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Friday, July 28, 2017

'Hired Gun' DVD/BD/VOD: Documentary on Musicians 20 Feet From Stardom

The August 1, 2017 DVD/Blu-ray/VOD releases of the 2016 documentary "Hired Gun: Out of the Shadows, Into the Spotlight" rocks hard regarding supplementing the 2013 Oscar-winning film "20 Feet From Stardom" that gives a voice to the backup singers for legendary rock gods. "Guns" allow us to meet the (mostly) guys whose guitar riffs, drum solos, and similar performances help bring audience members to their feet during major concerts. One theme is that these roadie warriors have enough guts to not let a lack of glory bother them.

A related personal "I went to camp with" story is sharing a cabin with future Del Fuegoes member/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Vice President Warren Zanes one summer while (future DelFuegoes frontman/kiddie singer) teenage big brother/kitchen worker Dan Zanes was a member of the Doo Woping Kitchenettes. (Kinks fans can consider these boys the American cousins of the Battling Davies.) The deepest darkest portion of the Unreal TV archives have the first autographed photo of Dan and the first cassette recording of him singing.

The following YouTube clip of the "Gun" trailer communicates the blessings and the curses associated with being in the shadows that makes the film so intriguing.


Although "Gun" allows the aforementioned truly unsung heroes to share incredible stories from their usually not-so-glamorous lives, a segment early in the film perfectly communicates its subject. A talking head shares that the available pool of qualified musicians is very small. We further learn of the great importance of networking.

The flawless logic is that someone must have the necessary talent and knowledge of the music AND also must be someone with whom the headliner can tolerate effectively 24-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week for adventures that make three-hour tours look like pleasure cruises.

The biggest names in the film are Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. Both men share their perspective as guys who are 20 feet in front of nameless and faceless musicians. One of the more entertaining aspects of this is Cooper discussing his gut instinct regarding potential boys in the band. This includes his finding a tattooed and otherwise hard-rocking guitarist while that guy was touring with Disney Channel star Hillary Duff. For his part, that guitarist hilariously discussing purposefully scaring the young fans of Duff.

Guys who have toured (and bonded) with Billy Joel also receive a great deal of the spotlight. The most exciting story from these rockers is a tale of one of them saving the Joel song "Only the Good Die Young;" The saddest reminiscence is the particular harsh impact on one musician when Joel decides to get fresh blood.

The guns have few tales of sex or drugs but do offer plenty involving the reality of the rock-and-roll business. We learn that the not-so-great salaries that the big-names shell out and the uncertainty regarding long-term employment can lead to rocking out for enormous crowds one week and literally painting a house the next. We further hear about how loyalty for a guy whose performance may now consist of asking people if they want fries with an order can earn the new guy in the band great wrath from fans.

The final note regarding all this is that playing in a rock-and-roll band is not different than any other job. The boss earns astronomically more more than you, gets all the glory, and often takes the credit for your hard work and creativity that helps the person in charge get there and stay on top. One exception seems to be if you are a cooper.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Gun" is encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.