We all love listening to music, but sometimes we’re left with a burning desire to learn more about the stories behind the artists and their art. Luckily, we’ve been treated to a wide selection of music documentaries over the years that do exactly this. Whether it be the story behind a particular album or the fantastic history of your favourite band, there are many films that reveal the often fascinating histories behind the music we love. In this article, we will be outlining seven of the best music documentaries you should definitely watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the artist in question, many of these documentaries are still incredibly interesting.
Metallica - Some Kind of Monster (2004)
Some Kind of Monster documents the recording process of Metallica’s 2004 album St Anger. Named after a track on the album in question, the documentary covers a pretty tough time for the band. Their bassist, Jason Newsted, had just quit and vocalist James Hetfield was struggling with alcohol addiction, eventually deciding to enter rehab during the album recording process. On top of this, tension was rising amongst the band members – particularly between Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. To tackle the difficulties they were facing head-on, Metallica’s management decided to hire a “performance enhancement coach” to try and improve the relationship between the band’s members.
The results of all of this combined make for one very entertaining documentary. The film features footage from the recording of St Anger, numerous petty arguments between the band’s members and covers how Robert Trujillo, their current bassist, made it into the band. At one point in the recording process, things get so bad that they debate whether the documentary should continue to be recorded. We’re very glad that they persevered, as the end result is a music documentary that will be remembered for years to come. Some would go as far as to say that Some Kind of Monster is far better than the album that it documented! Check it out and decide for yourself.
Oasis - Supersonic (2016)
Supersonic is a history lesson in one of the most iconic British bands to grace the earth, taking you on a journey from Oasis’ Mancunian roots to the highest levels of their superstardom. Think of it as the film version of our Kore Guide to Oasis (which you should check out if you haven’t already). The film begins with footage from Oasis’ famous Knebworth concert in 1996, where they performed to 250,000 people, before rewinding the tape and taking us back to where it all began.
Accompanied by previously unreleased footage, photographs and interviews, we are taken through Oasis’ rollercoaster rise to fame and the many crazy stories that accompany it. Not to mention the constantly bickering Gallagher brothers, whose conflicting personalities are absolutely hilarious throughout. Even if you aren’t overly familiar with the Brit-pop band’s discography, Supersonic still makes for a great viewing experience.
The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter (1970)
Nope, we’re not talking about their classic Vietnam war era anthem Gimme Shelter, but the documentary of the same name. This film about the British rock legends documents the final weeks of their 1969 US tour that ended with the disastrous Altamont Free Concert. The filming of the documentary arose after the directing duo Albert and David Maysles approached the Rolling Stones following one of their concerts, asking if they could film them for the remainder of the tour. The band agreed, and Gimme Shelter is the end result.
Gimme Shelter covers the British rockers’ US tour, as well as the build-up and events of the Altamont Free Concert – an event that is remembered for its mass violence. Around 300,000 people attended the concert and horrible scenes ensued. Not only was Mick Jagger punched in the face within seconds of his arrival, but four concertgoers died and 850 were injured. The day was truly disastrous, and it was all captured on film. One of the credited camera operators for Altamont was none other than George Lucas, who was only 26 at the time. As you might have guessed, Gimme Shelter is not a film for a relaxing Sunday evening, however, it provides for a fascinating insight into the Rolling Stones and the chaos of the counterculture era.
Amy Winehouse - Amy (2015)
Asif Kapadia’s Oscar and Grammy-winning Amy documents the life and tragic death of singer Amy Winehouse, the British singer whose legacy will be remembered forever. The film covers Winehouse’s rise to fame, as well as the struggles with substance abuse that eventually resulted in her death.
The film begins with a video of a 14-year-old Amy Winehouse singing with her friend at her childhood home in Southgate, North London. The rest of the documentary divulges into the recording and success of both Frank and Back to Black, as well as her troubles with the mass media attention she received as she became more and more of a star. In preparation for the film’s production, Kapadia conducted over 100 interviews to ensure that he could include as much detail about Winehouse as possible throughout. The film also treats viewers to a number of previously unreleased songs and rare live sessions. While this particular documentary is a bit of a tear-jerker, it is a great tribute to Amy Winehouse and her painfully short musical career.
The Defiant Ones (2017)
The Defiant Ones is a four-part documentary series that focuses on the careers of Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine – two people who have had an immeasurable impact on the world of music as we know it today. The series covers a wide timeline of events from the early 70s up until 2014. The first episode details Dre’s humble beginnings as a wannabe DJ before joining NWA, while Iovine works his way up in the music world before getting to work with artists such as John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.
As the documentary progresses further into the early/mid 90s, we learn more about Iovine’s founding of Interscope Records, Dre’s solo effort The Chronic and the famous West Coast vs. East Coast rivalry and it’s violent endings. Moving into the early 21st Century, The Defiant Ones focuses on the rise of Eminem, and how Dre and Iovine first discovered him and recognised him as the next big thing in rap music (and they weren’t wrong…)
The final episode also details how Iovine and Dre decided to create Beats Electronics, the major headphones company, which they were able to eventually sell to Apple for $3.2 billion. The series is incredibly well put together and features interviews from the likes of Trent Reznor, Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg and Eminem just to name a few. The Defiant Ones really is one of the best music documentaries on Netflix.
Motӧrhead - Lemmy (2010)
Accompanied by the hilarious tagline “49% motherf******, 51% son of a b****”, this rockumentary documents the life of Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy from the legendary British heavy metal band Motörhead. The film gives an insight into Lemmy’s Welsh upbringing, as well as his time in the band Hawkwind before forming Motörhead in 1975.
From here, we are taken up to Lemmy’s life in 2010, where he lives in an apartment in Hollywood and enjoys spending his time at the Rainbow Bar and Grill – where he converses with fans and drinks a lot of Jack Daniels. The film features interviews from a long list of esteemed names in the rock world, including Slash, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Grohl and James Hetfield. If all this isn’t enough, the film also contains some rare footage of Lemmy playing “Damage Case” with the help of Metallica, who rightfully introduce Lemmy as “the Godfather of heavy metal”. Truly a sight to behold. Even if you’re not a fan of Motorhead, we strongly urge you to watch this documentary purely to appreciate the rock-god status of Lemmy and the mass influence he has had on the world of heavy music.
The Beatles - Let it Be (1970)
This fly on the wall documentary covers the recording process for the iconic band’s final studio album Let it Be. We see the Liverpudlian four-piece rehearse the songs that eventually form the album, and we gain an insight into how these songs are crafted and gradually improve to form the finished product. We are also provided into the glimpses into some of the developing tensions between the band’s members at the time, which would eventually lead to their break up shortly after the film’s release.
The film also contains footage of The Beatles’ famous rooftop concert, which we listed as one of the most unique concerts ever played. The band take to the rooftop of Apple Corp and play various tracks from Let it Be, before their set is annoyingly cut shot by the police. This unusual impromptu concert turned out to be the band’s last ever public performance, and so we are very lucky to have footage of this historical moment. There are even plans for the film to be re-released with additional never-before-seen footage in 2020 to celebrate the film’s fiftieth anniversary. With this release only a year away, there couldn’t be a better time to check out the original.
Hopefully we’ve provided you with some excellent viewing material to feed your appetite for musical knowledge. Can you see your band having their very own documentary in the near future? For this to happen, first you’ll need to record some music and make a name for yourself. To find out how you can kickstart your musical career with our studio and recording services, then get in contact with Kore Studios today.