Standing In The Shadows of Motown is a documentary focussing on the career of the Funk Brothers, the backing band on most of Tamla Motown's releases during the 1960s. They were responsible for hits such as I Heard It Through The Grapevine, What Becomes of The Brokenhearted, Jimmy Mack, Reach Out (I'll Be There), and hundreds of others. Despite this, hardly anybody knows who they were. The film tells the story of the group, but also contains footage from their reunion concert in Detroit. Sadly, most of the Motown acts who were approached either declined or were too ill to participate; instead we get a mix of contempoary artists (Ben Harper, Joan Osbourne, etc.), Chaka Khan, and the demurely-dressed Bootsy Collins.
I would have liked to have seen more of the documentary side of things, as at times it seems as if the film was glossing over points far too quickly (we're never told exactly why Motown left Detroit, for example), but a major aspect of the film is that these guys can still play, so I suppose we needed all the present-day performances (plus, as a bonus extra, you get to see what Bootsy Collins wears for those 'casual' occasions...). Hopefully, the upcoming DVD will rectify this slight flaw. Otherwise, this is a fascinating look at the most successful band in music history.
What really surprised me was the lack of bitterness. From the final credits, it's clear that they worked on almost every classic Motown song from the late 1950s until the start of the 1970s. When they were dumped by their record label, and left to rot in obscurity. But there's no anger in their stories of the past; they just celebrate the good times, happy that their story is being told at last.
It's a period in music history that I know very little about. I'd like to find out more, but I'm not sure where to start. If you're interested in other music from the 1960s, for example The Beatles or Bob Dylan, it's fairly easy; you buy Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, or Bringing It Back Home, and from there you go on to buy the other albums. But there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for the Motown acts. I can name tens of albums from that era, but I don't know the name of any Temptations album. Was Motown really just a singles outfit, meaning that there's no point tracking down obscure releases?