they deserved. Van Morrison sends the crowd into a frenzy with a brass heavy version of ‘Caravan’, Muddy Waters shakes the room with the blues classic ‘Mannish boy’, and Neil Young brings the room to tears with a group rendition of ‘Helpless’. Neil Diamond, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton and Dr John are just a few more names that joined them on the stage that night, making it a colossal lineup, for a concert of gigantic proportions. The interviews too are not for the faint hearted, as they tell stories of the hard times on the road before they got their break. It’s any music fans dream, and the documentary focuses on the biggest and best of popular rock n roll in the mid 70’s. It never gets old, and it never gets boring. It’s a must watch.

The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins
A notable mention has to go out to this documentary as it is truly one of the best I’ve ever seen. At only 31 mins long, and recorded in 1970 by flower films, it follows Lightnin’ in his home environment, as he plays the blues, explains the blues and oozes THE BLUES! With very natural scenes of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants, a scattering of impromptu living room performances by the man himself, and more than a few words of wisdom from the Texan, it’s a wonderful insight into late 60’s black America, and the culture of the time. If you come away with nothing else, you will have answered one question by watching this (if you can find it) and that is who’s the coolest man who ever lived? Without a doubt, it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins.


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