The lockdowns have triggered subscriptions to streaming television platforms. And the lack of live music, viewers’ interest in documentaries, biopics, and concerts. Netflix, Movistar, Amazon and Filmin have a succulent and abundant range of «rockumentals» (Not so HBO), of which several especially recommended titles can be highlighted. Here are some of them.
Country Music (Movistar)
This documentary series on the birth and evolution of country music in the United States is a true masterpiece. Directed by Ken Burns ((‘The Vietnam War’, ‘The Civil War’, ‘The National Parks’), it explores the roots and ramifications of the genre from the Carter Family to Taylor Swift, through never-before-seen archives and interviews to more than eighty country artists such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Patsy Cline or Charley Pride. The great value of the series, divided into nine episodes in chronological order, resides in its meticulous historiographic analysis, which stops at each of the fundamental milestones of the genre to reel off its significance, but also in the overwhelming collection of anecdotes that complete the profile of each artist.
Episode One is a walk through the roots of country music, from the earliest fiddle and banjo tunes and church music to its first steps in the phono market. In the second chapter it is told how country was gaining in popularity during the Great Depression and World War II, going into detail in the Texas Swing scene and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The third episode explores the cultural changes looming over Postwar America, with new sounds like ‘bluegrass’ and ‘hony-tonk’, and a new star, Hank Williams.
The fourth chapter travels to Memphis, with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash as references of the rockabilly era through Sun Studio. and the “Nashville sound” that emerged at Music Row studios. The fifth reflects the changes in America in the late sixties and early seventies and how these affected country, highlighting the figures of Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and the first black star of the genre, Charley Pride. The following episode looks at how country music reacted to the division generated by the Vietnam War, with Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan or The Byrds in the spotlight. Dolly Parton and Rosanne Cash from the more accessible side, and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings from the outlaw world are the guest stars. The eighth chapter describes the rise of “new traditionalists” such as George Strait, Randy Travis & the Judds, the explosion of star Garth Brooks and the return of Johnny Cash to the industry, and the series closes with an epilogue by Emmylou Harris, Patsy Cline and other great figures who gloss over what country has given itself over more than a hundred years.
«Keith Richards. Under the influence» (Netflix)
The closest and most honest portrait of Kiz in documentary form, takes a tour of the sounds and the people that have inspired the legendary rocker throughout his life. “The only time I’ve felt anything like the birth of rock and roll is the birth of reggae,” confesses the Stones guitarist, who also talks about “hateful rock without roll” in a highly entertaining piece of less than an hour and a half that goes by in a flash. Richards reviews his passion for Celtic music, tells how he learned to play his instrument practicing with the Spanish classic “La Malagueña”, and recalls the mythical moment when he came across Mick Jagger (whom he already knew) when he was carrying a pair of Muddy Waters and Ckuck Berry vinyl. “Rock & roll bands are no longer formed because people no longer go with their newly bought albums on the street,” reflects the myth. “Under the influence” culminates in two golden moments: his encounters on stage with his idols Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, with very different results.
«Ramoncín. A life on the edge »(Amazon)
Directed by Charlie Arnáiz and Alberto Ortega, this documentary tells in detail the different stages that have been part of the life of Ramoncin, from his origins in the Las Delicias neighborhood to his beginning in the world of music, to continue his rise to fame, his sacrifices to maintain the integrity of his career, and also his bitter fight for copyright as protagonist from “Alone in the face of danger”, which highlights the sincere moment of self-criticism by Miguel Ríos. The documentary is spun by Ramoncín himself, who details many of his experiences in the first person, and in it you can see valuable archive images that place us in the day and place of what is being told. There is also no lack of anecdotes of carats, such as the “ramonqueen” moment of his recording session with Brian May, or the details of the creative processes that culminated in some of his great works, such as “Liters of alcohol” or “Como un whisurro”. a pair of hits that perfectly exemplifies the versatility of the great illustrated punk of our country.
There are also testimonies of his inner circle and different participations of relevant public figures in Spain. Antonio Resines, Carla Antonelli, Felipe González, Jesús Bonilla, Jesús Ordovás, Johnny Cifuentes «Burning», Juan Echanove, Loquillo, Miguel Ríos, Mónica Naranjo, Santiago Segura or Xavier Sardá are some of them.
The documentary dedicated to Permanent paralysis it begins at the end, with the death of its leader Eduardo Benavente, and then takes a leap to the origin of this essential band in the history of Spanish music. Benavente’s childhood and early adolescence, sticking with his classmates, living through his parents’ divorce and clinging to music as a lifeline, recalls his time with the little-known Plastics, and later with Alaska and the Pegamoids, stopping in their adventures Amorous with Alaska herself and with Ana Curra with more tenderness than curiosity. Without neglecting his self-destructive instincts, “Self-Sufficiency” focuses on the artistic aspects of the creation of the singles that fractured the Pegamoids: “Redrum”, “Military strategy” and above all “I want to be holy”, whose riff taken from the hell filled the glass of the patience of the pop singer Carlos Berlanga. Especially emotional are the fragments of the group’s first rehearsals in Tablada, the episode of their passage through the Mili, where he literally went crazy to be able to escape from military life, the ins and outs of the tribute tour to “The Act” that starred Ana Curra in 2012, and especially the final reflection on Eduardo’s death in a car accident, alluding to the terrible danger our musicians ran when crossing the country from north to south and east to west through ramshackle roads.