Muscle Shoals: Documentary about the studio but mostly the artists
November 20, 2021 5:46 PM   Subscribe

The Muscle Shoals sound encompasses some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Rick Hall brought black and white artists together to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the "Muscle Shoals sound" and The Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios that eventually left to start its own successful studio known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Artists who recorded here: The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Tamiko Jones, and Cat Stevens. (I was quite surprised to come across this docu and have it not be behind a paywall. I've had other nice surprise finds disappear quickly, which is to say that if you want to watch this free you might want to act fast.)
posted by dancestoblue (24 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
"Video unavailable. The uploader has not made this video available in your country."

Unavailable in Canada. :-(

I wasn't fast enough, maybe.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:03 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Other options to try:
Pluto (likely with ads)
Other options (Tubi, redbox, and Roku all have it as well, with ads)
posted by sysinfo at 7:16 PM on November 20

This was on Netflix for a little while but then it disappeared. I'm catching it now while I can.
posted by Ber at 8:04 PM on November 20

Definitely have to watch this. My favorite bit of Swampers trivia is that David Hood’s son Patterson is a founder and frontman of the Drive-By Truckers, which is a hell of a musical legacy.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:10 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]

The Muscle Shoals Horn section released 3 albums of their own as "Muscle Shoals Horns", and the Swampers also released an album, The Cream of Muscle Shoals as "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section."
posted by Sunburnt at 8:25 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]

Our local radio station WMVY has been talking about this film, and playing blocks of recordings from MS artists, some of which must certainly be in their archives.
posted by vrakatar at 9:56 PM on November 20

Holy Baader-Meinhof, Batman! I just learned about this studio for the first time today, while listening to an interview with Paul Simon
posted by McNulty at 1:00 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen, filled with fascinating revelations and gorgeous sounds and beautiful images, of the artists and the surroundings both. The stuff with Aretha's sessions is fantastic, as is watching Keith Richards mouth the words to "Wild Horses" as he listens to the song he just finished writing in the Muscle Shoals bathroom a few hours earlier. Just an all-around excellent film, perfectly shot and edited. Re-watched a half-hour and will finish the rest today. Thanks for this post, dancestoblue; it's great to see this gem is now widely available for free on a bunch of streaming services.
posted by mediareport at 3:35 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]

For purposes of searching within our own countries, what is the title of the documentary?
posted by eviemath at 5:39 AM on November 21

Specifically, is it ”Muscle Shoals” from 2013?
posted by eviemath at 5:42 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]

posted by mediareport at 5:47 AM on November 21 [1 favorite] informs me that at some point there existed a 1080p BluRay rip with a BTIH checksum of c42de7b49d86004c8d0c686b6b8db99f569cb628, and also a 720p BluRay rip with a BTIH checksum of c25236fe62dd5e4bb692165579b64aca424c14c3. I don't know whether they're still being shared around out there. If you were to set a BitTorrent client to looking for those I guess you might get lucky.
posted by flabdablet at 5:58 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]

I saw this a few years ago. Great stuff.
posted by freakazoid at 6:49 AM on November 21

Oh, man, I'd forgotten just how great the Wilson Pickett section is. If you want to be convinced to watch the entire film, check the part from 26-35 minutes. It's just after local boys Arthur Alexander and Percy Sledge have huge R&B hits with their first records, and after the doc notes Alabama governor George Wallace and the racial climate at the time. Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler had a falling out with Stax and decides to send Wilson Pickett down to Muscle Shoals to make his next record. Rick Hall meets Wilson at the airport and they both realize that Pickett is thinking "what the fuck am I doing in Alabama with these crackers?" Then Wilson sees people picking cotton in fields near the studio. "Is that what I think it is?" he asks.

And then, Pickett and the kids in the band start working together - no written arrangements, just pure collaboration. They click immediately on "Land of 1000 Dances." By the time Wexler goes up to young drummer Roger Hawkins and tells him he's a great drummer you'll be grinning ear to ear:

"He said, 'Roger.'
I said, 'yes, sir.'
He said, 'Roger, you're a great drummer.'
And all of a sudden it just - I just kind of relaxed and became a great drummer, just like he said I was."

posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]

Y'know I do remember hearing somewhere that Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers, doo doo doo.
posted by Sphinx at 9:54 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

And they’ve been known to pick a song or two! (Yes they do)
posted by TedW at 9:56 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

Can now confirm that the 1080p BluRay rip is still being seeded.
posted by flabdablet at 10:29 AM on November 21

Fantastic doc, try to see everything I can find on Muscle Shoals and this is among my faves.

My wife and I made it part of a pilgrimage of sorts in '93 while on a 6-month sojourn in our Westy since we could hit Nashville and Muscle Shoals on our way to Memphis and Graceland before hitting the Great River Road down to New Orleans then west to Austin and beyond - knew the studio was an inconspicuous building but wow, to see it in its gritty, unassuming environment was so crazy given all the greatness that had transpired there, really impossible to comprehend how improbable it is that it became the destination of such singular impact a world away from the burgeoning music meccas with their own sound like Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, etc., etc.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 11:51 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]

This is so full of gems that it has me wondering how much awesome stuff didn't even make it into the final edit.
posted by mightshould at 6:30 PM on November 21

It is unbelievable how much wonderful music came out of that studio.

I prefer to download long YT videos so I can watch in bits at my leisure. I've tried three DL programs and there's something in the coding/algorithm/url in this blocking it. Oh well, I hope it stays up long enough for me to view it. I do see it is on the PB site but I really don't want to go there.
posted by Ber at 8:54 PM on November 21

Really delightful, musically, but whew, there's definitely some tenuous racial stuff going on with how white people romanticize Black Americans - especially from the British people coming from that history of coopting Black American music from a place of deep ignorance about American racism. (It reminded me of this quote by Clapton talking about how nice "the plantation" seemed... in 1999!)
posted by entropone at 7:51 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]

"coopting Black American music" eh? How about "revering it and keeping its memory alive while white Americans wanted to listen to the Monkees" or whatever was in the top 20. And American musicians were so informed and concerned about American racism too. I think much Black American music would have been in a much worse state if the white British boys like the Rolling Stones and yes, Clapton, hadn't kept it warm for you.
posted by epo at 11:40 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]

damn did I hit a nerve with a widely-accepted fact about rock and roll music?
posted by entropone at 12:20 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]

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