Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: King Rocker

There’s often no rhyme or reason why one band makes it whilst another never quite takes off. So many factors are at play but it can come down to nothing more than just blind luck or being in the right place at the right time; which can trump all the hard work in the world. Not to mention having just what an A&R is looking for at that exact moment. The internet, in many ways, has been something of a leveller, but there’s so much out there it’s overwhelming. Gone are the days when bands had to rely on radio play and gigging to accumulate fans.

Formed in Birmingham in 1979 at a time when the West Midlands was a hotbed of music, The Nightingales are (with a hiatus in the middle) still going to this day. The post-punk band have had Fall levels of members, but Robert Lloyd has been the constant. They’ve been championed by the likes of John Peel and John Robb, amassing a dedicated following along the way. One of their biggest fans is Stewart Lee, who teams up with Michael Cumming to tell their story in King Rocker.

King Rocker is a labour of love for Lee, which is both its strength and weakness. On the one hand, the care and attention which has gone into this documentary is evident. As is the love. There’s also a clever diversion around a King Kong statue, which adds another dimension to the tale. On the flipside, it does at times feel like a child running rampant in a sweetshop. The result is somewhere between a Nightingales promotional video and a rambling and rambunctious rebel story.  

King Rockers screens as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest in the autumn.

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