Thursday, August 18, 2016

10 Music Documentaries to Binge-Watch on a Free Weekend

Many films have been made about music and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of those who produce it. Here we list, in no particular order, some of the best and most successful music documentaries to hit the screen, both big and small, over the last five decades. So pick a weekend, get some snacks and beer, lie on the couch and start streaming!

Please use the comments box to add to the list and tell us about your own personal favourites.

It Might Get Loud (2008)

White Stripes’ Jack White meets U2’s The Edge meets Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page in this American documentary by Davis Guggenheim.Sitting around in comfy chairs, these three exulted Guitar Gods chat about their techniques, influences and humble beginnings with interviews, live appearances and found footage from their early careers up to the present day.

At one point, each guitarist teaches the other two how to play one of their band’s tunes. I Will Follow (U2), Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground (White Stripes), and In My Time of Dying (Led Zep) being the three chosen tracks.

The film boasts some classic moments for hardcore axe fiends. Jack White making a guitar in real time from a piece of wood, some wire and a broken bottle. Jimmy Page gurning away with a huge grin while listening to Link Wray’s Rumble. And The Edge plugging in his favourite axe as he warns the camera crew, “it might get loud.”
In the US, The film received a wide release by Sony Picture Classics on August 14, 2009.

Amy (2015)

Featuring lots of found footage alongside interviews and concert film, Amy is the tale of a private, often shy girl with a huge talent and addictive nature that ultimately led to her demise. The film depicts Winehouse’s struggle with substance abuse and the effect of its profound grip on her decisions. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are a lot of scenes dedicated to the celebration of her career and music including a number of previously unheard tracks and unseen performances.

To date the film has received 33 nominations and has won a total of 30 film awards, including for Best European Documentary at the 28th European Film Awards. Best Documentary at the 69th British Academy Film Awards, Best Music Film at the 58th Grammy Awards, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards and for Best Documentary at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards. The success of the film and the music from soundtrack also led Winehouse her second posthumous nomination at the 2016 BRIT Awards for "British Female Solo Artist".

The Wrecking Crew (2008)

The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Phil Spectre’s Wall of Sound. This film is where you learn (if you weren’t already aware) that most of your favourite tunes of the 1960’s were not played by the credited musicians. In fact most of these famous songs were performed in the studio by a group of expert session musicians who became known as The Wrecking Crew.

Your jaw will drop as one after another, the surviving members list off their sessions. Good Vibrations, Wichita Lineman, California Dreaming, Mr. Tambourine Man, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water to name but a few.

And why? Because The Wrecking Crew’s ranks include a variety of guitarists, drummers, pianists and orchestral players whose combined musicianship is beyond compare. So why spend all afternoon trying to get a take from a young, fledgling guitarist or a drummer who can’t play in time? Draft in expert session players like The Wrecking Crew and get your song finished in one take!

Sound City (2013)

Produced and directed by Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighter’s frontman Dave Grohl, this film documents the story of Sound City, a recording studio tucked away in the San Fernando Valley amidst rows of dilapidated warehouses and disused buildings.

The little-known recording studio housed an analogue 28 channel 8028 Neve mixing console and had a reputation for drums, giving the studio recordings a particularly punchy sound. Artists such as Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Rage Against The Machine and Slipknot all recorded ground breaking music at the studio. The film tells the story of Sound City from its very early days in the late sixties to its closure in 2011.

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

A beautifully warm film by Wim Wenders documenting Ry Cooder’s ambitious undertaking to reunite a group of legendary Cuban musicians to record an album and perform three concerts. Two in Amsterdam and one in New York. The film includes interviews with each of the main performers. About their early lives in Cuba, their careers in music and the relative obscurity that followed.
There are also some wonderful scenes of the musicians (many in their 70’s and 80’s at the time of recording) traveling abroad, some for the very first time.

The film spawned a hit album of the same name which includes songs by the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo.

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972) 

It doesn’t get much more proggy than Floyd’s 1972 film which centres around footage of them performing in an ancient Roman Amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy. Filmed over four days, the Floyd are playing a typical live set, but there is no audience, somehow giving the film an other worldly feel, intensified by their hot and sweaty semi naked daytime performances. For gearheads it’s a great opportunity to ogle at their stacks of amps and speakers, miles of cables and classic guitars, drums and organs all being thrashed by the band to powerful effect.

Filming was dogged by technical issues. The power supply in the amphitheatre was insufficient to run the masses of equipment. So in the end a lengthy cable was fed from the local town hall to supply electricity.

With the power supply restored, the Floyd play versions of Echoes, A Saucerful of Secrets and One Of These Days mixed with interviews, rehearsals and, in later versions of the film, studio footage from the Abbey Road sessions for Dark Side Of The Moon.

Classic Albums (various)

We cannot list music documentaries without a mention for the greatest music documentary series of them all, Classic Albums. The TV series made by Isis Productions and distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The format of the show is as follows. The music, and its production, is dissected by the musicians and/or producer, playing the multitrack recordings and singling out the separate recording tracks on the mixing desk. Then the individual musicians play back pieces, which are blended with the original recording. Almost all songs on the albums are meticulously examined, focusing almost entirely on the music itself, its inspiration, composition and realisation.

Each programme highlights the emotional process involved in making music. The highs, the lows, the addictions, the obsessions. Everything is laid bare and examined in minute detail. A truly great series for all musicians interested in the process behind making music.

Classic Albums include recordings by Elton John, Steely Dan, Motorhead, The Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, The Who, Lou Reed, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac and many more.

Cracked Actor (1974)

This 53 minute BBC documentary film depicts a post-Ziggy Bowie, emancipated and becoming addled by drug use, but remaining in control, hugely charismatic and beautifully fragile as he tours 70’s America. Languishing on the back seat of a huge limo, being hustled in and out of hotel rooms, appearing on countless TV and radio shows as the US tries to come to terms with this strange pale alien and his alluring, captivating musical paeans to the American psyche.

Drinking from a milk carton in the back of a Limo as they speed through the desert, The Thin White Duke is asked how he’s picked up on so many of the themes and culture of America during his stay. Bowie replies, “there’s a fly in my milk, a foreign body. And he’s getting a lot of milk. That’s kind of how I feel.”

The film includes concert footage from the ambitiously staged Diamond Dogs tour mainly filmed at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre on September 2nd 1974.

Although not widely available (it still remains officially unreleased), this film is worth tracking down for all Station to Station/Young Americans period Bowie fans.

Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

This is the incredible story of Sixto Rodriguez, a little known singer/songwriter who had gained almost mythical status in South Africa despite remaining entirely unknown in his native USA.
The film details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, who set out to discover whether the rumours of his suicide were true, or if not, what had become of the singer.

The film takes many fascinating twists and turns as the super-fans uncover more and more surprising details about the singer’s life.

What’s not surprising is that the film won both a BAFTA and an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature of 2013.

Tragically the writer, Malik Bendjelloul committed suicide in 2014.

Some Kind of Monster (2004)

All is not well in the Metallica camp. Their long term bassist Jason Newsted has quit the band and frontman James Hetfield is on the verge of a breakdown. His unwieldy ego and dark mood swings are over riding the band’s efforts to record a new album. Enter Phil Towe, a therapist and psychoanalyst drafted in by the management company (at $40,000 a month) in an attempt to reconcile the band’s differences. But things go from bad to worse and Hetfield checks in to a rehab centre to tackle his depression and alcoholism head on, delaying the recording of the album by around 18 months.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of Metallica’s music, this film is highly recommended for its candid insight into the turbulent roller coaster lifestyle of a mega rich rock group. Including a recruitment scene where new Bassist Robert Trujillo is welcomed into the band with a cheque for a million dollars!

And here’s a list of 5 more music documentary films you must binge-watch on your next free weekend…

  • Woodstock (1970)
  • Festival Express (2003)
  • Kurt Cobaine: Montage Of Heck (2015)
  • Dig! (2004)
  • Joy Division (2006)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Super Condensed" track list now available

Hi all, today we are launching a new feature / improvement to our stock music website The Super condensed view.

On any track listing (search result, genre browse, mood browse, etc.) you can now choose between the:

  • Standard - shows a Play button for all versions of tracks, with prices, plus description.
  • Condensed - shows only the main / full track version play button, and shows a bit of the description.
  • Super Condensed - NEW! - shows only a big Play button and the track title. Does not show additional versions / edits, no description, no details.

You can choose between these by clicking the "View" drop-down menu where indicated on the image:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A couple of small improvements at today

Hi all, today we have launched a couple of small upgrades / improvements to our music browsing process:

  1. In the list of music tracks, the "PLAY" button now changes to a "PAUSE" button for the currently playing track, so you can easily see which track is playing, and click the "pause" button to pause/stop the playing.
  2. We've added a "Tag this track" icon to the audio player area at the bottom of the page, so you can quickly and easily add the currently playing track (what you're hearing at that moment) to your "Tagged tracks" (it's like your Lightbox, or Wish list, for music tracks).
We hope this will be of help and will make using our site a little bit more pleasant and efficient.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Birthday Song now available royalty-free

The Happy Birthday Song (Happy Birthday To You) is one of the most famous and most used, most sung compositions in contemporary history. Despite this, you haven't been able to find this song / melody as a royalty-free music download anywhere, until now.

Why? Because the melody itself has been in copyright. Or at least, somebody claimed copyright in it. And when the melody itself is in copyright, you can't use this melody for any kind of distribution or public performance, not even if you record your own version of it, without paying royalties to the owners of the composition.

For years we have been getting asked about this song here at Shockwave-Sound. Why don't you have this melody in your library? Well, now you have your answer. :) Warner/Chappel claimed the copyright in the melody.

However, in a recent development that happened throughout 2015 and early 2016, this melody has now been placed in the public domain by Warner/Chappel as judged by a federal judge.

Says Wikipedia about the Happy Birthday song: "American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that "It is almost certainly no longer under copyright." In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis's research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about "Good Morning to All", sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody. In February 2016 Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million and sent the song into the public domain."

Wikipedia further states: "In the European Union, the copyright of the song was set to expire no later than December 31, 2016."

As a result of these developments, we here at are happy to announce probably the world's first royalty-free Happy Birthday To You recording. Composer/Producer Bjorn Lynne created two pretty simple, but nice sounding piano-only versions of this song and it is made available at as of March 6, 2016.  There's a "lively piano" version and an "easy piano" version, and both are available with or without party noises, and a funny party toot at the end.

We also have a Happy Birthday Funk version in the works, which will be made available on the site in the next few days.

If you're in the EU, please be sure to wait until December 31, 2016 before you use this composition in public or in media projects.

If you're in the USA, you should be able to use it right now, without copyright fears.

And if you're in any other countries, please use information resources in your own country to determine if this composition is in copyright or in public domain in your country.

Monday, February 29, 2016

10 Unforgettable Electronic Movie Soundtracks

Most Hollywood films use orchestral arrangements in their scores to engage the audience and help express a wide range of emotions. But synthesisers and computer based music can offer an entirely new experience and enhance the film in many unpredictable ways. So here’s a list of 10 great movies with 10 great electronic music scores to add to your ultimate movie soundtrack playlist.

10. Run Lola Run (1998)

Lola’s boyfriend is in big trouble and the only way she can save his life is by running, sprinting and jogging across Berlin in pursuit of a huge stash of cash. The accompanying soundtrack drive’s the action forward with a wide range of acid beats, spikey synths and squelchy basslines. The Techno soundtrack was composed by the film’s director, Tom Tykwer. With more than a little help from Johnny Klimek and ’99 Red Balloons’ producer,  Rinehold Heil.

9. The Social Network (2010)

The story of Mark Zuckerberg’s rocky road to success as head honcho at Facebook is underscored by music from Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor. The beautifully dark, post industrial electronica earned Reznor and Ross an Oscar for Best Original Soundtrack of 2010.

8. Beverley Hills Cop (1984)

Harold Faltermeyer’s indelible synth melody is as 80’s as a Rubik’s Cube, although far easier to play.
It chattered away behind Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley as he attempts to track down the killer of his childhood pal, Mikey Tandino. The soundtrack to this comedy cop thriller opened the gates for a slew of music scores featuring contemporary 80’s instruments like the Yamaha DX7 and Roland Jupiter 8. All driven along by the robotic rhythms of classic Linn drum machine.

7. Forbidden Planet (1956)

The score for this science fiction epic was so experimental that MGM prohibited use of the term ‘music’ in the credits. Instead Bebe and Louis Barron’s ring modulated warblings were referred to as ‘electronic tonalities’. As neither of the avant-garde experimentalists were members of the Musician’s Union, this term avoided any union payments for the studio. But it also meant that this innovative soundtrack could never be nominated for an Academy Award. However, Forbidden Planet’s soundtrack is a rare gem and still perhaps the most unique sci-fi score ever produced.

6. Chariots of Fire (1981)

As Hitchcock once said. “If music and picture are doing the same thing, one of them is being wasted.”

Perhaps that explains the success of Chariots of Fire’s synth heavy electronic score. The melancholic melody line of the main theme is the polar opposite of the extreme excursion felt by the athletes on screen. Yet it somehow works perfectly with the visuals. Helped by the use of slow motion to stretch out the agony just a little further!

 Of course, there were no synthesisers around in 1924. So it was a bold decision to use electronic pioneer Vangelis as the film’s composer. But it paid off big time, winning the film an Oscar for Best Original Score of 1981.

5. Midnight Express (1978)

Before ‘Shawshank’, before ‘The Green Mile’, even before ‘Caged Heat’, there was a prison movie to beat all prison movies called ‘Midnight Express’. The harrowing story of Billy Hayes. An American student who attempted to smuggle 2kg of hashish out of Turkey and ended up spending 5 long years incarcerated in a Turkish prison-from-Hell.

The film’s director Alan Parker recruited Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder to compose something along the lines of his recent smash hit with Donna Summer, I Feel Love. The result is a dark, incessant arpeggiated score that coils and slithers its way through the film like an angry snake. The Chase theme became a disco hit in its own right and earnt Moroder an Academy Award for Best Original Score of 1979.

4. Gone Girl (2014)

The music to this psychological thriller was the third collaboration between director, David Fincher and composers, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor  (the previous two being ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo’ and the afore mentioned ‘The Social Network’).

Filcher’s vision for the music was to recreate an emotion he had felt after hearing muzak played at a recent chiropractor session. He described what he heard as ‘inauthentic’. A soothing, reassuring soundscape that in fact had quite the opposite effect. Leaving him feeling anxious and ill at ease.
The result was a soundtrack that included washes of beautiful tones and colours indispersed with spikey incongruous electronic noises and discordant notes. Unsettling to say the least, and another triumph for the pioneering composing team of Ross and Reznor.

3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Although not wholly electronic, the score for A Clockwork Orange must get a mention because of its hugely influential role in the history of movie scores. Recorded in real time (there were no sequencers back then) on a bank of modular Moog synthesisers, these haunting renditions of well known classical pieces took on a maniacal life of their own as they resonated in the disturbed mind of protagonist Alex DeLarge, head of the Droogs played by Malcolm McDowell.

Composer Walter Carlos (who later became Wendy Carlos) came to the attention of the film’s director Stanley Kubrick after releasing an album of speeded up electronic chamber music called Switched On Bach in 1968. After contributing to the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, Carlos went on to record the score for the Disney film Tron in 1982.

2. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

There couldn’t be a list of electronic music score composers without mentioning the master of them all, John Carpenter. His mid 70’s film soundtracks terraformed the entire film music landscape and were a huge influence, not only on movie soundtracks, but other genres too, like Synth Pop, the New Romantics and Post Punk.

As a director, he’s quoted as saying that the only reason he composed for his own films is because he was fast and cheap. But the reality is way beyond that. His stark synth driven instrumentals locked with the visuals in a unique tensile alliance. A bond that became so strong that you couldn’t imagine one without the other.

Christine, The Fog, Escape From New York, Halloween. Any one of these films could have appeared on the list. But ‘Assault’s insidious five note bassline has a way of getting inside your psyche. And just like the Street Thunder Gang. Once it’s broken in, it’s difficult to shift.

1. Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott’s neo-noir sci-fi epic was by no means as successful on release as it has become since. It under performed in the US with critics calling it ‘plodding’ and lacking in pace. However, it has since become a cult classic and is was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry and heralded as being ‘culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.’ It is now regarded by critics (probably the same critics that earlier panned it) as being one of the best science fiction films ever made.

A large part of the success of Blade Runner can be attributed to its soundtrack. A glorious sweeping synthesised wash created and composed by Greek composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou. Better known to fans as Vangelis.

Vangelis began his career as a working musician in a covers band, moving on to become a member of the prog rock outfit
Aphrodite’s Child. As side projects he began composing film scores, later setting up a studio in London dedicated to his solo album work and a steady stream of movie soundtracks. This brought him to the attention of high profile film directors and in particular, David Puttman and Hugh Hudson who were making a film called Chariots of Fire. An Academy Award followed and the following year he collaborated with Ridley Scott on the music for Blade Runner.

The score is noted for capturing the isolation felt by replicant Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) as he scours the dystopian landscape in search of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). A replicant who has escaped to Earth in an attempt to extend his life cycle and elude his ultimate fate of being ‘retired’.

After the release of the film, a disagreement led to Vangelis withholding permission for his performance of the music being released. The studio instead hired a group of musicians dubbed The New American Orchestra to record the official album release. It took 12 years before the disagreement was resolved. The composer’s own work was released in 1994.

As with all the movies on the list, it’s important that a composer has an affinity with the narrative and subject matter of the film. Vangelis’s love of sci-fi is evident in his score for Blade Runner. He is quoted as saying, "mythology, science and space exploration are subjects that have fascinated me since my early childhood. And they were always connected somehow with the music I write."
His Blade Runner soundtrack is still seen by many to be one of his greatest works.

Other films with electronic soundtracks include:

Drive (2011)
Escape From New York (1981)
Dredd (2012)
The Birds (1963)
Friday The 13th (1980)
Christine (1983)
PI (1998)
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Sorcerer (1977)

Do you have any favourite Electronic film scores? Use the "Comments" field to discuss. Thanks!