I Want To Learn About Bands, Please Help Me!
August 3, 2014 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I am currently co-writing a play with music (which may turn into a musical, but we're not sure on that yet) that involves the dynamics of a group of band members, their management, the issues they have with each other, etc. My writing partner is a singer who was in a very successful local band, but I have never been in anything but high school marching band. I would like to watch some documentaries or behind-the-scenes footage of bands in action, bands in practice, etc.

In our discussion this morning, she said that the rehearsal space is a world unto itself, and she's going to take me to see some rehearsal spaces of local artist friends she knows sometime in the future, but I especially am interested in that aspect of it. If there is rehearsal footage in the band's rehearsal space, and in the band's recording space, that would be ideal.

Books about developing albums are also welcome, especially if they're about messy relationships among band members. Bonus points for stories about keeping artistic vision vs. what management would like bands to become.

Genre/time period irrelevant, just let me see what this looks like.
posted by xingcat to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I thought the documentary History of the Eagles offered excellent insight into the very topics you are most interested in. It touched on the legendary interpersonal conflicts between bandmates (Don Henley and Glenn Frey were very dominant and perfectionist personalities and this created resentment in everyone else), the subsequent lineup changes, the results of clashing egos and differing artistic visions both between members and between the group and management, the change in sound (from a country / bluegrass feel to a more conventional rock band), and how their image and songwriting skills developed. I enjoyed the behind the scenes information on the making of my favorite Eagles album, Desperado, and the discussion on why the sound changed shortly after. I also found the comments by the extremely talented Joe Walsh interesting. Quite famous in his own right before joining the Eagles, he nonetheless felt very insecure among Henley and Frey.

The 3 disc DVD set (the third features great concert footage) is very Glen Frey and Don Henley centric but nonetheless informative and "juicy", with candid and not always positive input from past members, fellow musicians, and former management. The revelations on band dynamics were interesting for even a long time Eagles fan such as myself.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 8:56 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You must, then, watch Dig!
posted by humboldt32 at 9:17 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who was in a ton of bands, This Is Spinal Tap is funny because it's true.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nothing Can Hurt Me, about the cult band Big Star, has lots of good photos (no video footage exists) of rehearsal/studio time. It's essentially the story of how an (extraordinary) artistic vision was doomed due to the vagaries of the music business at that particular moment. It also goes somewhat into the tensions between its two singers/guitarists, Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, which eventually led to Bell leaving the band. That dynamic is explored further in the recent Alex Chilton biography.
posted by scody at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Life on the murder scene has a DVD that is behind the scenes stuff for My Chemical Romance that covers some of what you're looking for, including member changes, alcoholism, the joys of touring etc.
posted by halcyonday at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You must watch, Some Kind of Monster. It's like a real-life version of This is Spinal Tap and an excellent movie in its own right.
posted by akk2014 at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress, selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry: This is Spinal Tap
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:46 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another one: Made of Stone, which is about the Stone Roses reforming (shortly after hell froze over, given their breakup) and rehearsing for their reunion tour a few years ago. The book Stone Roses: War and Peace goes into the development of both their albums and how messy the relationship within the band became.

On preview: seconding Some Kind of Monster and nthing This Is Spinal Tap.
posted by scody at 9:49 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is fantastic.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait, I'm a liar -- I forgot that there is video footage of Big Star in the studio (specifically while making their first album), as linked here. (And some of it even made it into the film. Sorry. I haven't had any caffeine yet this morning.)
posted by scody at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2014

Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life is rich in anecdotes about band relations and dysfunctions.

I'd also recommend My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry for the Prize, which, while it's UK specific, has a lot of detail on band dynamics and the album recording process.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for a participant-focused account of the early years of a band, there's always Kristin Hersh's lucid though impressionistic Rat Girl: A Memoir.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Sound City documentary (free streaming on Amazon Prime right now) has a bunch of short anecdotes from many bands about recording, band politics, management, etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:03 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pearl Jam Twenty is also a great oral history of both the band and Seattle in the early 90s.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:11 AM on August 3, 2014

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

IMDb says:

Since 1978, Anvil has become one of heavy metal's most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts. In 2006, after a fledging European tour Anvil sets out to record their thirteenth album and continue to follow their dreams.

It sounds like a satire, but it's real.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:14 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding I Am Trying to Break Your Heart and Pearl Jam Twenty.
posted by katie at 12:01 PM on August 3, 2014

"Let it Be"
posted by fingers_of_fire at 1:08 PM on August 3, 2014

Loudquietloud is an excellent doco on the Pixies.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:14 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Radiohead, Meeting People Is Easy
posted by dbiedny at 9:42 PM on August 3, 2014

This studio clip in particular...
posted by dbiedny at 9:51 PM on August 3, 2014

"Artifact" focuses particularly on the legal battles of the band 30 Seconds to Mars, but I seem to remember that it had some good stuff on band relationships and on managment-vs-artistic-goals. Also that my recording engineer partner thought it was very good.

Then again he also insists that Spinal Tap is the most realistic movie about band dynamics ever made, so YMMV.
posted by Stacey at 5:18 AM on August 4, 2014

"Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who" by Dave Marsh covers a lot of ground re: clashes between band members and between the band, management, and the record label regarding art vs. commerce (Pete Townshend had some formal art schooling, which IMO gave him a perspective not all that common among musicians.)

And yeah, nthing Spinal Tap. Seriously, I work with bands & musicians almost daily, and Stacey's partner is right - it is the most realistic movie about band dynamics ever made.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:15 PM on August 4, 2014

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