So, things are pretty quiet around here these days. Not in terms of music – there’s plenty going on there, including a demo for “Clouds,” which is now making its way to a true recorded form. Likewise on the performance front: I have a few live-stream performances coming up, the first of which will be on the Apocalyptic Open Mic stage, planned for 8:30 PM Eastern on April 14. Please look for me there, and I’ll also do some Tunnel 18 sets in the coming days. I’ll let you know when!
Still, being stuck in the house has given me a chance to catch up on some films I’ve wanted to see, or to rewatch. While a few of them fall into the category of brain candy, there are a few that have given me a renewed appreciation of the music that I grew up with, and that influenced me greatly. I have a few film recommendations I’d love to share with you, and not surprisingly, most of them have to do with recording studios, or communities of musicians who pushed each other forward.
Echoes in the Canyon
Jakob Dylan was inspired by the music of the mid-60s, and it clearly shows in The Wallflowers’ sound. In this documentary, shot in 2018, Dylan explores how a community of musicians living in Laurel Canyon, just north of LA, inspired and challenged each other to create a brand new sound by marrying folk music with electric guitar, strong melodies and harmonies, and truly poetic lyrics. The legacies of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, and the Beach Boys have been with us ever since.
Yeah, I know. No surprise that I’ve got a Dave Grohl film in here, and this one specifically. I do recommend of course watching several episodes of Sonic Highways, particularly the LA, Seattle, and New York shows. However, there is an indelible place in my heart for this documentary, which showcases the history of Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California and how it played an integral role in the careers and sounds of Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and so many, many others. I have just about everything from this movie (and the shorts from the DVD) memorized and am much the better for it.
Trivia: Nick Raskulinecz got his start at Sound City as a runner. Now go look up who he is and why all Rush fans should care!
The Smart Studios Story
Smart Studios was a classic DIY concept, started by Butch Vig and Steve Marker in Madison, Wisconsin. And if you’ve ever wanted a great story about how to just make shit happen – as well as learn a hell of a lot more about Killdozer, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, and a treasure trove of Indie bands from the late 80s and early 90s – this is the one.
And now, a little mind candy….
That Thing You Do
Yup, purely for fun. But at the same time I was put in the mind to watch this again after hearing the news of Adam Schlesinger’s death earlier this week. It’s a sweet film with a few really great songs. It’ll bring a smile, and honestly we could use that right about now.
Another one purely for fun, and music that’s a lot closer to what I grew up listening to. Peter Frampton and Ann Wilson from Heart were musical advisors on the film, and the playing is great as a result. Also, Jason Lee is a comedic treasure as a lead singer who constantly gets second billing.
Now I’m looking for other great films to watch. I know there’s the Joan Jett film, and that’s on my to-watch list, but what else do you recommend? Please leave me suggestions in the comments – I’d really appreciate adding great stuff to the list!
PS – The featured image is from the CD label for the first album I released back in 2015 when I was working under the (clear) band name of Steeling Time*. You can take a listen to the full album here.
*Unfortunately there are bands in Canada and Australia working under the same name, so I changed back to using Tunnel 18, which frankly is more meaningful to me anyway.