50 greatest music films ever

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37 dig.jpg
Road rage: Anton Newcombe (right) with the Dandy Warhol's Courtney Taylor

22

‘DiG!’

(Ondi Timoner, 2004)
Regardless of mythical (or not) tales about using fish as sex toys, touring is a boring, bloody and brutal nightmare. If you’re lucky enough to go on a tour like the one documented in ‘Festival Express’, in which The Band, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin spend two weeks in the summer of 1970 on a train packed with friends, free booze, drugs and a gourmet restaurant car, then it will probably be an enjoyable experience. But, for most bands, touring is a mind- and friendship- destroying slog in which the uppers, downers and groupies are cheap and more likely to destroy your immune system than keep you going.If ever a film catches this on-the-road pain it’s ‘DiG!’, Ondi Timoner’s seven-years-in-the-making rockumentary about psychedelic also-rans the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Great guffawworthy moments arrive when frontman Anton Newcombe whines the immortal line, ‘You broke my sitar, motherfucker,’ and when the band’s jester/tambourine shaker Joel Gion pops up. But much of ‘DiG!’ deals with Newcombe’s paranoia (with record labels, The Dandy Warhols, the director, you name it), ever expanding ego (including a messianic complex) and a massive drug intake – out of control in the grubby petri dish of constant touring. It’s a film that Pete Doherty should be forced to watch with his eyes peeled back like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ because it depicts a man losing his marbles and believing his own hype without ever having proved himself. By the end of ‘DiG!’, Newcombe, a man you’ll struggle to find sympathy for, has lost his band mates, his friends and gets arrested for kicking an abusive audience member in the face ‘Karate Kid’-style. It came as little surprise when Newcombe disowned the film. Elsewhere in the world of bands on tour, things don’t look any more appealing. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy gets royally messed up in ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ and the Ramones documentary, ‘End Of A Century’, is essentially the tale of a group who’ve signed up to go on the road for all eternity as a cartoon punk band. None of the members like each other at all. They refuse to talk and the band’s existence becomes a depressing gladiator match of a punk rock tour. One in which Johnny Ramone is the last man standing.For a more positive spin on touring, perhaps see Cameron Crowe’s fictional ‘Almost Famous’, which shows the shallow fun times (‘I’m on druuuugs,’ shouts Stillwater frontman Russell Hammond), while Blur’s ‘Starshaped’ and the Minutemen documentary, ‘We Jam Econo’, make touring as an indie band seem more palatable. ‘Starshaped’ follows a young, spotty Blur journeying across Europe fuelled by booze and features an important lesson to any touring band: don’t drink tea from a cup and saucer while in a taxi. ‘We Jam Econo’ – slang for doing things on the cheap – is rather more serious. It shows early ’80s US indie punks and young idealists Minutemen touring against all odds, being spat on and living in squalor, just because they want to use their voice. It’s a triumphant, poignant film that, quite rightly, and for their own health, will scare away poseurs or naive indie kids who think getting in the van is an easy ride. Chris ParkinGreatest hit The leader of Brian Jonestown Massacre dons some robes and thinks he’s God.Top 50 index | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

Author: Dave Calhoun. Written by Derek Adams, Geoff Andrew, Dave Calhoun, Wally Hammond, Michael Hodges, Martin Horsfield, Martin Hoyle, David Jenkins, Trevor Johnston, Eddy Lawrence, Sharon O'Connell, Chris Parkin, Graeme Thomson, Peter Watts

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