Show must go on: documentaries about British musicians

26.07.2020Anastasia Fedorova

It is impossible to imagine Great Britain without quality music, noisy concerts and large-scale festivals. A couple days ago we suggested you take a quiz to see how familiar you are with local bands. And now we tell you which documentaries about British musicians are worth watching this Sunday to learn a bit more about them.

“The Filth and the Fury: The Sex Pistols Story.

Sex Pistols | FUZZ MUSIC

Learn about the legendary 1970s band, as well as the London punk movement, in Julien Temple’s documentary. The director often shot music videos for the Sex Pistols, as well as their early concerts. The author’s archive includes rare footage and interviews with the rock and rollers, interspersed with their childhood photos and excerpts from TV programs about striking workers. The movie is filmed in the same hooligan manner as the band’s performances. The tape tells the story of the team from its founding to its breakup and last concert in San Francisco in 1978, and places the music of the Sex Pistols in the historical context of 1970s England. Almost the whole way of the musicians the director went together with them, so the movie turned out to be quite sincere.


A new documentary on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black is in the works ...

Unreleased tracks, footage from studio recordings and a genuine interest in parsing archival footage is the recipe for an Oscar-winning documentary from Azif Kapadia. To make a two-hour movie about Amy Winehouse, the director made more than a hundred interviews with acquaintances, friends and family of the singer. Everything is laid out, from her earliest steps in music to her Grammy Awards and dizzying success, it feels like you know Amy personally. Here she looks not like a world-famous soul queen and jazz star, but a girl from the neighbor’s yard. Archival videos and photos together with monologues of people who knew Amy closely erased the boundary between past and present, the singer’s stellar career and her personal life – all these two hours Winehouse lives together with the audience.

“The Kids Are Alright.

The Kids Are Alright (Still) | The Genealogy of Style

The 1979 film is about the iconic rock band The Who and their behind-the-scenes life. Rockumentary is assembled from conversations with the musicians, excerpts of promotional films, and recordings of live performances and parties. Director Jeff Stein was a fan of The Who himself, so he made a movie that would appeal to every fan of theirs. Before that, the author had no experience in directing – only a great love for the band and a scrapbook of photos of its tours collected at the age of 17. Stein managed to talk The musicians took this step only the second time, but eventually the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and the soundtrack album went platinum in the United States. For the filming, they had to acquire a movie studio and play a special concert, which was released as a separate live release in 2008.


Ed Sheeran Film 'Songwriter' Shows the 'Ordinary Guy,' Not the ...

Ed Sheeran has been videotaped by his cousin Murray for years – on tour, in studios and traveling with the band. In 2017, the footage turned into a documentary about the making of the album “Divide”. There is no script as such, nor are there any interviews or archival footage, except for one where little Ed records his first song. The result is a very lively movie about how one of the most famous musicians in the world lives and works. What stands out from the whole story is the passage about Sheeran taking a career break “to travel the world and see everything he missed.” Watching a selection of travel videos is certainly sad during a pandemic, but you can find inspiration for future trips.

“Elton John: The Nation’s Favourite Song.

Elton John: The Nation's Favourite Song (2017)

In the hour-and-a-half tape, Sir Elton John discusses his creative career with his friend David Walliams, and recalls his longtime collaboration with poet and one of his songwriters, Bernie Topin. Together they produced hits such as Rocket Man, I’m Still Standing and Your Song. For her movie, director Kerry Ellison collected interviews with friends and acquaintances of the musician, as well as recordings of Elton’s early performances, when he was not yet so famous. The very manner of Elton John’s conversation with writer David Walliams is similar to the style of the interview in Andy Warhol’s magazine of the same name – instead of a journalist the star is spoken to by an equally famous person.

“Rip Up the Road.

Foals to release 'Rip Up The Road' documentary | DIY

Following the release of the two-part Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Brits Foals have delighted fans with the documentary Rip Up the Road. And as the quarantine began, they also started posting snippets of the movie and rehearsal footage on YouTube to get closer to fans, as the band had to postpone their tour until 2021. Rip Up the Road is not so much about touring or recording an album as it is about the musicians’ reflections on the very notion of “rock band” in the 21st century. The result is a great documentary, bursting with melancholy interviews with each of the band members and summarizing all five albums and hundreds of Foals performances over the past 15 years.

“Queen: Days of Our Lives.

BBC Two - Queen - Days of Our Lives, Episode 1

Named after one of Queen’s songs, the film biography was released for the band’s 40th anniversary in 2011. The documentary was filmed by the Queen Productions team, so the movie consists almost entirely of archival footage – conversations, concerts and commentary from other musicians. The feed also features interviews with some of the band members who agreed to be a part of the project. For example, bassist John Deacon declined to appear in the movie, so director Matt O’Casey decided to use his archival interviews. Part one covers the band’s beginnings and the resounding success and failures of the 1970s, while part two focuses on the 1980s and the time after the death of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.


Photo: Legion-media, IMDB, BBC

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