Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Alleged in Their Own Time Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental spring roll-in-the-hay Fah Lo Suee and I are...well, I don't actually have a joke ready, but after three weeks in DivShare Hell, the List is indeed back. Tanned, rested and ready, as was said of Richard Nixon or somebody.

That being the case, and given that it's going to be a little uneventful around here for the next day or two, let's get right to the traditional little project for us to wile away the idle hours that might otherwise be spent in neurotic self-contemplation:

Best or Worst Documentary on a Pop/Rock Artist or Group Who Is/Are Not Necessarily a Household Word!!!

No arbitrary rules, but as a bonus additional theme: As Yet Unmade Documentary You'd Most Like To See About a Pop/Rock Artist or Group Who Is/Are Not Necessarily a Household Word !!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. The Doughboys -- Rock N' Raw Live

Formed in the immediate aftermath of the British Invasion, The Doughboys, featuring drummer and future powerpop god Richard X. Heyman (his 2006 Actual Sighs album is a bona fide heartbreaking work of staggering genius) were Plainfield, New Jersey teenagers who eventually recorded "Everybody Knows My Name," one of the cooler regional hit singles of the era. (Here's the b-side, "Rhoda Mendelbaum," which just might be my favorite 60s song title ever). [Correction:"Rhoda Mendelbaum" was the A-side of their first single, and "Everybody Knows My Name" the A-side of their second single, both on Bell Records. The B-sides, respectively, were "You're A Pip, Mr. Hip" and "Candy Candy". I regret the error. -- Ed.]

They went their separate ways soon after, but in the last couple of years they've been recording new music, playing clubs all over the place, and generally making some of the most intelligent and convincing garage-rock noises on the planet.

This new film, on a DVD which includes a complete recent live show (with an accompanying CD) and a lot of evocative period footage -- is a vastly entertaining look at their rise and fall and rise again. Great music, and positively inspirational on a lot of levels; you can view a clip from it and order it over at the band's website here. I'd do it now, if I were you.

4. The Monks -- The Transatlantic Feedback

Five American G.I.s, stationed in Germany at the height of the Cold War, shave their heads and invent Blank Generation punk rock ten years ahead of schedule. Still the weirdest saga in all of rock, and the film is pretty much the last word on it.

3. Scott Walker -- 30 Century Man

That's Scott Walker as in The Walker Brothers, as in the transplendently gorgeous 60s hit "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore." And a career since then that has defied easy characterization on any level. As I said in my review in 2009, this is one of the most remarkable music documentaries in ages, and certainly the absolute best ever made about a guy who went into a studio to record the sound of a man punching a side of pork.

2. The Remains -- America's Lost Band

Boston's finest -- they stole the show on the 1966 Beatles tour, by all accounts -- but they never really broke through, despite stellar turns on the Sullivan show and Hullabaloo. This 2008 documentary, narrated by long time fan Peter Wolf, does them full justice

And the Numero Uno if-you're-so-great-why-don't-I-know-your-name flick of them all simply has to be....

1. Dean Reed -- American Rebel

The short version: Reed was an American folk singer, groomed to be a teen idol in the late 50s, who wound up moving to Communist East Germany and finishing his career as a sort of Hero of the People's Republic before dying under mysterious circumstances in 1986. The guy was charismatic enough, although his music kind of sucked, but it's an interesting story to say the least, and the film gets to the You Can't Make This Shit Up strangeness of it quite effectively.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?


Gummo said...

Don't know if the Nilsson bio fits the bill, but those 2 hours turned me from someone who basically knew who he was into a big fan, so that's a pretty good accomplishment for a movie.

I'd like to see a documentary on the labyrinthine career of Pere Ubu -- from the ousting and death of their young, brilliant founder, Peter Laughner, to becoming punk/new wave critics' darlings to the ever-shifting band lineup to their dissolution and reformation in the 80s; to the resurrection of their pre-Ubu lineup, Rocket From the Tombs, this is a great band with some fascinating characters and a long, twisty story.

Shriner said...

I'd like to see a documentary about Frank Zappa -- warts and all -- with lots of interviews from everybody who was ever in his band (not just the Mothers). I'm actually surprised there isn't one by now.

Agreed on the Nilsson bio -- I'm not a big fan, but thought it was pretty good (as was the recent one on Roky Ericsson)

The Phantom Creep said...

If you can find a copy, the MC5 documentary is simply astounding.

steve simels said...

And this one
Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King

is definitely worth looking for. Genuine American eccentrics.....

Gummo said...

Phantom Creeps --

Yes, it's great!

Back around '84, '85, the SCTV crew did a mockumentary for HBO about the Schmenge Brothers last concert before breaking up called The Last Polka.

Not laugh out loud funny exactly, but a very amusing takeoff on The Last Waltz.

Does that count?

buzzbabyjesus said...

I like "Dig"

Faze said...

Great choices -- love Richard X. Heyman, and love the Doughboys less, but realize that this is where RXH is in his life right now. Little correction, though: the Remains did NOT steal the 1966 tour from the Beatles. I vas dere Cholly, and the Remains made a negligible impression. (There were groups in our town who were as good or better than the Remains - in other words, who stunk just as bad.) The Cyrkle were of some interest for being able to duplicate the sound of their singles better than one would expect. But it was the Beatles ALL the way at that show.

Faze said...

Oh yeah, and "Let's Get Lost" about Chet Baker -- the film that introduced us rockers to a previous generation's ghastly ruin.

Dave said...

Maybe it's a reaction to seeing Moneyball today, but I'd be curious about the intersection of business with music by focusing on a manufactured group. Menudo is the first name to come to mind, but I'd settle for The Monkees, too.

Anonymous said...

How about the Mo Levy story?

Brooklyn Girl said...

I second the choice of the Scott Walker film.

And I can't remember if the documentary on Arthur Lee & Love was good or not ... anyway, here's the trailer:

buzzbabyjesus said...

Who can forget "The Devil and Daniel Johnston"?

If "Let's Get Lost" counts how about "Straight, No Chaser"?

Oh, and I bought The Remains comp back in '91, and the songs aren't any good. No way they upstaged The Fab Four.

buzzbabyjesus said...

For The unmade doc I nominate Alex Chilton/Big Star as a candidate.

steve simels said...

Re: The Remains

Check out the '66 live in the studio album on Sundazed. It's killer...

buzzbabyjesus said...

Check out the '66 live in the studio album on Sundazed. It's killer...

buzzbabyjesus says: K

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on The Remains, Steve. (Barry used to play around here fairly regularly - country music duo w. his wife. Don't know what has become of them...)
Of similar interest (All Boston artists): Saw "Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story" at the film fest this year - nicely-done biopic on the late Morphine frontman.
"Not A Photograph: The Mission of Burma Story" is well worth seeing - I was in the house for their 1st reunion show, and firmly believed them to be the Best Goddamned Rock 'N Roll Band on the Planet on that particular night.
And there's an unfinished (for lack of funding) doc about the Real Kids that I've seen parts of - it looks really promising.
- bill buckner

buzzbabyjesus said...


Barry performs on Gram Parson's "GP".
They must have met while Barry was a remain, and Gram was flunking out of Harvard.