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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rock & Roll Creation

As much as I liked the ANVIL: The Story of Anvil documentary, I couldn't help but wonder why a lot people, whenever there's a fictional film or documentary on a band, almost always bring up This is Spinal Tap. It's as if there's only one movie out there about being in a band, metal or non-metal, and it's the classic "rockumentary" about the fictional band, Spinal Tap.

Please do not think I'm hating on This is Spinal Tap. I love that film, and it's funnier on repeat viewings over the years. What I'm trying to ask is why so many people think bands on film are subject to the drama, dilemmas, and humor only found in This is Spinal Tap.

In the case of ANVIL, the comparisons are easy to make because there are many obvious tie-ins: band doesn't get more than cult praise, the drummer is named Robb Reiner, there's a shot of turning a dial up to 11 while they record their new album, the road manager and guitarist fall in love, the band visits Stonehenge, and so on and so forth. Yet what makes ANVIL a really powerful, inspiring movie beyond all that: it's more about long-lasting friendship and sticking with the things you love to do, no matter what. Now that's something that goes way beyond knowing "Metal On Metal" or what Lips's real name is.

But remembering reviews of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco, I'm led to believe that a lot of those reviewers have only seen This is Spinal Tap. Nevermind The Filth and the Fury, Westway to the World, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Gimme Shelter, The Last Waltz, and so on; it's got to be "Hello, Cleveland," Jazz Odyssey, and Stonehenge, and nothing more.

Maybe I'm not understanding how most people have seen This is Spinal Tap more than The Filth and the Fury. But it's not like those other films have never seen the light of day on DVD. It's just that Spinal Tap is a much easier and more common sign post. To me, there are many different ways to talk about the multi-level relationships that go on within a band. It's just frustrating to hear people think there's only one story to go back to.

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