As a fan of rockumentaries and That ’70s Show, I had to seek out this doc about Big Star – “the greatest band that never made it.”
Big Star’s story is almost the reverse of Anvil! The Story of Anvil – that was a band whose career started strongly, only to fade into obscurity; this is a band who never achieved commercial success, but are now considered one of the greats.
But while Sacha Gervasi’s documentary works for people who’ve never even heard of Anvil – and that’s a lot of people – Drew DiNicola’s film has little to offer those poor bastards unfamiliar with Big Star.
There’s no live footage, and only one surviving band member – drummer Jody Stephens. This can’t be helped, but it does impair the film, as does the lack of clear introduction to the contributors. Is that a critic? A producer? Or were they actually in the band?
Fortunately, Big Star’s beautiful music shines through. The Memphis band only recorded three albums together in the ’70s, and each record is discussed with great detail and reverence; from the pristine power-pop of the unfortunately named #1 Record to the strained chaos of the more accurately titled Third – described by allmusic.com as “among the most harrowing experiences in pop music.”
Like Searching for Sugar Man, the film ends on an uplifting note, as musicians acknowledge their debt to Big Star – from REM to the Meat Puppets. Stephens gets the last word: “I’m not sure where we belonged – and maybe that’s why I wasn’t so surprised when Big Star wasn’t commercially successful – but it seems to belong now.”
If you’ve no interest in hearing Big Star praised for two hours, this isn’t for you. But for rock fans, Nothing Can Hurt Me illuminates Big Star and the important role played by the iconic band with the ironic name. Rock and roll is here to stay – and so is Big Star.