Beatles, Green Day, US Festival, Paul Simon Movies Now Streaming
Good Ol' Freda – Available on Netflix: There's no shortage of books and movies that explore the Beatles from a variety of angles, but you'll never get a more intimate portrait of what went on behind the scenes of early Beatlemania than this charming doc. Directed by Ryan White, the film centers on Freda Kelly, the Fab Four's longtime secretary who handled every piece of the group's fan mail through the course of their whirlwind career. Through sending over scraps of Paul's shirts or locks of Ringo's hair to desperate fans, she became a trusted member of the band's inner circle. Freda's long-withheld stories are the heart of this film, but rock geeks will enjoy the rare look at the business side of what was the biggest band on the planet.
Green Day: ¡Cuatro! - Available on Hulu: This gritty yet fun documentary serves as a companion piece to the (overly) ambitious project Green Day underwent in 2012: releasing three albums – Uno!, Dos!, and Tres! - over the course of three months. Though a bit of a puff piece, director Tim Wheeler's film does offer a wealth of behind the scenes footage of the punk band throwing themselves completely into the writing and recording of three very diverse LPs, and its fun to see that the camaraderie within the group is stronger than ever. Best, though, are the live performances Wheeler captures, taken from small club gigs where Green Day tried out some of this new material and whetted their fans' appetites for the upcoming albums.
Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop – Available on Amazon Instant: Chosen as the official film of Record Store Day 2013, this UK documentary attempts to buck the rising tide of music streaming by focusing on, as the title suggests, the glories and struggles of the independently-owned record store. Based off a book of the same name, the film is as educational as it is proselytizing, utilizing some inspiring interviews from the likes of Johnny Marr, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Paul Weller and Billy Bragg, who all speak on how their creative endeavors over the years were impacted by crate digging and conversations in their local music shop. Though the film's message has been undercut this past year by the news of a 32 percent rise in vinyl sales and recent opening of Rough Trade Records in New York, Last Shop Standing could serve as a cautionary tale for those crazy enough to enter the music retail business.
US Festival 1983: Days 1 – 3 – Available on Amazon Instant: When former Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak decided to stage the weekend long music event known as the US Festival, his intention was to "throw one big party in the middle of nowhere." As this collection of concert footage proves, Woz certainly accomplished this. Culled from the second US Fest held on Memorial Day weekend 1983, this two-hour compilation is overflowing with great performances from iconic artists such as U2, David Bowie, Van Halen, The Clash (their last show to feature founding member Mick Jones) and Stevie Nicks, as well a taste of '80s nostalgia by way of appearances from Quarterflash, Triumph and the Stray Cats.
Under African Skies: Paul Simon's Graceland Journey – Available on Hulu: The story of Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland has so many strands: how it opened the doors for Western audiences to more fully embrace world music, the spotlight it shone on his collaborators like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Los Lobos, and the controversy stirred up due to the singer-songwriter breaking a UN cultural boycott by recording it in South Africa. Director Joe Berlinger manages to tie all those threads together even as he follows Simon along as he prepares for a concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the GRAMMY-winning album's release. The end result is engrossing and surprisingly emotional, especially when Simon is confronted on camera by Dali Tambo, the founder of Artists Against Apartheid and his most vocal critic. more.
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