Can’t keep up with the music? And now you’ve got movies on top of that? (We haven’t even gotten to the books yet.) Well, c’mon! I thought you came to play! Nobody said it was easy (according to Coldplay). In fact, becoming a music geek is a calling — like teaching, or the priesthood, or those people who write out the entire works of Shakespeare on a grain of rice. In other words, freaks. But you gotta do what you gotta do, right? And you gotta pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues (according to Ringo), so here are a few films you need to know:
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
As it is famously called, the “Citizen Kane of jukebox movies.” Dozens of musicians have cited this film as the reason they got into music, or started a band, or abandoned acoustic guitar for electric. Unlike previous teen-oriented movies centered around musical stars, this one places The Beatles in their natural habitat—“a train and a room, and a car and a room, and a room and a room”—rather than shoehorning them into contrived situations. The script allows the Fab Four to be themselves without making them—or the audience—look stupid. Director Dick Lester sometimes gets credited with inventing MTV due to his innovative techniques when filming the song sequences.
Don’t Look Back (1967)
D.A. Pennebaker’s highly influential documentary follows Bob Dylan during his 1965 tour of the United Kingdom. This is Dylan at the height of his musical—and acerbic—powers. The following year would see him have a near breakdown due to too much work, too much speed, and too much living. You may recognize the opening scene as it’s been widely imitated over the years.
Elvis – The ’68 Comeback Special (1968)
After years of making fluffy films and fluffy music, Elvis returns with a tough, new image and shows the flower children how to rock.
I’ve recommended this movie—a documentary chronicling the 1969 music festival—in previous posts, but I bring it up again because Richie Havens, the man who opened the show, died yesterday. His performances were some of the most indelible of the entire festival and he remained a cultural touchstone for a generation.
The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
Penelope Spheeris documents the metal scene in L.A. at the height of its popularity. A fascinating time capsule featuring sleaze, excess, and Ozzy Osbourne cooking breakfast (apparently while wearing his wife’s robe — or maybe Ozzy just likes cheetah print).