Video Killed the Radio Star: Our binge-watching expert recommends a few favorite music docs

Okee dokee folks…I haven’t had much, if anything, to write about as of late. Concerts are canceled. I haven’t had a lot of motivation either. This is all very depressing, and we are all handling things very differently. Some folks immediately took to live streaming their music while I have not picked up my guitar since my last real life gig at the beginning of March. I am not very technologically proficient nor am I a fan. I do not have a smart phone and I have little to no desire to perform in front of a computer. I feed off the energy of an audience and going virtual just don’t do it for me. 

Performance is more than can be live streamed. It is an experience. Yes, I am stubborn and stuck in my ways. I do realize that I will more than likely HAVE TO upgrade my life and get with this new normal, but I will probably do it kicking and screaming like any other change I have had to endure. All of this affects people differently. Some will come out of this with three albums of music and others will forget how to play. Unless things change I will be the latter. I can actually feel my brain turning to mush as I binge watch season after season of shows on Netflix, Prime, HBO and Showtime. I am running out of shows to watch. I try to lose myself in these shows because reality is just making me more and more angry. I watch PBS news nightly (BTW, it is one of the only reliable news sources) only to see that the mango moron has done something more stupid than the previous day and is trying to blame someone else for his fuck ups. The money that has been approved to help hasn’t gotten to where it is needed. I haven’t gotten any.

I did receive some financial assistance from the Newport Festivals Foundation, RISCA and The RI Music Hall of Fame (THANK YOU!) and this helps to cover some the lost funds from canceled gigs. The problem is that long term, most musicians are screwed. Gigs have been canceled and rescheduled and then canceled again and then rescheduled until NEXT YEAR. We really don’t know when we will be playing live again. We don’t even know if the venues that we have been performing at will even reopen, and if they do, if they’ll be able afford to have music. The summer festival season is canceled. I am already seeing gigs for the end of the year being canceled. I am not being pessimistic about all of this, I am just being realistic. No one has any money now. Even if we all survive the pandemic, will we survive the economic depression that will follow?

I am not one of those gun-toting idiots marching on city hall wanting the economy to open. I believe that the shut down has been necessary for our protection. I don’t think there is any nefarious reasoning behind it like others do, but I do think that we are probably headed for some kind of dystopian future as a result of the concessions that have been made.

Anyway, I will shut up now. It’s not all doom and gloom. I will try to be positive. I have watched a lot of great music documentaries over the past couple of months. If you are into music as much as I am, you should check some of them out. They are quite entertaining and just like when I was getting my art history minor, you can learn a bit about general history of the times as well, as art mirrors life. Read on…

YouTube has a lot of music docs and concerts available that you can watch for free. Recently I went down the rabbit hole watching Kate Bush docs and videos. I have been a fan of hers since 1978 when I saw her on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” It’s easy to get sucked into these videos because it is both entertaining and nostalgic. I also found great documentaries about the Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd. Many of the episodes of the VH1 series “Behind the Music” and “Classic Albums” as well as “The Midnight Special,” “Rock Concert,” “Old Grey Whistle Test” and so many others can be watched on YouTube. Just roll up your sleeves and start searching.

On Netflix the music film that recommend most is Echo in the Canyon. I have watched this about 25 times. The music is great, as is the story. It focuses on the Laurel Canyon music scene in the mid ’60s and stars Jakob Dylan, Michelle Phillips, Beck and many others. Even though I am not a John Lennon fan, Above Us Only Sky is a wonderful film about the making of the Imagine album. The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir is a must-see for Deadheads, but it might make you a Deadhead as well. Rush’s Beyond The Lighted Stage, Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, The Rolling Stones and Ole, Ole, Ole!: A Trip Across Latin America are all also available on Netflix and worthy of your viewing time.

Showtime has Eric Clapton’s Life in 12 Bars, Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know, Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Wembley or Bust, David Bowie’s Finding Fame and Miles To Go Before I Sleep (about roadies). The good thing about Showtime is that you can sign up for a 30 day FREE trial!

Your local library may have a free streaming service called Hoopla. You log in with your library card number. Not all RI libraries off this service, so you will need to check your local library. Tubi is a free streaming service that offers films and documentaries with commercials. There are lots of music-related videos there, too. Of particular interest may be the Muscle Shoals recording studio doc, Song of the South, the Duane Allman documentary, Sad Vacation about Sid and Nancy, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Jimi Hendrix: The Uncut Story, Festival Express (highly recommended documentary about a post Woodstock tour of musicians on a train across North America), Paul McCartney & Wings Rockshow live concert, Cream’s Farewell Concert, Steely Dan’s Aja and many more.

On Amazon Prime there is a great six-part series about the Grateful Dead that I thoroughly enjoyed even though I am just a lightweight Dead fan. Tom Petty’s Running Down a Dream is a must-see for any musician whether you like Petty or not. “CSNY” fans can be satisfied with Neil Young’s The First Decade and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Fifty by Four. Docs about the Kinks, Pink Floyd, Stevie Nicks, Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, Thin Lizzy, Queen, The Police, Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Chicago’s Terry Kath, Family Band: The Cowsills (highly recommended), Beach Boys, Nirvana and the list goes on and on. Like I said before, you can easily go down the rabbit hole and get lost in these music docs for hours and hours. It’s an easy way to kill a Corona Day and right now, we have all the time in the world even if we don’t want it.

Stand Up Comedy is also something that I love. The best specials that are out now are Marc Maron’s End Times Fun (the last 15 minutes about Pence is PRICELESS!), Jen Kirkman’s Just Keep Livin’, Bert Kreischer’s Hey Big Boy, anything by Sebastian Maniscalco, and Taylor Tomlinson’s Quarter Life Crisis, all of which are on Netflix.    

That’s it for now. Join me in my binging of TV and have your mind turn to mush, too! Thanks for reading.  #StayTheFuckHome #DumpTrump2020