8 New Music Docs You Can Watch Now
We're always looking for music documentaries to watch and thankfully there never seems to be a shortage of new ones. Here are eight, ranging from The Go-Go's to Taylor Swift, to the early days of the '80s Bay Area thrash scene and the '60s/'70s Laurel Canyon folk scene. For those who need a little anarchy, there's also Desolation Center's DIY desert punk shows, and the rock n' roll world of CREEM Magazine. Plus: The Band, The Chills, and more.
Head below for our picks.
The Go-Go's (Showtime)
"We lived it and we survived it," The Go-Go's say of the new documentary about their band. "Now, looking back on our history through this film, we get to relive our journey as a band: the fun, the adventure, the highs and the lows. We hope this documentary will show the world that we were pioneers, and how our experience paved the way for many other female (and some male!) musicians." It also features interviews with Kathleen Hanna, The Police's Stewart Copeland, The Specials' Terry Hall & Lynval Golding, MTV's Martha Quinn, and more, not to mention the first new Go-Go's song in 19 years.
CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (video on demand)
CREEM magazine -- the storied, rebellious rock n' roll rag that ran from 1969 to 1989 and was home to the writing of Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, founder Barry Kramer and more -- is the subject of this new documentary from Scott Crawford (Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington DC, 1980-90). The film includes interviews with Alice Cooper, Cameron Crowe, Joan Jett, Michael Stipe, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Kirk Hammett, Thurston Moore, Peter Wolf, and more, and features new music from MC5's Wayne Kramer. Rent it here.
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (iTunes, Amazon, more)
If you love The Last Waltz but want to know more about The Band and frontman Robbie Robertson, Once Were Brothers is the "confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. The film is a moving story of Robertson’s personal journey, overcoming adversity and finding camaraderie alongside the four other men who would become his brothers in music, together making their mark on music history." It's got interviews with Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and more.
Laurel Canyon (Epix)
Laurel Canyon is a neighborhood in Los Angeles, but for a lot of music fans it's a time and place, and a shorthand for a mystical folk-rock sound that included Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, the Eagles and more. This two-part docu-series, made by Alison Ellwood (who also directed The Go-Go's), gives an overview of the scene, the sound and the people who made the music. "Through a wealth of rare and newly unearthed footage and audio recordings, the series features an intimate portrait of the artists who created a musical revolution that changed popular culture. Uniquely immersive and experiential, this event takes us back in time to a place where a rustic canyon in the heart of Los Angeles became a musical petri dish."
Murder in the Front Row (iTunes, Amazon, more)
"There was a time when everybody was equal," filmmaker Adam Dubin told us of his Bay Area thrash metal documentary, Murder in the Front Row. "When James Hetfield was just an 18-year-old kid, just like the kids listening to him who were maybe his age or a little younger, and that’s the time I wanted to get to and bring everybody back to the interviews which we did by showing them the old photographs and stuff like that. At that moment in time, that’s really cool to capture." In addition to Metallica, Murder in the Front Row also features interviews with members of Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Testament, Death Angel, Possessed and more. It's available to rent via most streaming platforms.
Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (Netflix)
Taylor Swift's folklore, her new album where she collaborated with The National's Aaron Dessner, and dueted with Bon Iver, recently debuted at #1 on the album charts, but this Netflix documentary isn't about her "indie" turn. It's a coming-of-age-in-the-spotlight origin story, following her from her beginnings as a country singer to her pop transformation, to megastardom, through the Kanye incident, her struggles with an eating disorder, and much more. There's even a little about her appearance in the Cats movie, though maybe she wishes the film stopped a little before that happened.
The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps (video on demand)
Documentary The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps tracks the many ups and downs of New Zealand indie icons The Chills and its sole constant member, Martin Phillipps. Featuring rare live and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as new interviews with Phillipps and many of the musicians who have been members over the years, the documentary is a warts-and-all look at Phillipps' foibles and genius, as well as a portrait of triumph over the adversity that is sometimes yourself.
Desolation Center (video on demand)
"You know, in Europe you don't have the same access to explosives and weapons that Americans do," Einstürzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld said of his band's truly incendiary 1984 performance in the California desert, one of a series of totally DIY shows put on by the Desolation Center collective during the Reagan Years. Desolation Center was the brainchild of Stuart Swezey who, nearly 40 years later, has made a wonderful documentary about the concerts and the time. It's not often that a film leaves you totally envious of the people who were there, but this is one of them. Desolation Center also features Sonic Youth, The Minutemen, Redd Kross, Meat Puppets and more, and you can read our full review here.
Looking for more options? We listed even more: