I spent a quiet day yesterday reorganizing shelves, watching music documentaries, rockumentaries.
The first one I decided to check out was, “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” available for your viewing pleasure on the Netflix. Prior to watching this documentary I could have named one Lady Gaga song, told you that she’d sung with Tony Bennett and that from her performances that I ‘d seen on television, I would have said, “She can really sing, as in, actual talent.” As in, more substance to her than perhaps the casual onlooker would have realized. I watched the documentary twice, will likely watch it again, and WOW. What you’re getting a look into is the “Lady Gaga machine” that keeps this mega-star moving, going, getting there on time and she is busy. This woman is working her ass off. To me, that was one of the most revealing things about this piece, she never stops. At one point she is in her doctor’s office for a serious chronic pain issue, and as she’s about to receive some treatment for the pain, her make-up artist comes in and has to start applying make-up for wherever she’s due next. Lady Gaga looks at the camera and says, “Who does this?”(paraphrasing) Her awareness of the ride she’s on is amazing. Her vulnerability, her willingness to just “be,” makes it pretty obvious why her fans love her so much, and that was not a little inspiring, I gotta say. Creatively, there was something here that spoke to me because every moment of her life, as presented in this show, is about the work, keeping those wheels rolling. I realized that is what fascinates me about these kinds of documentaries when they are done well, this isn’t the sterile tour of a celebrity life, this is a look at what it takes to be her and do what she’s doing on a daily basis. Impressive. By the end of the show I was like, “I”m going to watch that again. I’m going to buy her music. I’m gonna go follow her on twitter.” In short, my opinion, “Gaga: Five Foot Two” is worth watching.
The next one I tried to watch was Duff McKagan, “It’s So Easy and Other Lies.” This might be a great documentary, a great story, but I don’t know because I couldn’t get through it. And I say that not in a derogatory way, personal tastes or the sounds that register well with my ear, his reading voice seemed dry to me, flat, it distracted from the material. But, then, he’s a rocker not a reader. I might try to watch it again.
“Country: Portraits of an American Sound” was interesting because it presents a synopsised history of country music as told through these amazing portraits taken by various photographers, some of them country music artists themselves. There’s not a little talk about the changing image of country music from the Nudie suit to the jeans and t-shirts so often worn by many of the major artists of today. I learned a few things I didn’t know, including why Hee-Haw was originally cancelled. If you’re a fan of country music, you’ll enjoy this one. There’s some great stuff, like Merle Haggard talking about how he chose to wear a different kind of boot because he wanted to set himself apart. Some of the portraits are really stunningly beautiful, amazing. It’s on the Netflix too.
Next up, Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. Okay, so, Foo Fighters is one of my favorite bands. I wouldn’t say that this documentary is giving the viewer any kind of unprecedented access necessarily, but what you do grasp from it is, again, the amount of work it is to be doing what they’re doing at the level they are at. There’s a very real sense of this band as a family, one that’s gone through a lot of growing pains to get to be the cohesive unit that they are today. I loved it, there’s a lot of fun stuff, and there is also some discussion of the darker issues the band has dealt with. I’m also a big fan of Dave Grohl’s attitude, in general. Though they don’t delve too deeply into it, he does talk about getting to the point where he was fed up with everyone’s expectations of him and this new band, post Nirvana. (That was something that was also present in Lady GaGa’s attitude as well, that she really got fed up with expectations of who and what she should be.) They talk about the humor that’s ever-present in Foo Fighters videos, which Grohl describes as “candy commercials” and says why not have fun with that, that they take the music very seriously, but not so much making music videos. You come away from this with the sense that the members of Foo Fighters aren’t rock stars and they aren’t in any way on that kind of a head trip, these guys are filling arenas, but they’re still the best bar band in town too, just regular guys, in their regular band. Dave Grohl is considered to be one of the best drummers of all time, though he fronts Foo Fighters playing guitar, he was once asked by Tom Petty to join The Heartbreakers.
Previously watched favorites along these lines, all very good and worth watching if you’re of a mind to:
The History of The Eagles
(Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) Runnin’ Down A Dream
What Happened Miss Simone? ( Nina Simone)
The Last Waltz ( The Band)
Again, I think that what I find interesting, or fascinating, about these stories, these kinds of documentaries, is the look inside the creative process of these artists. Same with the documentary about Joan Didion, or any other such “story” that I’ve watched. Being in a creative field isn’t like anything else, any other job or “life”, and I don’t know if it makes me feel less strange, or if it’s a matter of it being encouraging or even inspiring, but there’s always something that I can relate to in these stories. I think for someone who is say, a professional athlete, their every day revolves around that, but it isn’t something that a person can turn off, in a sense. I’m finding that to be increasingly the case as writing is becoming a way of life and not just something that I do. Every time I’ve finished a project I’ve thought, “Well that’s it, I’m done. Guess I’ll go be a gardener now.” And I come up with all the reasons why this is a waste of time until I arrive back at the place where it might be the biggest waste of time ever in the history of time wasting, and I’m still going to write. At that place, in that place, at that point, writing isn’t something that I do, it’s who I am, it’s my life. There’s something in these stories of other writers, artists, musicians, that is very relatable in that sense, and sometimes they convey their own struggles with that as well. I also really enjoy the music, of course.