FEATURE: Going Back to the Old-School: Why We Need Music Documentaries at the Forefront




Going Back to the Old-School

PHOTO CREDIT: @dmjdenise/Unsplash 

Why We Need Music Documentaries at the Forefront


I realise that the glorious day of MTV…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Katie Puckrik/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

are gone and we will never get that same rush again. Maybe I am living in the past but I do love the buzz of nostalgia one gets looking back at MTV and the fantastic videos that launched the station. I think music T.V. still has a role but it is not the same as it used to be. One of the survivors of the music T.V. age is the documentary. They are not as popular and widespread as they used to be but, with Katie Puckrik’s I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock out in the ether, it has stirred up a lot of desire. I urge people to watch the documentary - because it is a fascinating insight into a style of music we all know but do not know that well. It sorted of started its life in the 1970s and continued in the 1980s. It seemed opposed to genres like Punk and Pop because it had its own vibe and scene. Of course, I grew up around artists like Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers but never really considered how they started life and the fact they were part of this wider culture. I do think we blithely listen to music and assume it does not have a sense of history and context. I can hear a Yacht-Rock song and I let it pass me by.

Having seen I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock, it has made me more curious and, to be fair, I have watched it a few times now. Puckrik offers this warm, passionate and knowledgeable lead and you can tell the genre means a lot to her. It was great seeing the documentary and hearing from a lot of the artists that defined the genre – from members of Toto through to some of the important movers and groovers who saw it all unfold. Even if you are not familiar with Yacht-Rock, one can appreciate a documentary like this. We consume music at such an alarming rate that we never really sit back and think about its origins. Maybe it is a sign of the past but I used to love watching all the classic album series that used to be on: a chance for one to get a properly in-depth study of an album, track-by-track. Now, when we do see music on T.V., it tends to play a minor role. There are no real music shows anymore (apart from Jools Holland’s long-running show) but so much of the industry has moved to streaming and away from T.V. and the physical. This is sad because, in order for genres, albums and movements to stay in the memory and find new fans, we need to start making more documentaries. It seems like BBC 4 is the natural home for music documentaries in Britain.

One might see the odd music documentary on other channels but it seems BBC Four is the place to go if you want that fix. Having revelled in the bliss and good vibes of I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock, I do think there are other genres and areas of music that have yet to be explored. From the golden era of Hip-Hop – I know there have been documentaries made on the subject but nothing recent – through to the Dance and Club music of the 1980s and 1990s, there is definite ammunition and demand. Documentaries takes a while to put together so I appreciate there might be some formulating as we speak. Puckrik’s desire and curiosity resulted in this great documentary that spoke to die-hard fans of Yacht-Rock and those who were a bit unsure and new. I love the fact BBC Four houses some great music documentaries but I do think that there is scope for a lot more to happen; to bring them to other channels and show that, in an age of streaming, there is plenty of room for something more detailed and studied. Everyone will have their own ideas regarding the documentaries we need to see. Whilst Yacht-Rock has been aired and uncovered, I do think that there are other genres that could be featured. I love, as I keep saying, the wave of great music that came out from the early/mid-1980s through to the late-1990s.

We do not see those classic album series anymore and I think there are some records that warrant that focus and celebration. Not only does it remind those of us who recall the album first time around but it ensures younger music fans are introduced to something they might be unfamiliar with. One other reason I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock proved so popular was the rush you get hearing these great songs. At the same time, one learns new things and you separate this genre from the rest of music. Some people do not realise that there are these very specific genres or they might not be sure whether a song is Yacht-Rock or not. I do maintain that we are becoming less connected with music in general and it is seen as more disposable. I would love to learn more about Fleetwood Mac recording Rumours. I love sampling in music and would enjoy a documentary that investigated big, sample-heavy albums; taking us to key areas like Brooklyn and Harlem when we consider Hip-Hop and its evolution. One cannot indulge every desire but there is a definite love of the music documentary. Whether we focus on a single artist such as David Bowie or cover a whole decade, it provides incredible T.V. and you come away feeling informed, nourished and better. It is a tragedy that we do not really have live music on T.V. and the MTV golden years are very much dead.

I do fear we are letting music slip into the machine and not really realising why music has come as far as it has. Were it not for music T.V. and the pioneers, who knows what state the industry would be in now. I keep watching I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock because the contributors talk with such glee and affection. They were part of something special and, whilst Yacht-Rock is not as widespread as it was at one time, it definitely had its place in music history. Playlists are great when we want to get an impression of a genre but I do think you need something more in-depth and visual. If one wants to learn about a band like, say, Fleetwood Mac and their careers, a documentary/series is the perfect way to do that. If we all think hard enough, there are so many different areas of music that are primed for televisual exposure. I do appreciate the role of BBC Four but, even then, there are not as many documentaries as you’d hope for. I have been arguing we need an authoritative, updated documentary about Kate Bush. I maintains bands like The Beatles have been addressed enough but there are still areas that are yet to be revealed for T.V. I have mentioned a few possible documentaries and, actually, there is potential for a new T.V. channel to come around that only features documentaries.


Maybe there is something similar but I am talking about a station that mixes new documentaries with classic ones. As a huge music fan, I really enjoy documentaries and I always feel enriched watching them. Not only does one get a chance to immerse themselves in a particular subject/genre but (the best documentaries) remain. I love the very best music videos and am a big fan of Jeff Buckley; I adore Hip-Hop, as I said, and I do believe there are new angles and ideas that could prove very popular. I tip my hat to Katie Puckrik and I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock because it has got people talking and, when you think about it, we all have some connection with the genre. Maybe there is some nostalgia in a documentary like I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock but even the sheer wonder of escaping is reason enough why we need more music documentaries. I am not the only one hankers after music playing a bigger role on T.V. It is heartbreaking that we experience music through streaming sites and online but do not spend as much time as we should with music T.V. and documentaries. There are countless options for great documentaries that would prove very popular and enduring. I am definitely going to watch I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock because it gave me a real tingle and I am picking up new things with each viewing. The wonderful world of Yacht-Rock has created a ripple that should change the tide and lead to a sea (sorry!) of…

WONDERFUL documentaries.