Wednesday, October 25, 2006

DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING - great story, badly organised

I can honestly say I'd never heard of THE DIXIE CHICKS before seeing this doc but apparently they are the biggest selling female band in US history. They are three thirty-something country musicians from Texas who dress conservatively, play their own instruments and have kids and husbands and a really close relationship. In 2003 they played a gig in good ole' London where the lead singer announced that she was with "you guys on the Good Side" and further more that she was ashamed that the President was from Texas. This got a huge roar of approval as the UK was and still is largely anti-war. The comment was picked up by the US media and before you knew it, US country music stations had dropped the Dixie Chicks like a hot brick. CD sales plummeted, merchandise was burned in public Beatles-stylee, a death threat came in and corporate sponsors started getting worried. The Chicks retreated to LA to write a new album with Rick Rubin, have babies and lick their wounds. But there were no apologies and no compromises. If country wouldn't have them, they'd play to the rock crowd. If the South wouldn't have them, they'd play to Canadians and Europeans. They recorded a triumphantly angry and emotional album that topped the charts and went on tour again in 2006.

The story is great because it proves the old adage that no-one survives going against an American president in a time of war. To those of us in the UK it will seem obvious that the Dixie Chicks did nothing wrong - that to criticise a President's specific policy is not to be unpatriotic but to be part of the democratic process. (It was funny to see that the biggest round of spontaneous applause in the London audience came when the lead singer made an off-the-cuff remark that the President was a dumb-fuck. I guess that wouldn't happen in Texas!) But I am sure that there is a big pile of country music fans who'll want to burn these DVDs too.

But can people who don't agree with their stance or who aren't interested in politics get anything from the documentary? Well, the documentary-makers do get astoundingly good access so you get to see Rick Rubin at work (awesome) and the publicists and spin-doctors go way beyond SPIRAL TAP when they forget the cameras are rolling. It's pretty damn funny. You also get a charming tale of how one member of a three-member band put the band's careers on the line, and the other two stood by her and never once blamed her for it. That's pretty honourable.

So there's lots to see in this doc. and I would recommend it. My only reservation is that it is not the best put together piece of work. The structure is haphazard with a non-linear narrative that adds nothing by its choppiness. The material - as compelling as it is - is just badly organised. In addition, there is no reason why you couldn't get as much enjoyment out of this by watching it on DVD. The only other thing to say is that the draconian, non-transparent and politically partisan Motion Picture Assocation of American has given this film an R rating. That's the rating usually saved for explicit sexual material and hard-core violence. Which basically proves all the accusations made in the documentary,
THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED - because only political bias could explain such a ruling. I would put good money on the British Board of Film Classification giving it a PG certificate at most.

THE DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING goes on release in the US on Friday and in the UK in March 2007.


  1. It gets worse: this from the IMDB news feed....

    Networks Refuse To Air Ads for Dixie Chicks Documentary

    NBC and the new CW network have refused to carry ads for Shut Up & Sing, the documentary about the Dixie Chicks' opposition to the war in Iraq, which opens this weekend in Los Angeles and New York, according to the film's distributor, the Weinstein Co. "It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America," Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. Today's (Friday) Daily Variety reported that while NBC has acknowledged that the spots were declined because they are "disparaging" to President Bush, the CW maintains that it did not reject them. A spokesman for the CW told the trade paper: "We were told they were not going to make a national spot buy on CW." Reviews of the movie indicate that the film takes a strong stance against the president. "Clips of Bush make him seem callous," writes Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times. Anti-Chicks "protesters come off as foolish; one demands that her tiny, puzzled son repeat an expletive directed at the Chicks." (The spurned ads have been posted on the Internet at

  2. Hi Grano1, I too get annoyed by "preachifying" pop stars. Bono, in particular, really annoys me even though I agree with most of what he says. The point is not that the Dixie Chicks were right to speak out but that they had the right NOT to get death threats for such remarks. They were surprised not by the fact that conservatives were annoyed - that's also their right - but that people would go so far as to burn CDs. It all had the look of a mob about it.