Music and Film

We’ve all had the experience as musicians of watching some fluffy so-called music documentary or movie where by the end of it, we are left scratching our heads and wondering aloud: “Where was the music?” It’s de riguer/modus operandi/ standard fare with all things musical on film. So this past year, when I started watching the show “Nashville”, I found myself feeling a bit encouraged that a glossy show was actually giving music some actual attention. But alas, “Nashville” has fallen short on more than several occasions now too for me.

here there everywhere emerick This music thing seems to be omni-elusive to the average film-making bear. Anybody ever read “Here, There & Everywhere” by Geoff Emerick, the long-time engineer on most of the Beatles recordings? That book is the movie or documentary I yearn to see.

The way Emerick writes that book is the way many of us musical mechanics want to see, hear and feel anything visual regarding music. It is a veritable cornucopia of one after the other musical anecdotes that give real musicians real insight into the inner workings of actual musical magic: the nuts and bolts of the machinery we long to be afforded some insight into. In some ways, it’s almost bizarre that so few have ever produced film magic where music is concerned.

Is it perhaps because many artists wish to closely guard the secrets of their alchemy? Too, maybe patience is an elusive quality and factor to try and capture for a film format? And patience is at the very heart of the craft of music. Without patience most of us wouldn’t get very far as musicians. I am merely speculating though and some of you reading this may have some answers as to why this phenomena seems to persist.

This is simply an exercise to get myself and, hopefully, some of you thinking about this conspicuous dearth of musical awesomeness captured on film and why it is so frequently done so poorly. It is not my intent nor wish to spark an outcrying of defending anyone’s personal favorite where it actually was done well. I think we all know of at least a few exceptions. Oddly enough, I think “This is Spinal Tap” did a better job of accuracy than many and they were merely poking fun at the whole process.

Personality is the factor that most seems to consistently trump any attention to the actual making of music. Our films and documentaries get caught up in this star or that star’s personal lives, backgrounds and their relationships and so much of the time when they do this the actual music gets the short shrift. Maybe too we should all simply be turning devices off and seeking some sanity and space within which to create music ourselves and shun the ever present distractions that many of our heroes of yesteryear weren’t plagued with nearly so much as we are.
dave-grohl-sound-city-550x306 Dave Grohl did an admirable job drawing attention to the old Sound City board and basically built a documentary around that board. But why is it that someone like me is always left wanting for something digging a little deeper with this subject matter? Meh, maybe it’s just my problem and maybe it simply boils down to retaining some last vestige of mystique in our lives that are increasingly filled with chronic invasions and overload.

I am no expert on the subject and am merely speaking in terms of the ongoing standard offerings I’ve personally suffered through most of my adult life. On rare occasion something seems to get done well but for every one that does there seems to be ninety-nine that are done terribly. It would be interesting to see a thread of TTK feedback on any and all films involving music where any of you really felt an accurate portrayal of the craft of making music was done justice. Yes, they are out there, they just seem to be far and few between.

I may be an outlier with this stuff but somehow I doubt it. I would watch in profound fascination just to see film of Hendrix practicing something for a few minutes, changing a whole set of strings in one sitting or spending a few minutes adjusting a Marshall head. I can’t possibly be alone in this, can I? And I’m now fifty years old! So maybe I’m now laughably out of touch and someone in their twenties could maybe enlighten me on some illuminating stuff?

The actual day to day work caught on film –THAT is what I yearn for in a proper film. It may be the equivalent for some of watching paint dry but it would be hard to believe an actual musician would be anything but fascinated by actual nuts and bolts stuff where music on film is concerned.

Any thoughts, TTK readers?

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