Oct 252010

I was never a fan of the Rolling Stones’ documentary Gimme Shelter, but I forgot how gripping and realistic this scene of understandably self-absorbed musicians listening to a playback of their latest recording was. There may be no better scene of this sort captured on film or video—or at least that’s the claim this scene is making as it shuffles triumphantly around the squared circle, arms raised, proclaiming inevitable victory before the bell has rung on this Battle Royale!

Do you have a studio playback scene to top this one? It can be from a real rock film, a fictional one, or even your own experience. All challengers for the belt will be judged on soulful gazes, knowing nods, off-mic banter, cans, artful couch slouches, wise producers/engineers, gear porn, cool observers, band members singing or air-playing along to the music, studio tans, tracking beards, Oriental rugs, and so forth.


  20 Responses to “Battle Royale: Understandably Self-Absorbed Musicians Listening to a Playback of Their Latest Recording”

  1. misterioso

    Mod, what’s your beef with Gimme Shelter? Too much foreshadowing of that terrible, terrible album Sticky Fingers?

  2. misterioso, to tell the truth, I only remember being bored to death by that and one of those other Stones documentaries from the early ’70s. I was so bored by seeing them on film that I can’t recall a specific set of beefs. Sorry. This clip, however, is so strong a champion in this Battle Royale that no other scene of this sort has dared step inside the ring and make a claim for the belt.

  3. Does it have to specifically be while they’re listening to the playback? Or can it extend to all facets of their being? If the latter, I offer up most of Don’t Look Back.

  4. This Battle Royale is specific to in-studio playbacks. Are you suggesting the submission of scenes of Dylan just being cool backstage or in hotel rooms? No. Overdub scenes, such as Mick Jones and Joe Strummer doing their vocals in Rude Boy, are admissible provided the scene features “cans” and soulful gazes.

    Let’s examine this clip of Jones singing “Stay Free.”


    Check out main character Ray Gange’s soulful gaze as he sits in the studio. Check out all the wisdom this dumb guy in the film soaks up from Jones’ performance. Around the 2:25 mark Jones has a moment when he realizes the soulful wisdom that he’s passed on. A few seconds later, in a Joyce Cary’s Herself Surprised moment, he’s even embarrassed by what’s gone down and takes a drag on his cigarette.

    Now, in the following clip from the same movie, with Joe Strummer singing “All the Young Punks,” check out Paul Simonon’s soulful absorption and understanding, beginning around the 54-second mark:


    Mick Jones is mouthing the words on the chorus. THIS, my friends, is how a real band reacts in the studio, how a real band unifies and finds meaning! Once again, Ray Gange’s character breaks studio protocol by entering the studio to witness this overdub in the same room as Strummer, but truly heroic rock musicians don’t freak out about this stuff. They understand how important the tracks they’re laying down are and relish the opportunity to perform their works directly for The People, as represented by the band’s friends and hangers-on at any given session.

    This, Townspeople, is what I’m talking about.

  5. Very helpful examples.

    I was thinking of scenes such as the one where Dylan was so deep in thought and absorbed by his own spectacular Dylan-ness that he was somehow able to ignore the attractive yet uber-annoying Joan Baez as he banged out lyrics on a type writer.

    Now I’m thinking that a movie like Eddie and the Cruisers might have a scene that could be a contender

  6. That’s a great scene, cdm, but outside the confines of this thread. Fictional movies must have some great scenes like this. Sadly, I dislike so many fictional rock movies that no great examples are coming to mind. One such rock flick that I did like, Grace of My Heart, probably has a couple of these scenes. I’ll have to poke around and see if I can find a clip.

    I bet that U2 movie Rattle and Hum has one of these scenes, but I’ve never seen that movie in its entirety.

    I was trying to find playback scenes in The Beatles’ Let It Be, as captured in great still photos on the album cover, but no luck, so far, in my brief search. The playback scene I have in mind might rival this Stones clip.

  7. misterioso

    I am stunned. May I suggest you revisit Gimme Shelter? I am not sure about “those other Stones documentaries from the early 70s.” I suppose those would have to be C-Sucker Blues (which is, by and large, a bore) or Ladies and Gentlemen…which is stunning, and not a documentary but a concert film. But for myself, I find Gimme Shelter gripping from start to finish, even watching Charlie gazing into space listening to Wild Horses from the Stones’ second greatest lp.

  8. What’s the one by Jean-Luc Goddard, One + One or some other equation? That’s the other one I thought sucked. I don’t care for Goddard’s regular films either, so I can expect a lecture from my man Dr. John on that count:) I think part of the problem is that I don’t like the way the Stones talk. Jagger and Richards are nothing but jive talk on film. I enjoy reading Keef’s words, but listening to their schtick is a drag.

  9. misterioso

    Ah, right. I love Godard’ films, generally, at least up until he went off the political deep end–just before One + One. The “movie” parts of that are largely unwatchable. The studio parts are interesting enough, if, for obvious reasons, rather repetitive.

  10. misterioso

    I don’t think there are any playback scenes in Let It Be–I know the photo(s) you have in mind where they’re sitting around the mixing console and Lennon looks like he’d rather be off in a bag somewhere. But I don’t think there was released footage of that. No doubt it will be included in the Deluxe Director’s Cut that will come out some day, though not in our lifetimes.

  11. That explains why I haven’t found that scene! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, but I spent so much time gazing at the album cover that it’s animated in my mind.

  12. shawnkilroy

    yeah wasn’t that the issue with the Get Back sessions? There was no playback, or mixing. just endless hours of filming tracking…and arguing

  13. I get it. You mean something like this (fair warning: poor quality and eight plus minutes):

  14. The Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart doesn’t quite have this, though it does have the semi-controversial but not all that interesting control-room argument between Tweedy and Bennett that culminates with Tweedy vomiting in the men’s room. That’s gotta count for something, right?

  15. ladymisskirroyale

    The Pixies’ “LoudQUIETLoud” probably has something that would work, but I just can’t bear watching it again. It took so much of the joy out of the band for me. Then again, maybe this chore would be cathartic?

  16. I seem to remember something like like that in “Laurel Canyon” where the producer (Francis McDormand) and her younger rockstar boyfriend are listening to playback and the daughter-in-law (Kate Beckinsale) walks in and is brought into the discussion as a outside opinion. I’ve only seen it once so I can’t point to a specific scene.

  17. That sounds familiar, k.

  18. Do I have to do everything up in this muthafucka?


  19. FEDERLINE GRABS THE BELT FROM THE STONES! Bravo, northvancoveman!

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