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Music Movies Part 5: Music Industry

by Andrew Pouska

These movies give you insight into how many parts of the music industry work from recording to touring.

Muscle Shoals

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is one of the most famous recording studios in the US South. Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones and many others recorded here. The house band, with David Hood on bass, were a sought after sound and played on many hits like the Staple Singers I'll Take You There.

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Take Me To The River

For as important as Stax Records is, this documentary should have been better. It is still worth the watch to familiarize yourself with Stax/Volt Records. Stax was another powerhouse studio cranking out hits by soul and blues legends like Otis Redding, Albert King, Sam & Dave (they appear on Jaco's Come On, Come Over), and many others. Donald "Duck" Dunn plays bass on many of these Stax hits.

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Stax/Volt Revue: Live in Norway 1967

This is a great performance with a young Duck Dunn playing bass throughout. The Stax house band and several artists traveled to Norway to put on this one show. It's not streaming, but worth finding if you're a fan.

Amazon (DVD)

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

I've mentioned this documentary already, but it can be mentioned again! This movie is about Motown's house band the Funk Brothers and bassist James Jamerson.

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The Wrecking Crew

This doc is about the famous Los Angeles session musicians who played on many hit recordings. They often received no album credit, and no one knew that many bands didn't play their own music. This documentary features bass legends like Carol Kaye and Joe Osborn.

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Cadillac Records

A dramatic history of Chicago's Chess records. They got the name "Cadillac" records because they would give artists a Cadillac to make them feel rich. They weren't! Characters in this movie include bassist and prolific blues composer Willie Dixon (he's the one who sued Led Zeppelin for using his songs without permission), Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James and many others. Very entertaining.

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Les Paul - Chasing Sound

Guitarist Les Paul is an important innovator in the world of guitars, recording and effects. We take many of his pioneering efforts for granted today. This is an excellent PBS documentary.

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Tom Dowd & the Language of Music

Tom Dowd is the famous recording engineer and producer from Atlantic Records. He recorded countless big name artists from the 1940s to the end of the century. He's known for pioneering multi-track recording. A legend.

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Produced by George Martin

George Martin is known as the "fifth Beatle." He was the producer and engineer behind the Beatles. This film interviews Martin along with Paul and Ringo, and they recount recording sessions and other Beatles history. Very good.

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Who the F**k is Arthur Fogel?

This documentary is about live music promoter Arthur Fogel. Before Fogel, music promoters were regional and tours made decent money. Concert tickets used to be $10-20. Fogel changed all of that to create many of the highest-grossing stadium shows of all-time. This documentary is very eye-opening.

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Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape

This documentary frames the importance of the cassette tape. How could one of the poorest-sounding playback mediums be so significant? Watch and understand the power the cassette gave to musicians and music fans.

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Sound City

Directed by Dave Grohl, this documentary looks at the history of Los Angleles' Sound City Studios where many hit albums were recorded.

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It Might Get Loud

This popular documentary is about three guitar players: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. They discuss guitars, tone and creativity.

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Classic Albums Series

This is an excellent series where they get together with artists, engineers and producers and breakdown hit albums track-by-track. Many are streaming on Amazon: Rush, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Duran Duran, Steely Dan, and many more. Highly recommended.

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