Rock documentaries, or rockumentaries if you will, just don’t get any better than this.
Yes, of course I was a fan of Anvil back in the early eighties. They had Kerrang! covers, rave reviews and multi-page spreads. Hard N Heavy, Metal on Metal and Forged In Fire were the albums that I bought, listened to repeatedly and read all of the song lyrics and the liner notes. At the time I was possibly only buying one album per month out of my pocket money. I remember buying either Hard N Heavy or Metal on Metal just before Christmas when I should have been saving money for presents. They were just one of many favourite bands that I had at the time. Even though I was still reading Kerrang! magazine they seemed to disappear from my radar, from everyones radar for that matter.
When I heard that a documentary was being made about them I was surprised to say the least. Surprised that they were still going, thirteen albums and counting, and dumbfounded that they could warrant being the subject of a film documentary. Not just a TV special on some obscure cable channel but a full blown cinematic release.
They are essentially a ‘real life’ Spinal Tap, except Tap never had day jobs and extended families. Anvil get a chance to tour Europe, they get lost in cities with foreign road signs, club owners don’t pay them, they miss trains, but they play in front of any thing from 10 to hundreds of fans and that is all they’re doing it for. Not for the fame or the money, they don’t actually make any money on the tour, but just for the love of the music. Corny I know. When the tour is over they go back to their families and their day jobs. Cue shots of Lips wearing a hair-net and their bald bass player also wearing the same head-gear because that’s the rules when preparing school meals. They get to work with C.T., the record producer, but only if they can cough up £12,000 (I think it was pounds sterling). It’s Lips' sister who gets them the money and, a few twists and turns aside, they make their thirteenth album. That’s the easy part. Going ‘round record companies in this day and age trying to get it distributed was a thankless task. So they decided to get it made and sell the CD via their web-site. That’s when they get asked by a Japanese promoter if they want to play in Japan.
What occurred to me, watching all this unfold, was why didn’t they just ask their fans to contribute to the making of the album. It worked for Jill Sobule and she made California Years. Any fan making a donation over a certain limit would get a name check on the liner notes and a copy of the CD when it was made. They certainly have enough enthusiastic fans. Even some of the rock musicians interviewed could have given some money. I’m sure Slash, Lemmy and Lars would have given a buck or two. Possibly there just wasn’t enough time to organise that kind of thing if studio time needed to be booked.
One very odd thing on the disc was part of the special features. It’s the full interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica, which is about 30 minutes long, during which he mentions Geoff Barton and Xavier Russell and that they were both working for Sounds and then for Kerrang!. He says that usually whatever Geoff said was good really was worth checking out because he would rave about obscure bands like Silverwing (MySpace). Lars says that these bands would hail from towns like Macclesfield and all the band members would work in chip shops. Now that is certainly not something you hear every day, the drummer of a huge rock band mentioning your home town.
Towards the end of the interview Lars says to Sacha Gervasi, the director, that he has never actually met Anvil. Their paths must have continually crossed during the eighties but a meeting never took place. Lars says that he’d like to buy them a beverage of their choice and sit down and talk about music. I really hope that happens. Maybe one for a follow up documentary.
So Anvil fly to Japan to do this festival which, unlike European festivals, is inside a huge concert hall. The camera zooms in on the bill for the day and Anvil are first on at 11:35 in the morning. You just hear Lips saying that no one is going to come, they’ve flown all that way to play to a handful of people in a huge hall. The only thing I could think about was Jeanine saying in This Is Spinal Tap, “Oh, no! If I told then once, I told them a hundred times: put Spinal Tap first and puppet show last”.
You’ll just have to watch the film to see what happens.