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The best music documentaries you can watch for free on YouTube

Kyle MacNeill
Written by
Kyle MacNeill

Despite the current global situation, there are still millions of ways to broaden your musical horizons whilst clubs, gig venues and record shops remain closed. Here’s our pick of some of the finest docs out there. Forget Netflix and the rest – these are all available to watch for free, baby! Enjoy! 

‘LDN’ (Nathan Miller, 2017). Watch here
The definitive document of London's modern grime-drill-hip hop explosion, which blesses this oft-misunderstood scene with the excitement and fervour it deserves. Featuring J Hus, Kojey Radical, 67, Fredo and more, ‘LDN’ was made by documentary filmmaker Nathan Miller, who was working part-time at the Ace Hotel at the time. 

‘The Burger and the King’ (BBC, 1995). Watch here
Elvis had a truly fascinating, slightly messed-up, relationship with food, which is told through this riveting doc. Only a man who used food as a proxy for love could stuff quite that many deep-fried peanut-butter sandwiches into himself in one lifetime. 

‘The Sound of Belgium’ (Visualantics, 2018). Watch here
Moving chronologically from old-school organs to techno, this rave-whistlestop tour takes in the whole history of Belgium’s dance music scene. Enjoy the extended cut for free, on isolation offer, until April 5.

‘I Was There When House Took Over the World’ (Channel 4, 2017). Watch here
Miniature two-parter on the birth of house music. Grooving through the beginnings of the scene in Chicago, there are lots of heavyweights lending their wisdom along the way (Nile Rodgers, Marshall Jefferson, Honey Dijon). 

‘Marc Bolan – The Final Word’ (BBC, 2007). Watch here
T-Rex were brimming with slick licks and big riffs.  Suzi Quatro narrates this BBC-produced story of Marc Bolan's life from childhood to fame and tragedy. A kaleidoscopic snapshot of the ultimate ’70s muse.

‘Fantastic Man: A Film About William Onyeabor’. (Alldayeveryday, 2014). Watch here
Travelling to Nigeria and chatting to Damon Albarn, Caribou and Femi Kuti, Jake Sumner investigates the enigma of funk magician William Onyeabor. It’s compelling viewing and beautifully shot, and will be sure to lead you down a virtual garden path of articles, rumours and hearsay. 

‘Chas and Dave: Last Orders’ (BBC, 2012). Watch here
Lovable rogues Chas and Dave invented ‘rockney’, a vaudeville blend of cockney pub rock, music hall and old-school bops. ‘Last Orders’ reflects on five decades of the duo, arguing that there was some real good music behind the laughs.

‘The Story of Funk: One Nation Under a Groove’ (BBC, 2014). Watch here
‘Funk. Funk is a sensation. A universal feeling from another dimension’ is how this exploration of the world’s embrace of funkiness kicks off. With archive footage of the likes of James Brown and Sly And The Family Stone, plus the usual BBC talking heads, it’s a toe-tapping treat.

‘Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain, 1984-1992’. (BBC, 2018). Watch here
Granted, not the breeziest title, but a real breath of fresh air. Switching out the usual floating heads, Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller takes it to the classroom, telling the history of acid house to a room of students, lecture-style. Reach for the laser-mouse and have a watch.

'The South Bank Show: Talking Heads' (LWT, 1979). Watch here
For anyone that likes their music played in lofts, there's this fantastic document of a tremendously shy David Byrne et al, around the time of 'Fear of Music'. 

‘Classic Albums: Screamadelica’ (BBC4, 2008). Watch here
A sheer joy. This one’s packed with mixing-desk magic and the band gleefully hashing it out to remember the album’s hazy conception. It features beautiful, poignant, acid-tongued words from the late Andrew Weatherall throughout.

Soulwax: Part of the Weekend Never Dies’ (Partizan Films, 2008). Watch here
One-hundred-and-twenty shows, one handheld camera, and thousands of off-their-face faces. It’s a head-first trip into Soulwax’s touring schedule, and all the excess that comes with it. An ace time to relive the new-rave explosion. 

‘Showdown at Glastonbury’ (Channel 4, 1992). Watch here
An absolutely mandatory watch for any festival-heads. Back in ’92, a Christian fundamentalist lived over the way from Michael Eavis’s farm and set up a gigantic crucifix opposite the main stage. Spoiler alert: she didn't manage to shut down Glastonbury. A stunning call back to the renegade days of the British music festival scene. 

...and when you’re done here, keep going by watching the best live concerts on YouTube too. 

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