What makes a good music documentary?
The best ones are those that transcend their genre, that reach far beyond the fanbase to tell us something about life inside the bubble of fame, talent, temptations and boiling-pot pressure.
‘Supersonic’ does just this with its glimpse behind the curtain of ultimate rock stardom in the 1990s, by which I mean Oasis, by which I mean the Gallagher brothers.
For every note that Noel effortlessly penned, he needed Liam to bring them to life - something he gives him all due credit for in this film, as well as being able to rock a Parka jacket like no other human. But it’s not all praise...
What other music documentaries do far more than give us a Greatest Hits tour? Here are just a few...
Immensely successful for her incredible raw talent, Amy Winehouse shot to fame possibly before she was ready. The 2015 documentary 'Amy' tells the story of her life from childhood to her death in 2011 through the use of archive footage and commentary from family and friends. Winning the Best Documentary Oscar in 2016, this film follows the tragic trail of Winehouse’s downward spiral into alcoholism and drugs
Martin Scorsese delved into the world of Bob Dylan in this 2005 documentary. Focusing on his impact on 20th century American pop culture and music, the film concentrates on the period between Dylan’s arrival in New York in January 1961 to his ‘retirement’ in 1966. Encapsulating Dylan’s rise to fame as a folk singer and songwriter, and the controversy around his move to a rock style of music, the documentary was widely given the seal of approval.
Oscar-winning 'Searching for Sugar Man' was written and directed by Malik Bendjelloul. The documentary tells the story of Rock and Roll star Sixto Rodriguez who became one of the most successful Mexican singers of his generation and rose to fame rapidly during the early 70s. Rumour had it that Rodriguez had committed suicide, however, this was never confirmed so two fans decided to set out to find out the truth. What followed was a heart-warming story in which they found far more than they had anticipated
Directed by Ondi Timoner, 'Dig!' tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre; and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols; dissecting their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry. Both are hell-bent on staging a self-proclaimed revolution of the music industry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers - and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business - how each handles his stab at success is where the relationship frays and burns.
Shot through beautiful black and white sequences, 'Control' tells the tale of Ian Curtis – a man who had aspirations beyond the trapping of small town life in 1970s England. Determined to emulate his musical heroes such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Curtis joined a band and his ambitions continued to grow. However, soon enough the pressures of life and the growing expectations of supporting his young family were emulated in his song writing, and started to play an integral part in his musical journey. With epilepsy adding to his guilt and depression, Curtis became consumed by the strains on his health. Directed by Anton Corbijn.
Beginning with the caption: ‘This film should be played loud!’ it’s hard to not find yourself thrown into the rock and roll world of Winterland: The Band. Looking back at Thanksgiving 1976 when the band performed its last concert after 16 years on the road. This documentary, again directed by Martin Scorsese, explores how the band makes their music, but also their off stage dynamic. Interviewing the five Band members they all provide insight into life as a group up right until the last waltz
Also known as 'In Bed with Madonna', the documentary chronicles Madonna’s controversial 1960 ‘Blonde Ambition’ international tour. Travelling from Japan to America, and stopping at various points between The East Coast and the West Coast, the film takes a look behind the scenes at Madonna’s relationship with her dancers and crews. It also offers an intimate glimpse into Madonna’s family and friends, and then boyfriend Warren Beatty. 'Truth or Dare' achieves a rare insight into her boundary-pushing drive and individuality.
This documentary by German filmmaker Wim Wenders follows renowned guitarist Ry Cooder and his son, Joachim, as they travel to Cuba and assemble a group of the country's finest musicians to record an album. Among the artists included in the project are singer Ibrahim Ferrer and pianist Rubén González, who are both interviewed and featured in studio footage. Eventually the ensemble travels to the United States to perform in front of rapt audiences.
Starring the likes of 50 Cent, Sean Combes and Common, 'Beef' takes a chronological look at battles dating back to the early 1980s. Some of the most notorious hip-hop feuds between rivalries, including the legendary break up of group N.W.A are looked at in greater detail. Producer Quincy Jones III brings together some of hip-hop’s most notable personalities such as Russell Simmons, Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z to participate in the film through rare interviews.
Bob Marley's universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet is unparalleled. This film offers the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days through his rise to international super-stardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, there is rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. We get to see the spiritual influence of the 'Singing River' as Native Americans called it, and how the music of Muscle Shoals was carried to the world. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and tragedy, he brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the 'Muscle Shoals Sound' and 'The Swampers'. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals' magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today.
Made by the same award-winning producers 'Amy' and 'Senna', 'Supersonic' casts the same intimate spell over the story of the Gallagher brothers and their extraordinary musical collaboration, both during the rise and height of fame of Oasis, but also their notorious rivalry. For a brief time in the 1990s, the music scene was chaos and they were at the centre of it all. This film shows how lucky we were to have them, and also not to be standing anywhere near them.
‘SUPERSONIC’ is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download today.