5 Best Music Films and Documentaries on Netflix Instant Right Now

As a result of their recent beef with Dish Network, Viacom not only pulled all their channels from the popular satellite provider, but decided to punish everyone by also disabling many video feeds from the internet sites for their popular stations. What does this mean? Well, for starters, anyone still singing “I want my MTV” is out of luck – as is everyone who enjoys VH1, CMT, Palladia or any other of the stations Viacom owns.

Not that Viacom only trades in the music industry, but this is a big blow for us music fans that don’t have cable. But I offer up the alternative of Netflix Instant. Sure, you can watch any number of movie and television shows on the service, but there’s also a treasure trove of great music movies and documentaries that will get us through these hard times until Viacom gives us our music back. Of course, this is discounting the fact that few of those stations actually play any actual music anymore, but it is still a great reason to look at what the popular streaming service currently presents to us as music options.

So without any further consideration of Viacom or anyone else, I present to you my list of the best music on Netflix Instant that you can access right now.

“This is Spinal Tap”

The classic movie that turned everything up to 11. I have to assume that Christopher Guest’s particular brand of humor is probably not for everyone, but personally I feel compelled to rewatch this immensely quotable movie about once a year or so.

Not only do you get to hear the classic songs “Big Bottom,” “Hell Hole” “Stonehenge” and, of course, “(Listen to the) Flower People,” you also get to ponder all of the missing drummers and see current “Late Show with David Letterman” bandleader Paul Shaffer request – beg, really – anyone to kick his ass. The way I see it, how anyone could pass this up – whether they’ve seen it before or not – is a case best left unsolved.

“Classic Albums” Series

This series of documentaries that goes behind the scenes of the making of some of the best albums in rock history is made for the music nerd in all of us. Superficial fans of the records may not want to hear producers play only the drum tracks of a classic song and expound on how they got that particular “thwwwrump!” but many of us find it fascinating. And there’s a lot of talk of the goings-on between the band members in and out of the studio to keep everyone else interested.

My personal favorite is the installment on the making of The Band’s self-titled album that finds, among many other great tidbits, the legendary Levon Helm talk about how he “sangs” through the “holes” he put in the beat of “Up On Cripple Creek.” May Levon rest in peace.

Other albums covered in the series include Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedos,” John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band,” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”

“Pearl Jam Twenty”

This rockumentary finds director and former music journalist Cameron Crowe paying tribute to the career of the grunge legends that were once known as Mookie Blaylock. The comprehensive look at the band’s career makes you almost forget about all the horrible grunge-light bands that Pearl Jam spawned and remember why they were so great in the first place – it makes you remember why they are still so great now.

“No Direction Home: Bob Dylan”

Martin Scorsese’s comprehensive biography of the legendary troubadour from the time he left Minnesota to his 1966 electric tour with members of the Band paints a portrait of just what the folk scene was like in the early 1960s, and how it was so quick to turn on the singer that it had seemed to label as the country’s savior.

But more than that, through video footage from the time, we see Dylan as a kid – sure he could be obnoxious, patronizing and high on who knows what – but when it comes down to it, he was just a kid trying to sing the songs he wanted to sing, not the songs the folk movement wanted him to sing. Seeing present day Dylan comment on it all is almost a surreal contrast to the footage presented.

“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco”

This intimate documentary captures the extremely turbulent time in the Chicago indie band as they work to make the album that eventually went on to become “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” perhaps the first truly great album of the 21st Century. Not only does it document the turmoil between band members (mainly the struggles between frontman Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett – who ended up being fired from the band), but also how the band was dropped from their record label, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. before the album could be released.

Fortunately, all’s well that ends well. The album was put out under a different subsidiary of Warner Bros. that signed the band. This meant, essentially, that Warner paid for the album twice and the band got to keep artistic control and all of their masters. What we got is the masterpiece that is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.


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