What’s Up, Doc?

Unlike many pop fans, I’m not that much interested in meeting or even reading/watching interviews with famous singers (unless it’s someone I really admire) but I love to hear about the experiences of people who used to be successful pop stars. They’re fascinating because, now having distance from the big pop machine, they can give an insight into what it’s really like and what that experience does to a person. They’re also happy to tell you all the unbelievable things that go on which those on the outside aren’t aware of – and believe me, they are unbelievable. For the same reasons I love documentaries that are made in retrospect about a pop adventure of the past.

My latest discovery is The DumDums’ documentary, The Ghost Gets Around. It’s made up of behind the scenes footage from the pre-Busted pop-rockers’ short-lived era of minor success, combined with more recent interviews looking back on what happened. Although I quite liked the band at the time I didn’t know that much about them, and this documentary is a really interesting, honest portrayal of their pop story. It’s very well put together (by the drummer Stu himself) and is worth watching even if you weren’t a fan of The DumDums at the time.

It’s strange to see the band members now (they’re just average nerdy blokes) and sad to discover that the reason they broke up was cos they felt they’d become too much of a pop band rather than the rock band they wanted to be. A whole band of Charlie Simpsons, basically! It’s sad to think that they were that embroiled in the pop world and still believed it wasn’t a worthwhile profession. As much as I enjoyed the documentary, it left me with no nostalgia toward The DumDums – instead I wished their record deal could have gone to someone who deserved and appreciated it.

If you enjoyed that, here are a few more pop documentaries which come very highly recommended by me, and I can’t emphasise enough how much they are worth seeing if you are a pop fan, even if you don’t like these particular acts:

Upside Down – A Band Is Born
This is an incredible insight into the makings of a 90s boyband. The managers obviously thought this documentary (which was shown around the time of the band’s launch) was going to put Upside Down on the map, but instead it made the band, and even more so the inept and slightly pervy managers, into a joke. The casting process and the point where the boys have to decide whether Upside Down is worth signing their lives away for are particularly interesting parts of the documentary. There’s also an appearance from Inju5tice’s scary ex-manager, Ian Levine.

Hanson – Strong Enough To Break
This documentary shows the Hanson brothers’ struggle to escape the kind of difficult situation which many bands find themselves in when their success starts to wane while they are still signed to a major label. Luckily it all turned out alright for Hanson, who eventually set up their own label and have a strong fanbase still today, but they were almost ruined by a label that tried to treat the band as their plaything. This documentary is very brave in blaming and shaming some huge music industry names, and it may well have cost Hanson the chance to ever get back in the big leagues, but they should be proud of putting this out there for everyone to see what really happened.

Do you know any more documentaries like this? If so please leave your recommendations in the comments section, I’d love to see them!


  1. I haven't seen Boyz Unlimited (I'll watch it now I know it's on 4OD!) but I have read that it borrows quite heavily from the Upside Down documentary.

  2. Interesting! I too have no interest in meeting/reading interviews with my favourite pop stars, but I do love documentaries. I'll seek out the ones you mention 🙂

    Great blog, BTW – your devotion to Melodifestivalen is heroic!

    (Same Anonymous as above!)

  3. These are just the sort of thing I'd be interested in watching. It's especially nice that you linked to places we could watch them, too–I'll look forward to doing that, hopefully this weekend. I agree that it can be fascinating to watch the behind-the-scenes goings-on even when you aren't particularly a fan of the acts being featured.

    I guess what I'm getting at is thanks for the tips 🙂

    It wasn't amazing, but I enjoyed Solo, a documentary about the Danish Popstars singer Jon (it's in Danish but has subtitles)–the difficulty adjusting to massive overnight popularity and heartthrob status and the decline you almost inevitably face afterward (and the way that decline features all the worst aspects of both fame and anonymity: the people harassing you and the pressure a star gets and the lack of respect for or interest in your new music typical of an unknown) is something you expect in any feature on someone out of a reality show (and the director makes a poor choice or two), but the film really made me wish someone I knew had seen it so we could spend a meal discussing it afterward.

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