A documentary on The Band entitled Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band is released this week, featuring interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Martin Scorsese and Van Morrison, as well as rare, exclusive footage from The Band’s legendary 1966 tour with Bob Dylan. Watch an exclusive clip featuring Martin Scorsese exclusively on NME.
Directed by Daniel Roher, the film follows the band’s journey from their dues days backing rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins through their adventures as the backing group on Dylan’s pivotal electric tour and their own work at Woodstock’s Big Pink house and beyond.
“They’re the best band of all time,” says Roher. “Their story is the story of popular music in the second half of the 20th Century. These were five guys from very different backgrounds who came together through the power of music… Behind these rock ’n’ roll legends and icons are these five fragile young men who are trying to live their lives to the best of their abilities, battling their demons and challenges and insecurities like most people do. It’s that spirit I’ve really tried to capture in the film.”
The Band – Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm – are credited for originating Americana on albums such as 1968’s ‘Music From Big Pink’ and 1969’s self-titled record but also, as the film shows, fell foul of the classic rock ’n’ roll pitfalls of hard drugs and hedonism. Nonetheless the influence of tracks such as ‘The Weight’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ soaked music to the skin, hence the likes of Springsteen, Clapton and Gabriel paying tribute in the documentary.
“Bruce Springsteen is one of the best song-writers ever, and Robbie’s one of the best songwriters ever, so that’s why these guys wanted to participate,” says Roher. “They wanted to do it for Robbie and I was just grateful that they were willing to give us some time for these interviews. It adds such weight to the film to get these important people.”
A key component of the film is the inclusion of never-before-seen footage from behind the scenes of Dylan’s tour of 1966, where he was widely booed and derided for performing the second half of the set with a full electric band.
“Dylan’s office was willing to give us access to incredible archive that had never been seen before, that was just amazing,” says Roher. “There’s a lot of footage in the movie that we only got to use because of Dylan and if you think about all the incredible songs that are in that film, I think there’s 15 Dylan songs in the movie. Who gets to have 15 Dylan songs in their movie?”
‘Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson And The Band’ is out now on DVD, Blu Ray and Digital Download by Dazzler Films