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Arts + CultureMusicFrom Soulsville, USA to the beach (Boys): 4 new...

From Soulsville, USA to the beach (Boys): 4 new music docs to tune up your summer sounds

Never-before-seen archival footage gives insight on your favorites—unguarded Beatles and Indigo Girls, anyone?

So, it was years and years ago and I was watching the Fleetwood Mac edition of “Behind The Music,” which explored the making of their famed Rumours album. That’s when I realized music docs are the business, Jack.

The band, in several different interviews, was explaining how all the album’s songs are essentially about the people they were breaking up with at the time. Which were their bandmates. But nobody realized what was going on until it was time to record. Stevie Nicks is explaining the process of penning the multi-generational hit “Dreams,” which came back to life via a certain TikTok video a couple of years ago:

While the band was recording Rumours at the Record Plant in Sausalito, “Dreams” was written in Sly Stone’s studio, in Sly Stone’s big black curtain bed which was “fabulous,” according to Nicks, who knocked out the earworm about her breakup with Lindsey Buckingham in one afternoon.

“‘Dreams’ was hopeful, you know. It saw the breakup coming but it was hopeful that we would be OK unlike (his) ‘Go Your Own Way,’ which was not hopeful we would be OK. That was the thing Lindsey and I argued about a lot, was that I try to be somewhat optimistic in my songs, somewhere. You know, to pull out some kind of ray of light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t make up stories, they have to be real.”

You don’t have to be a music nerd to love the hell out of a juicy, funky, wild music doc.

As more and more legacy bands turn grey, do that final legacy tour for the legacy cash, and then retire, these music docs will keep on running. We highlighted a couple recent (re-)releases that tell gripping stories ranging from serious to silly and a little bit of everything in between.

Fire up your streaming device. It’s music doc time, baby!

LET IT BE,” DISNEY+ (NOW STREAMING)

So you may be saying, “Wait, more Beatles docs? Are you freaking kidding me?”

Listen, take the opposite stance. Take stock in watching Let It Be, knowing everyone is completely at their wits’ end, needing severe haircuts, trimmed beards, and probably some type of full body cleanse from all the cigarette smoke happening at the session. My point is, it’s damn refreshing to see possibly still the world’s biggest band being filmed while they’re almost 100 percent unguarded.

You are not going to get contemporary artists indulging in unpopular behavior, saying nasty things to one another in front of the camera these days. Besides the occasional one-sided emcee diss-track beef.

It’s the first time in 50 years that Beatles fans will get the opportunity to see the making of the band’s final album, Let It Be. This 1970 documentary, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, features restored footage by The Beatles: Get Back director Peter Jackson’s production company. It shares rare footage of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr from the recording studio to the Apple Corps’ rooftop in London, where they wrote and recorded Let It Be and performed live for the last time as a group.

And if all the pleasantries start to bore you, know this: Before this last session, McCartney was working on a solo record at home on a four-track. When he drops it, the disbanded band is even more pissed.

I love the Beatles.

THE BEACH BOYS,” DISNEY+ (MAY 24)

With a collection of interviews featuring original band members, rock ‘n’ roll historian Josh Kun, multi-hyphenated Grammy nominated unicorn Janelle Monáe, and more, this film on the 100 million record-selling, one-time surfer band The Beach Boys looks to cover it all.

The ups, the downs of a band with simultaneous Hollywood resonance and the genius of Brian Wilson at the boards, pushing left-field frequencies for the milk-fed All-American band. Wilson’s exploration of the studio kept the Beach Boys, corny and complex by turns, in direct competition with those pesky Beatles.

The film promises never-before-seen footage and all-new interviews with the Hawthorne, California-based outfit, including shots with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston, and other artists, including Lindsey Buckingham, Monáe, Ryan Tedder, and Don Was. We can only hope it delivers as much of a nuanced understanding as the 2011 dramatic film about Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy, in which actors Paul Dano and John Cusack give kind-hearted consideration to the brainiac genius who suffered from numerous mental health issues, attributed to an overbearing and abusive father.

With vivid, new-to-the-public images and all the polychromatic harmonies for which the band is known, this flick should send Beach Boys fanatics down another YouTube K-hole.

STAX: SOULSVILLE, U.S.A.,” HBO (MAY 20)

Stax created “The Memphis Sound” and launched the careers of icons such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Bar-Kays, and many other artists who forever changed popular culture. In total, this label placed 167 hit songs in the Top 100 in pop and 243 hits in the Top 100 in R&B.

Mindblowing, right?

Well, the HBO Original four-part documentary series Stax: Soulsville U.S.A. tells the story of America, white and Black, through the power of song and the ill-advised practices of the record industry at large.

The Memphis-based label went from being the ultimate outsider, according to the documentary’s press release, to one of the record industry’s most influential producers of soul music as “an underdog, interracial record label that ushered in the groundbreaking music.”

In a weird, yet studied conundrum, everything a major label would have tried to do to this label to make it “commercial” are all the things Prince refused Warner Brothers to do in marketing his music.

Let the artist worry about the sound, and let the label put out the music.

Stax made songs and stars that repped the culture, and if there is one thing we always have to reckon with, it’s that the culture knows what is real and what is fake, in a nanosecond.

Why was Wattstax the Black equivalent of Woodstock? Because it featured our stars, our heroes, and our recording giants, performing unapologetically Black. Live and direct. From the neighborhood.

Stax followed the success of Wattstax with releases from the Staple Singers, Little Milton, and the Soul Children. Ardent Records, one of Stax’s subsidiary labels, put out Big Star’s “#1 Record”, the first by the now-legendary Memphis power-pop band.

That legacy, such a wild ride, gets full attention in this not-to-miss four-part music documentary.

INDIGO GIRLS: IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL,” APPLE TV (NOW STREAMING)

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, members of the iconic folk-rock band Indigo Girls, came to popularity in the 1980s, when few queer women who did not fit into a particular white-washed category made popular music.

But Indigo Girls resonated with a certain demographic. You can put Tracey Chapman and Mellisa Etheridge in that ’80s category as well, the one that previously had little mainstream artists in their corner. They all existed in a musical world that vastly predates the first Lilith Fair. Meaning, they all battled misogyny, homophobia, and a harsh cultural climate that berated them for being different—essentially, just being themselves.

For all three acts, there was no prior pathway. But they cleared one for the likes of today’s Jay Som and Palehound, just to name a few.

I remember attending a spring weekend music festival where, squeezed between Spin Doctors (it was the ’90s, man) and Leaders of The New School, Busta Rhymes’ origin group before going solo, was Indigo Girls.

Between the hippie holler and Mr. Busta doing the East Coast stomp on top of a stack of speakers, I was like, “If you were a fan of Indigo Girls, would you attend this show?”

Such was the musical landscape through which they pushed past to carve out their community, that fanbase, and a successful recording career that 40-some-odd years later, we continue to celebrate.

Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories, founded by Adam Yauch, Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All, directed by Alexandria Bombach, tells the band’s story with the use of decades of its home movies, candid stories, and inspiring concert material.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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