By Zachary Swickey
On Tuesday, the Kings of Leon unveiled the trailer for “Talihina Sky,” their first (and, some might say, inevitable) foray into the wild world of rock docs. Still a work-in-progress, “Talihina” will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month, and gives fans a glimpse into Kings’ rise from God-fearing preacher’s sons (and nephews) to platinum-plus arena rock icons … a voyage that, of course, includes plenty of whiskey swiggin’, weed tokin’, vomiting, nudity and an awkward intra-band confrontation or 16. Obviously, we’re excited.
And so, in honor of the (really pretty excellent) “Talihina” trailer — and the Foo Fighters’ just-released “Back and Forth” doc, too — we decided to take a look back at some of the all-time best rock documentaries. Will the Kings join this list? We’ll just have to wait and see.
“Dig!” – There is a reason for the exclamation point at the end of this doc’s title, as it contains some of the craziest stuff you’ll ever see from a band on camera. But who is it about? The Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who? No, it’s actually about two buzz bands from the nineties, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, who never quite broke like they should. Just watch the trailer, as words cannot express the complete insanity and erratic behavior of Jonestown mastermind Anton Newcombe.
“The Last Waltz” – Often considered the quintessential rock documentary, “Waltz” showcases The Band’s legendary last performance, filmed by none other than Martin Scorsese. Taking place on Thanksgiving Day 1976, the Band were joined by a slew of special guests: Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters and Neil Young, just to name a few. Do you really need more incentive than that to watch it?
“The Fearless Freaks” – Oklahoma oddballs the Flaming Lips finally got the documentary treatment in 2005, and, boy, was it worth the wait. The Lips’ themselves were highly involved in the production, chatting with various relatives, showing the sights of Oklahoma City (including the Long John Silver’s frontman Wayne Coyne used to work at), and basically re-telling the beloved band’s rise from fringe acid-punks to mainstage mainstays. It’s not all sunny, and an extended scene of guitarist Steven Drozd using heroin is tough to watch to this day.
“Gimme Shelter” – Directed by the legendary Maysles brothers, “Shelter” follows the Stones on their ramshackle 1969 tour, which concluded in the disastrous Altamont concert, where members of the notorious Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang — who were hired as security for the event — stabbed a fan to death. Footage of the incident is included in the film, only adding to its notoriety over the years. A mix of debauchery and genuine horror, “Shelter” is practically required viewing for even the most casual of rock fans … and amateur historians, too.
“Woodstock” – Capturing one of the most important music events in history, “Woodstock” is an invaluable video time capsule. It features performances from nearly every artist on the three-day bill, including Jimi Hendrix’s incendiary, fest-closing take on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and moments that summed up an entire generation (like, when a fan joins Canned Heat onstage and swipes a cigarette from singer Bob Hite … who promptly lights it for him.) Good luck trying that move on just about any band today.