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TURN IT UP: Great music docos to park your isolated peepers on

So you’re stuck in your house living your best self-isolation life.

That’s all well and good but you’re going to need something to fill your time because disinfecting doorknobs and benches can only take you so far.

Well, we here at Newcastle Live reckon a good ‘rock doc’ is a great way to pass the time so, in that spirit, we have compiled a list of some music-tinged factual flicks to stream that will get you through the current crisis.

Sample This (2012)

Where: Netflix

There’s no denying that the art of sampling has become ingrained into the fabric of popular music.

Well, this 2012 doco, narrated by KISS bass player Gene Simmons, takes a look at the birth of sampling culture – specifically how the Incredible Bongo Band’s cover of Apache from their album Bongo Rock, helped form the early hip-hop template after genre pioneer DJ Kool Herc discovered the album and began sampling it.

The doco features insightful chats with the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and Questlove who ruminate on the importance of the track to hip hop culture.

It also looks at the oft fascinating stories of the Incredible Bongo Band whose leader Michael Viner worked on JFK’s presidential campaign, while guitarist Mike Deasey a lauded session muso who nearly collaborated with Charles Manson.

The Last Waltz (1978)

Where: Stan

Part doco and part concert flick, this Martin Scorcese-directed film documents the farewell live appearance by iconic Canadian-American roots rockers The Band.

The outfit behind such classics as The Weight and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down pull out all the stops for this one, recruiting such musical mates as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond and more.

A definite highlight here is Muddy Waters ripping into a blistering version of Mannish Boy with The Band.

Interspersed with insightful interviews with The band – Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel, The Last Waltz is arguably one of the greatest concert docs ever made.

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019)

Where: Netflix

If you are a burgeoning music promoter wondering what not to do when putting on a festival then you NEED to see this incredible, head-scratching doco.

It was supposed to be the perfect festival held in the idyllic Bahamian island Great Exuma for the Instafamous and nouveau riche. Organised by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, Fyre quickly devolved into a quagmire of lawsuits, broken deals and ineptitude.

As Laura Kebby wrote in her NL review of the flick: “what could be categorised as the worlds greatest f**k up, Fyre festival was much less the promised exclusive experience and more like the Lord of the Flies on steroids.” Yikes!

What Happened, Miss Simone (2015)

Where: Netflix

This portrait of Nina Simone, one of popular music’s most eclectic and evocative voices, was nominated for an Academy Award, and it’s not hard to see why.

Although it did lose out to another top rock doc – Amy the tragic story of UK Chanteuse Amy Winehouse (which is also available on Netflix AND highly recommended).

The film weaves together archival footage and interviews with those that knew Nina best. It charts a life that was full of early prodigal talent, racism, abuse at the hands of her overbearing husband, increasing radicalisation and bouts of mental illness.

Through it all though, the music shines like a beacon and this film has some of the finest concert and recording footage ever committed to tape.

Searching for Sugarman (2013)

Where: Stan

Part music bio, part detective story, Searching for Sugarman tells the story of criminally underrated singer-songwriter Rodriguez and the influence he had on the country of South Africa.

Commercially ignored in the US Rodriguez’ music was picked up in South Africa but little was known about the man himself – in fact, fans believed the singer to be dead.

That is until two die-hard fans discover that Rodriguez was still very much alive and unaware of the impact he had in that country.

More than just a music documentary about an enigmatic singer, Searching for Sugarman is an uplifting experience.

Written by Newcastle Live

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