“That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”
This month we continue and conclude our two part look at music on film. In our last issue we focused primarily on Musicals & Soundtracks, but this time around we’re looking at Musicians & Fans—highlighting films that feature actual musicians, focus on some aspect of fandom, or find some way to straddle that divide.
We begin things with Sara Gray’s take on A Hard Day’s Night, the seminal Beatles documentary that captured the band just as they were beginning to explode into our national consciousness, screaming girls and all. Next, Sheila O’Malley looks at Elvis Presley, through the lens of his very first feature film, Love Me Tender. Then we hop back in time about two hundred years, with Michelle Said’s piece on the original wild child of music, Amadeus, before soaring smoothly back toward the present with Brad Nelson’s look at Jazz on a Summer’s Day, a documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival that manages to capture the kind of singular magic that can take place between performer and audience. Next, Thomas Lowery offers up a personal take on the Townes Van Zandt documentary, Be Here to Love Me, and Elisabeth Geier explains her great love of Paul Simon, acknowledging both his shortcomings as an actor and his best moments on a film’s soundtrack.
Of course, since no magazine in its right mind would devote an entire issue to musicians on film without covering This is Spinal Tap, Andrew Root steps in to offer his unique take on the iconic rock mockumentary (spoiler alert: it involves an actual experience with a real-life moose), before we turn to a couple of essays on two decidedly modern bands—Anna Sjogren’s reflections on Sigur Ros and the landscapes of Iceland in Heima, and Brody Rossiter’s look at music, fame, and sibling rivalry in The National documentary, Mistaken for Strangers. Finally, Chris Fraser discusses listening a bit too much to the music playing over the end credits while working at a movie theater back in 2008, and we conclude things with a poem on Almost Famous from our Resident Poet, Arielle Greenberg.