I’m an equal opportunity music lover. If there isn’t a great live show in town, or I can’t convince someone to go with me, I can still sit on my duff and watch a rock oriented movie. Rock is the subject of many films, and there is a 50 year history of celluloid rock exploits. I came up with a huge list of worthy movies, and have split this blog into four parts in order not to overwhelm you. Welcome to Rock At The Movies, Scene One.
Let’s get this out right now: this list is incomplete. It is also not in any order – I’m not doing the typical American thing of “the top ten rock movies of all time.” That’s for the hacks at Rolling Stone. I just want to list some entertaining flicks that capture, in some way, great rock themes. I don’t necessarily like all the movies listed below, but even those that I don’t particularly care for are worth discussing. You’ll see what I mean if you keep reading.
If I forgot something, please let me know. I haven’t seen every movie out there, and it could easily be that I am not even aware of the movie. So bring it on, ok? And now, let’s rock!
I’m going to start with Almost Famous. This is a great semi-autobiographical movie done by Cameron Crowe. It follows a 15 year old budding rock critic as he somehow hooks up with both Rolling Stone Magazine and the fictional, up-and-coming band known as Stillwater. He tours with them, hangs out with them, garners their trust, bounces his story ideas off of Lester Bangs, and then tells all. Along the way, he meets up with Kate Hudson playing a groupie called Penny Lane, whose pathetic existence ends with a broken heart and a massive drug overdose, but with two guys falling in love with her, too. There are some great scenes, and the movie covers a lot of the 70s excessive touring antics of bands like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Trust me, if you like rock, you’ll like this movie.
This is Spinal Tap. You can watch this movie and think that you are actually watching a true documentary on a heavy metal band. But it’s all just clichés and made up antics. So many great lines, so many great scenes. It’s the stuff of legend by now, and one not be missed. I’ve liked it for so long that I own it on VHS tape – I can’t believe I just admitted that to you.
How about a documentary? One of the best that I’ve seen is called Muscle Shoals. It traces the story of Jim Hall, who grows up destitute outside the small Alabama community of Muscle Shoals. He has an early adulthood tragedy, spins out of control, and ultimately ends up setting up a music studio in town. If the story ended there, it would still be a good movie. But it doesn’t. No, Mr. Hall’s studio has local session musicians called the Swampers who play backup to some of the biggest names in rock and soul – Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and the like. Duane Allman is a session musician there for a few years before he starts the Allman Brothers. The Swampers then up and leave and set up a competing studio across town, and the names of big-time bands continue to roll in to record, like the Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. It’s a really compelling movie.
Let’s end scene one with an old-school throwback. The Beatles did a bunch of movies back in the day. They are all still kind of interesting. But A Hard Day’s Night is like a backstage pass to hang out with the Fab Four at the height of the Beatlemania period. I don’t think it was supposed to be a great film, but it’s really fun to watch. Check it out if you haven’t seen in it in a while. Its innocence and great music will have your scratching hard at your nostalgia bone.
Cut! That’s it for Scene One of Rock At The Movies. I’m not much of a movie critic, I know, but I appreciate a good story. So tomorrow we’ll get a few more films listed all of which are great rock stories. OK, dudes and shorties, see you next time.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.