Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Best Rock Movies Ever Made #2-#4 - That Thing You Do, Instrument, The Girl Can't Help It

I'll be making this countdown very personalised. There will obvouisly be some of the agreed upon classics, but also a few films that may have passed most people by, and even a few very obscure ones that I'm hoping people will be influenced to search out. The criteria are pretty wide, but i'm mostly trying to stick to films that heavily feature a certain band or artist, mixed with a few very good concert films and one or two films that are about rock music in general without being about particular artists. Today i've got an underrated fictional biopic from the 90s, an incredible live compilation/history, and one of the first rock movies ever made by a major studio.

#2 - That Thing You Do!
Featuring: The Oneders/The Wonders.
Dir: Tom Hanks. 1996. 20th Century Fox.

People might be surprised at me including this so very commercial film in my list, but there are certain films that despite being quite lightweight, or being too commercial, just convey such a love for rock and roll that they can't be denied. My girlfriend made me watch this film (never saw it at the cinema, think the Hanks directing credit put me off), and like a few other films (like Detroit Rock City), the complete love for music on show throughout just makes it a totally enjoyable experience. The film is a fictional biopic of a small town Beatles influenced band called the Oneders (later called The Wonders after everyone pronounced their name 'Oneeders') who make it big with a song called That Thing You Do!. The film basically shows how bands from the Nuggets generation (the avalance of small American bands that started up after the British invasion) could quickly gain success, only to lose it all a few weeks later. The title track is actually written by Fountains Of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger, and gained him nominations for the 1996 Golden Globe and the 1997 Oscar for best original song. It's bloody fantastic, as good as Foutains originals like Denise, and well worth a download. Hanks direction is pleasingly breezy, and the mostly young cast (including Tom Everett Scott, Steve Zahn, Liv Tyler, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Chris Isaak and Hanks himself) all do well. Best scene? A band member hearing his song played for the first time on the radio in a stereo in the store that he works in. Great stuff.

More info on That Thing You Do! at Wikipedia and the IMDB. To buy the film on DVD, try

Clips from the film are available on youtube: That Thing You Do. Enjoy.

The Wonders - That Thing You Do - MP3 1.98mb

#3 - Instrument
Featuring: Fugazi.
Dir: Jem Cohen. 1998. Dischord.

Out of all the music related DVD's that I own, Jem Cohen's 10 years in the making documentary on Fugazi is probably my favourite. Compiling incredible live footage and studio rehearsals from every stage of the bands career, it's an unparalleled document of a much missed band (much missed because on their best nights they were probably one of the best live bands in the world). Basically chronological, we see footage from the bands very first gigs, some very funny excerpts from a television interview made for a teenage girls school project, and footage of MTV misquoting the bands songs. The live material is absolutely transcendent, and Cohen must have realised this, because whilst he includes interviews with fans who state that they think the band have sold out (a pretty brave move for a music documentary), the live footage displays their comments in their true idiotic light. Some of the band's onstage quips are hilarious, such as when Guy Piccioto calls a violent dancer an 'Ice-cream eating motherfucker', and the personal interviews make it really hard not to think that the members of Fugazi are probably the nicest and most down to earth rock stars on earth, which is pretty impressive when Mackaye is somewhat of a living legend (without him we might not have straight edge, but for that he can be forgiven). The band composed a soundtrack for Cohen (later released on cd) to use behind some of the silent live footage and the transitional scenes, and its an incredibly beautiful piece. Despite most of the tracks being demos or outtakes (from 1999's End Hits), some of them, like Link Track, have a very solitary, minimalist and quite beautiful quality to them. There are also some really funny tracks like the rocking Little Debby that show that the band can be just as funny as their music is serious (one clip of the band playing at a prison is unintentionally hilarious, and the band can be complemented for including it despite this fact). Cohens direction and cutting are faultless. Check out some of the great clips below (the one for the song Shut The Door is especially good), and if you like it you should really order this DVD soon, because it's a true classic.

More info on Instrument at Wikipedia and the IMDB. To buy the film on DVD, try

Clips from the film are available on youtube: Shut The Door, Long Division, Live Clip, Crazy Guy Dancing. Enjoy.

Fugazi - Link Track - MP3 0.99mb
Fugazi - Little Debbie - MP3 1.25mb
Fugazi - I'm So Tired - MP3 1.36mb
Fugazi - Rend it Demo - MP3 2.43mb

#4 - The Girl Can't Help It
Featuring: Little Richard, Eddie Fontaine, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, The Platters, Johnny Olenn.
Dir: Frank Tashlin. 1956. 20th Century Fox.

There were a bunch of great rock and roll films made in the early to mid 50s, and overall most of them are a bit of a mess, often struggling to link up the films story with the music. The Girl Can't Help It also suffers from this problem, but the fact that the music is so great, and that the story is good regardless of the music, means that it still works pretty well. Featuring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell, the story is basically a riff upon the earlier Monroe/Lemon film The Seven Year Itch, but is performed with such excitement and enthusiasm by its leads that the unoriginality doesn't really matter. The film features shoehorned performances from some of the true legends of rock and roll, and the only problem with the film is that the viewer is left wishing that the story would stop interrupting the music. Little Richard is predictably incredible, as is Fats Domino. The film is also notable for being one of the first rock and roll movies to show its performers in colour. It was a big box office success at the time and is still regarded as a favourite by fans of early rock. To be honest it is one of the lesser films in my top 50, but the Little Richard penned title track is so fantastic that it had to be included. The song was later featured to great effect in Roger Water's divine Pink Flamingoes (along with other rock classics like Link Wray's stunning The Swag), and is an absolute belter. Hope you like it!

More info on The Girl Can't Help It at Wikipedia and the IMDB. To buy the film on DVD, try

Little Richard - The Girl Can't Help It - MP3 1.68mb


Blogger catdirt said...

when i was going to school in washington dc(1994-1998) ian mackaye and the rest of fugazi were very much an active part of the punk rock community in dc.

they come across as pompous and self important sometimes, but they were very down to earth- how, exactly could ANYONE accuse Fugazi, who never played a show for more then $5, who always played all ages venues, who would regularly forbid "moshing" during their sets- of selling out?

most of the bands here in san diego that have signed with an independent label are barely here at all, and that makes me sad.

anyway- Fugazi, yay! Dischord, double yay! Straight Edge? Not so much.

7:12 pm, June 21, 2006  
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