10 Films

Leaving aside the classics (Woodstock, The Kids Are Alright, Rust Never Sleeps, Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Performance, Cocksucker Blues, This Is Spinal Tap, The Last Waltz), here are 10 (or so) great music films to check out:

Two Lane Blacktop (1971)–not a music film per se, although it stars James Taylor and Dennis Wilson–but I always think of this laconic road movie as kind of a tour film without the concerts…and the look and attitude of Taylor and Wilson’s characters anticipates the blank generation punk vibe too…

The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)–written, directed and starring character actor Timothy Carey (http://www.absolutefilms.net/tim_carey/psychotronics.html), playing an insurance salesman who quits his job to became a Presley-style singer/messiah-figure; with a score by a very young Frank Zappa

Payday (1973)–Rip Torn as a country star on the way down; written by cult novelist Don Carpenter, makes Crazy Heart (which I liked) look like Hee Haw…

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)–feel-good documentary about terminal loser (or is the proper term “hoser”?) Canadian metal band from the 80s who never gave up no matter what; after the film came out AC/DC picked them to open a world tour!

Groupies (1970)–amazing doc about the NY/LA groupie scenes with great club footage of Joe Cocker doing “Delta Lady” and an astounding glimpse of Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee mauling his guitar with a drumstick–an unlikely antecedent to messrs Moore & Ranaldo, but the camera doesn’t lie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIy3m9XuuoQ

A Film About Jimi Hendrix (1973)–made by producer Joe Boyd, some cool and unexpected talking heads (including Lou Reed) discussing Hendrix only a year or two after he died, plus great concert footage

Rock My Religion (1982–84)–video by artist Dan Graham that synthesizes the Shakers, Jerry Lee Lewis, JIm Morrison, Patti Smith, hardcore punk and Sonic Youth, essential viewing (and reading, it came from his essay of the same name). Dan also made a video of a Minor Threat show at Great Guildersleeves c. 1982 that is, for my money, the best hardcore punk footage anywhere…

Decline of Western Civilization (1981)–Penelope Spheeris’ doc of the original LA punk scene, with X, Black Flag, the Germs, etc. Bracing, to say the least; totally changed my life when I saw it at the Quad on 13th St. upon release

The Buddy Holly Story/American Hot Wax (both 1978)–my two favorite Hollywood 50s rock movies, which I also saw in the late 70s when they first came out. Not many people know that Gary Busey, Don Stroud, and Charles Martin Smith actually play the instruments themselves in the Buddy Holly movie–and Don Stroud had never played drums before! American Hot Wax is the Alan Freed story, and was directed by Floyd Mutrux, who does a lot of Broadway jukebox musicals now but back in 1971 made a semi-doc about LA street life called Dusty and Sweets McGee which is one of my favorite movies (and has a “Solid Gold Weekend” oldies radio soundtrack which predates the similar device in American Graffiti by two years)

All Dolled Up (2005)–available as a DVD, photographer Bob Gruen’s video footage of the New York Dolls’ first (and only?) trip to LA; for a similar video look at Memphis around the same time (including appearances by the legendary Jim Dickinson), see Stranded in Canton (1974/restored 2008) by William Eggleston (another photographer, who took the photos on Big Star’s Radio City and Alex Chilton’s Like Flies On Sherbert).

Alan Licht