They defined music and popular culture like no other band ever will. But how did The Beatles make the journey from Merseyside teenagers to international pop stars in the 1960s? The Beatles: Made on Merseyside recounts how American rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues dragged post-war Liverpool into one of the most vibrant music cities ever with the Mersey Sound. Featuring unique archive and revealing interviews from those involved in the early years of The Beatles in Liverpool and Hamburg, we discover the story of The Beatles’ previous band formations and why it took so long for them to achieve success. From school bands to colleges, Hamburg to The Cavern Club, The Beatles moved from skiffle to rock ‘n’ roll before creating their unique sound.
2019 • Music
In 1969, 500,000 people descended on a small field in a little-known town in upstate New York called Woodstock. The documentary that captured the iconic event, chronicled in unflinching detail this moment in history. But how was this groundbreaking film actually made?
2019 • Music
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the concert that became a touchstone for a generation. This film brings the three-day concert to life through the voices of those who were present at what became the defining moment of the counterculture revolution. In August, 1969, half a million people from all walks of life and every corner of the country converged on a small dairy farm in upstate New York. They came to hear the concert of their lives, but most experienced something far more profound.
Scientists are now finally discovering what thinkers, musicians, or even any of us with a Spotify account and a set of headphones could have told you on instinct: music lights up multiple corners of the brain, strengthening our neural networks, firing up memory and emotion, and showing us what it means to be human. In fact, music is as essential to being human as language and may even predate it. Can music also repair broken networks, restore memory, and strengthen the brain?
A chance to see the BBC Symphony Orchestra perform British composer Gustav Holst's The Planets at the London Barbican, in a concert from last September timed to celebrate the centenary of the premiere. But there's a special scientific twist to this concert, as before each movement, Professor Brian Cox discusses what modern science reveals about each of the planets.
2019 • Music
Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith’s guitarist, explains how the quest for new guitar sounds has driven the history of popular music, from Les Paul’s first guitar to Bo Diddley’s tremolo, Duane Eddy’s whammy bar, Keith Richards’s fuzz pedal, The Who’s feedback, The Byrds’ 12-string, Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal, Uli Roth and Van Halen’s shredding, The Edge’s digital delay, Ry Cooder’s slide, and KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran’s looper pedals. With Duane Eddy, Roger McGuinn, The Edge, Bonnie Raitt, Seasick Steve, KT Tunstall, Joe Bonamassa, Uli Roth, Vernon Reid, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, The Runaways’ Lita Ford and producer Shel Talmy.
Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club celebrates the extraordinary contribution of bass to popular music, tracing its progress from street-corner doo-wop and the overlooked ‘guy at the back’ in rock ‘n’ roll, via Paul McCartney, the anonymous James Jamerson and Carol Kaye - whose genius bass lines underpinned The Beatles, Motown and LA sound respectively - British jazzer Herbie Flowers’s immortal line in Walk on the Wild Side, the emergence of 70s funky bass stars Bootsy Collins and Chic’s Bernard Edwards, the driving lead bass of postpunk maverick Peter Hook in both Joy Division and New Order, through to the growth of bass culture in reggae, whose sound systems sparked whole new genres in drum and bass, grime and beyond. With Bootsy Collins, Dizzee Rascal, Ray Parker Jr, Nile Rodgers, Peter Hook, Carol Kaye, Herbie Flowers, Valerie Simpson, The Marcels’ Fred Jonson, DJ Aphrodite and Gail Ann Dorsey.
Stewart Copeland explores the drums as the founding instrument of popular modern music. Beats that travelled from Africa via New Orleans and across the world are the consistent force behind musical evolution. Stewart plays with some of the most inspiring drummers of the last 50 years, including John Densmore of The Doors, Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Prince’s musical director Sheila E, New Order’s Stephen Morris and Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins. He goes dancing in New Orleans, builds his own bass drum pedal and checks out hot new bands on Santa Monica beach.
Behind-the-scenes archive documentary following Queen's Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon as they record their sixth album News of the World and embark on a groundbreaking tour of North America. By 1977, Queen had become a major headlining act in the UK, releasing chart-topping albums and singles as well as playing sell-out concerts in all the country's major venues. However, they were facing an increasingly hostile music press, who had a new favourite in punk and had turned against the elaborate, multi-layered recording techniques that had become the hallmark of the band's previous albums. But an unfazed Queen had their sights set on greater things. As the band announced plans to record their next album, the expectation was it would be another production extravaganza, but Freddie, Brian, Roger and John already had other ideas. News of the World showcased them at their most raw, simple and best, returning to their roots as a live act. With a self-imposed limit on studio time and produced entirely on their own for the first time, this stripped-back album took the fans and press by surprise and demonstrated Queen's ability to transcend fashions. It was to prove a seminal moment in the band's history. At the time, BBC music presenter Bob Harris was given exclusive and extensive access to the band to cover this period. Conducting insightful interviews with all four band members as well as filming them at work in the studio as they were planning and rehearsing their forthcoming North American tour, and then following them as they performed across the US, Bob captured a band attempting to replicate their huge domestic success on the global stage. Curiously, the documentary he set out to make was never completed, and the footage lay unused in the archive until now. To mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the News of the World album, the footage has now been carefully restored and revisited to compile this hour-long portrait of a group setting out to take the next step on their remarkable journey to becoming one of the biggest bands on the planet. Armed with an array of new songs, including the monster hits We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions, Queen dazzled the American audience and laid the foundations of a relationship that endures to this very day. Coming full circle, this film is bookended by footage shot in the summer of 2017 as Brian May and Roger Taylor took Queen back to the US with Adam Lambert as lead singer. Revisiting many of the cities they had performed in 40 years previously and including many of the songs from that 1977 album, they prove that despite the tragic loss of Freddie Mercury over 25 years ago, Queen can still rock the world.
2017 • Music
DJ and broadcaster Rita Ray travels to Mali in West Africa, home to a deep musical culture and ancient instruments that are the hallmark of their sound. Mali has produced more Grammy-winning artists than any other African country, and this well of talent has drawn in artists and producers from around the world to collaborate with the local musicians. Whilst the country has been rocked by Islamist insurgency, leading to a ban on music in some areas, Rita finds out how a traditional way of life and rich musical culture have endured.
Part three of this entertaining, behind-the-scenes series about how the music business works, explores the phenomenon of band reunions. With unique revelations, rare archive and backstage access to an impressive line-up of old favourites strutting their stuff once more, music PR legend Alan Edwards tells the story of why so many bands are getting back together, what happens when they do - and how it's changing the music business. Alan Edwards, who has looked after everyone from Prince to The Rolling Stones, from David Bowie to The Spice Girls, is our musical guide. He's been in the business long enough to see countless acts enjoy pop stardom, split up, fall out, only to re-emerge triumphant decades later, to the joy of their fans.
The composer examines the history of the past 100 years in music, known as the popular age. During this period, classical music - as it is now termed - seemed to be in decline, but Howard argues that while some cutting-edge works proved too challenging to be appreciated by the mainstream audience, the DNA of the genre is alive and well in musical theatre, cinema and popular music.
Howard Goodall examines the ways in which modernism and the birth of recorded sound in the late 19th century changed the way music was played, heard and distributed. He reveals how the works of Mussorgsky made a huge impression on European composers when aired at the 1889 Paris World Fair, and discusses how increasingly disparate musical influences were woven together to create groundbreaking new sounds.
The composer examines the middle to late 19th century, exploring the European craze for opera and music that dealt with death and destiny. He suggests that composers were inspired by Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique to write about witches, ghouls, trolls and hellish torment, and that the death of the heroine in Verdi's La Traviata was a comment on the hypocrisies of wider society. Howard also argues that the image of the composer as a misunderstood genius was cemented in the public imagination during this period.
The composer examines the age of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin. This period from 1750 to 1850 saw composers going from being paid, liveried servants of princes and archbishops to working as freelancers required to appeal to a new, middle-class audience. The era also saw tremendous social upheaval, including the American, French and Industrial revolutions, but until around the turn of the 19th century, the music that was being written bore little relevance to the tumultuous changes in society.
The composer examines the extraordinarily fertile musical period between 1650 and 1750, which saw innovations including the orchestra, the overture, modern tuning, the oratorio and the piano. Vivaldi developed a form of concerto where a charismatic solo violin was pitted against the rest of the orchestra, Bach wrote complex and heartfelt music in his mission to glorify God, and Handel brought all the techniques of the preceding 100 years to his oratorio Messiah.
The composer examines the history and development of music, beginning by looking back at the first faltering steps humanity took toward creating it. He considers archaeological evidence showing that music was as important in the late Stone Age as it is now and charts how Gregorian chant started with a handful of monks singing the same tune in unison. Over the course of several centuries, medieval musicians painstakingly put together the basics of what has become termed harmony and then added rhythm - the building blocks of the music the world enjoys today
The series concludes with Be My Baby, which reflects on the evolution of rock 'n' roll music and its impact in America, including Buddy Holly's tragic death in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22, the game-changing arrival of The Beatles in America in 1964, and everything in between. Philadelphia produced 'teen idols' like Fabian who were beamed around the country by the daily TV show Bandstand. Rock 'n' roll even fuelled the Motown sound in Detroit and soundtracked the sunshiny west coast dream from guitar instrumental groups like The Ventures to LA's emerging Beach Boys. In the early 60s, rock 'n' roll was birthing increasingly polished pop sounds across the States, but American teens seemed to have settled back into sensible young adulthood. Enter the long-haired boys from Liverpool, Newcastle and London.
In episode two, Whole Lotta Shakin', the rock 'n' roll story continues with the boom in the sound across America and its move into mainstream culture thanks to seminal TV appearances from Elvis, who made his small-screen debut with a rendition of Heartbreak Hotel before his notoriously sexualised performance of Hound Dog that caused shockwaves across conservative America. The programme explores the media's failed attempts to suppress the genre before wholesome Buddy Holly calmed the waters, converting geeky looks into chart success, before scandal again in 1958 with Elvis's conscription to the army and Jerry Lee Lewis's career suicide when he married his 13-year-old cousin.
Suzy Klein reaches the 1930s, when the totalitarian dictators sought to use and abuse music for ideological ends. Suzy looks at the lives of Richard Strauss, Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, who produced some of the 20th-century's best-loved music whilst working for Hitler and Stalin. The political message of Peter and the Wolf is revealed as well as the secret code hidden in Shostakovich's quartets and Strauss's personal reasons for trying to please the Nazis. Suzy also uncovers why Hitler adored Wagner but banned Mendelssohn's Wedding March; how Stalin used music to subtly infiltrate minds; and why Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, a Nazi favourite, appeals to our most primitive senses. Suzy also raises some intriguing questions: Can we pin meaning onto music? What are the moral responsibilities of artists? And did the violence and tyranny of those regimes leave an indelible stain on the music they produced?
A journey into the BBC archives unearthing glorious performances and candid interviews from the golden age of jazz. Featuring some of the greatest names in American music, including the godfather of New Orleans jazz Louis Armstrong, the King of Swing Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. Broadcasted as part of the Old Masters, Rising Stars: Jazz On BBC Four season, this film unlocks the BBC archives to explore the words and music of some of the greatest names in jazz. The BBC soon moved on from Lord Reith's proclamation, made in the 1930s, that jazz was "a filthy product of modernity", and invited some of the legends from the golden age of American jazz to perform and talk on British television. This film is a series of revealing portraits, from Louis Armstrong, jazz's first great soloist and global ambassador, to Duke Ellington, the ever-suave bandleader and composer who brought a new sophistication and ambition to the music. Count Basie is sheer swing, Dizzy Gillespie provoked a musical revolution with bebop, and Ella Fitzgerald is just incomparable. Through long-forgotten archive and specially shot interviews, Jazz Legends In Their Own Words tells the story of an art form that has been called "America's gift to the world".
2014 • Music
In the 1970s, Jamaica came alive to the sounds of roots reggae. British rapper, poet and political commentator Akala tells the story of this golden period in the island's musical history, a time when a small group of musicians took songs of Rastafari, revolution and hope to the international stage.
2016 • Music
Ian Hislop and John Eliot Gardiner reveal the story behind Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Described as the 'greatest 'great' piece ever written,' its opening notes are among the most recognisable in history. But no one really knows what Beethoven was trying to express with this piece. The traditional wisdom is that he is railing against fate and his deafness. But John Eliot believes the music expresses Beethoven's belief in the French Revolution. This is turbulent music from a turbulent man living in a turbulent age. John Eliot and Ian Hislop bring to life the exciting and dangerous times that shaped Beethoven personally and creatively.
2016 • Music
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique perform the world's most iconic piece of classical music, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Bringing out all the revolutionary fervour that Gardiner believes underpins the work and performing on period instruments of Beethoven's day, this performance brings us an authentic re-imagination of the sounds Beethoven's original audiences would have heard. Shot on location in St John's Smith Square, the performance looks and sounds stunning. Ahead of the performance, Gardiner and the principals of the orchestra discuss the issues in trying to breathe new life into such a famous piece and how their period instruments transform the symphony's sound.
2016 • Music
Composer and musician Neil Brand's series exploring the alchemy that creates great songs reaches the modern era, when a revolution in how they were made took place. From the synthesisers of symphonic rock to the mixes of disco and the samplings of hip hop, music was transformed by the arrival of digital technology and the computer, which gave some songwriters more power but others much less. Along the way Neil talks synths with Rick Wakeman from Yes, samples with Public Enemy's Hank Shocklee, uncovers the surprising lo-fi origins of Bruce Springsteen's stadium-busting Born in the USA, and finds out how Cher changed the sound of her voice on the smash hit Believe.
Musician Neil Brand explores the magical elements that come together to create great songs by recreating some of the most memorable and innovative recording sessions in music history - from Elvis's slapback echo in Memphis and the Beatles' tape loops at Abbey Road to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and the Beach Boys' pop symphonies. He shows that all this was made possible by the discovery of magnetic tape by an American soldier in the ruins of WWII Germany, the invention that, more than any other, drove the emergence of the music studio as a compositional tool and the rise of the producer as a new creative force shaping the sound of song.
In-depth documentary investigation into the story of a popular music genre that is often said to be made to be heard but not listened to. The film looks at easy listening's architects and practitioners, its dangers and delights, and the mark it has left on modern life. From its emergence in the 50s to its heyday in the 60s, through its survival in the 70s and 80s and its revival in the 90s and beyond, the film traces the hidden history of a music that has reflected society every bit as much as pop and rock - just in a more relaxed way. Invented at the dawn of rock 'n' roll, easy listening has shadowed pop music and the emerging teenage market since the mid-50s. It is a genre that equally soundtracks our modern age, but perhaps for a rather more 'mature' generation and therefore with its own distinct purpose and aesthetic. Contributors include Richard Carpenter, Herb Alpert, Richard Clayderman, Engelbert Humperdinck, Jimmy Webb, Mike Flowers, James Last and others.
2011 • Music
Kurt Cobain, legendary lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Nirvana, “the flagship band of Generation X,” remains an object of reverence and fascination for music fans around the world. His story is told for the first time in KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
2015 • Music
Filmed over the course of four years, award-winning director Phil Grabsky follows one of the world's greatest pianists, Leif Ove Andsnes, as he attempts, in a series of sold-out worldwide performances, to interpret one of the greatest sets of works for piano ever written - Beethoven's five piano concertos.
2015 • Music
Like an actor's script, a sheet of music instructs a musician on what to play (the pitch) and when to play it (the rhythm). Sheet music may look complicated, but once you've gotten the hang of a few simple elements like notes, bars and clefs, you're ready to rock.
In standard notation, rhythm is indicated on a musical bar line. But there are other ways to visualize rhythm that can be more intuitive. John Varney describes the ‘wheel method’ of tracing rhythm and uses it to take us on a musical journey around the world.
How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners.
When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What's going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians' brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.
We don't know much about the human brain on music. Do people instinctively know the sound patterns of the pentatonic scale? Is there a base level of musical knowledge in all of us, just waiting to be tapped? Or is the pentatonic scale simply so common in Western music that it has become ingrained in all of our minds? Improvisational genius Bobby McFerrin uses audience participation to demonstrate the power of the pentatonic scale - or at least the audience's familiarity with it.
2011 • Music