Saturday 11 November 2023

The Saturday list #421 - My top ten music films

 On Thursday, we went to the IMAX at Waterloo to watch the digitally restored version of Talking Heads Stop Making Sense. I have a soft spot for the Talking Heads for three reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, I have always had a massive crush on Tina Weymouth. Not only because she is very pretty, but I'd love to collaborate with her musically. I've always loved her bass playing, in many way she reminds me of Paul Hircombe, the old bassplayer in the False Dots. Unshowy, but absolutely spot on. Unlike many artists, I always felt Tina is someone who would contribute and want to be part of the band and the creative process. The second reason is because Talking Heads were supporting The Ramones in 1977 at The Roundhouse on the night I had my musical epiphany. They will always be a big part of my musical journey. Thirdly, Once in a Lifetime. I remember being in the Three Hammers with Paul Hircombe. He said "Have you heard Talking Heads new single?" and put it on the jukebox. My jaw dropped. I think we played it ten times in a row. Nothing had sounded like that before. As you might imagine, the film is rather good. When I saw them at The Roundhouse, there were just four of them. It was very intense. In truth, ny fourteen year old self didn't really appreciate them, It took me a couple of years to really get into what they were doing, although Talking Heads 77 was one of the first albums I bought. 

Anyway, what better reason to put a list of my favourite music films together

1. Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads. a tour de force by David Byrne and co. It is perhaps the longest music video you'll see. An entire set, brilliantly filmed, capturing the genius of Byrne and the excellence of the band. Well worth a trip to the IMAX

2. Woodstock - Various. A very long film, some of it is rubbish, but it is redeemed totally by Richie Havens, Sly and The Family Stone, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The performance by Richie Havens is possibly the best performance by anyone ever recorded on film. It is simply Havens jamming, but the power of the performance is beyond belief.

3. The Harder They Come. Jimmy Cliff as a strubbling musician in 1970's Jamaica. Great music and proper gritty plotline. You really get a feel for what Jamaica was like for up and coming musicians at the time.

4. Slade in Flame. I saw this when it came out. It is a magnificent film that somehow has never really received the recognition it deserves. As someone who has spent my life in bands, many of the things in the film have a resonance.

5. Quadrophenia. A film made by The Who. It brilliantly captures the Mods v Rockers era. The soundtrack is pretty amazing as well. A special mention for Leslie Ash. Every heterosexual male of a certain age will know what I am talking about.

6. Summer of Soul. This is the flip side to Woodstock, although ironically the best performances at Woodstock were by Richie Havens and Sly Stone. This was a festival in Harlem for black artists. Once again Sly Stone was the star. One thing that brought a tear to my eye was the fact that it was the white Republican Mayor who made the whole thing happen. Oh to have such enlightened republicans today. 

7. Straight Outta Compton. I'm not really a Rap fan, but this is awesome. The story of the rise of NWA. A brilliant piece of work. I only watched this on TV because I had nothing else to do, but was totally captivated. One that I'd love to see at the IMAX.

8. Control. The story of Joy Division. I saw Joy Divisions 2nd London gig, supporting the Cure at The Marquee. The albums they produced were simply amazing and Love will tear us apart is one of the best tracks ever recorded. The film is bleak but brilliant. 

9. Walk the line. The Johnny Cash story. I was aware of Johnny Cash's music  before I saw this film, but had never really been that interested in Cash the man. Watching the film opened my eyes to the depth of the man and gave some of the songs I'd listened to for decades a depth and meaning I'd missed. I used to tease my sister about her love for Johnny Cash but I'd always reckoned he was actually pretty good. 

10. The Blues Brothers. I agonised long and hard as to whether I'd include this. To me it is more of a comedy than a music film, and it is a little bit too much of a comedic look at what it is like being in a band, everything is a bit too cartoon and amplified, but when it comes down to it, you simply cannot ignore the fact that this was the film that lead to a big resurgance in Rythm and Blues. And the music is great.

And a few mentions of films I didn't mention. I didn't pick any of the Amy Winehouse films as I felt none really captured what made Amy such an important figure and none did her justice as an artist. I didn't choose Spinal Tap, because for me it really didn't sum up what being in a band was like. It is sort of what people who are not in bands imagine it is like. Anyone who has ever played in a band has put a lot of hard work in. Sure some of us go off the rails when we get some success, but it just annoyed me. What annoyed me most is that people thought thats what we were like. In many ways we were worse, but it was also far more fun. I am none to keen on most of the biopics such as Rocketman etc. To me they don't enlighten me at all.

I'd love to put a music film festival together, with all of the above and Q&A's with some of the cast, directors and those influenced by them. 

For a laugh, my band, The False Dots made a little documentary about how we put a recording together. It won't make the above list, but it is a bit of fun and we've had some nice feedback on it.

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