The film follows the film-makers as they try and find out what came of the astonishingly unappreciated 1970s US-based urban-folk musician, Sixto Rodriguez. Despite high hopes at the time by a fixated few, the first two albums by the singer-songwriter failed to make even a marginal dent on the music scene at the time. Soon after, he slipped back into obscurity. Then the suicide rumours started to grow, as did his popularity… in some remarkably unpredictable ways.
The last half century history of the contemporary music scene – often somewhat ironically being referred to also as “popular” – is awash with tales of unrecognised genius. Alex Chilton and his Big Star alumni, despite foreshadowing much of the refreshing introspection of the 80s indie scene, found little success with their intelligent and complicated pop tunes back in the early-mid 1970s. The Velvet Underground‘s first record, despite being released by pop-art icon Andy Warhol, opened up and inspired countless possible paths for iconic musicians thereafter, whilst simultaneously stripping elitist expectations of exorbitant musicianship, though such accolades took their time. Their peers The Stooges, who took brasher strides towards the punk aesthetic that the Velvet’s were unknowingly aiming at, were similarly misunderstood, especially so on their abrasive second album. And two of the finest alternative rock albums of the 1990s, My Bloody Valentine‘s 1991 shoegazing masterpiece Loveless and Neutral Milk Hotel‘s multi-instrumentalist folk-rock tragedy In the aeroplane over the sea, despite getting the critics onside, were, like all the acts above, victims of their own originality, leaving many listeners with sense of being lost in the middle of an unrecognisable landscape.
The fact that this week’s screening has already booked out, though, is testament to some good existing within this often vicious corner of the art world. You just have to be patient, and learn to become your own cartographer when grid-references don’t make that much sense.