Watch In Bed With Chris Needham, The Greatest Documentary Ever Made
Small towns. Cop a lot of flak, don’t they? Ring roads. Streets with no one on them. Buses that come every three hours, if they feel like it. Nightclubs that shut before Match of the Day has finished. But small towns are important, because out of the stifling boredom that engulfs them emerge bored young people, who rise up and away from the small towns, soaring above the suburban parades of Nisa and failing haircut shops like glorious eagles on fire, grunting Slayer riffs through their beaks, doing the rock horns hand gesture with their talons, powering through the air on an alchemical rocket fuel of Dad’s stolen bitter, Wimpy burger sauce and roll-up cigarettes. Heavy metal was made for small towns. More than that, it was made for the teenagers who live their youngest sentient days there.
In 1992, Chris Needham was a bored 17-year-old thrash metal freak with a mullet, a bumfluff moustache, lots of spots, the most awkward girlfriend of all time and a bedroom in his parents’ house in Loughborough. He noticed an advert the BBC had posted in the TV Times asking to hear from people who wanted to film video diaries of their lives. Chris responded, and some time later the result was this: In Bed With Chris Needham, the defining document of what it means to be young, bored and metal in a British small town, the first part of which is here:
(Find the rest here)
Watch it. Watch the whole thing. Drink it in. It’s honestly better than anything else you’ll watch or drink all month: the part where he takes the film crew (his mate Greg) on a rampage through his school; the other part where he totally loses his shit over an electricity substation’s “danger of death” sign; and the numerous bits where he’s on the phone, desperately trying to blag some free gear out of a local music shop so that his band, MANSLAUGHTER, can play their debut gig.
The whole thing kind of hinges around this first show and MANSLAUGHTER’s distressingly bad attempts to prepare for it; all of their rehearsals sound like total shit and it’s largely the fault of their drummer Andy, who is so awful that his fate is to be mocked constantly by the band’s biggest fan: Chris’s 7‑year-old brother, who appears as a kind of Cowell-esque figure from his armchair judgement throne next to the family Christmas tree.
There’s so much more here that is worth mentioning, like the living room head banging sesh with the band’s “exiled vocalist”, a kid known as Paul “Greb” Frost with nipple piercings, (fake?) tattoos and a Rottweiler named “Pagan” who was forced to move away from Loughborough for reasons unexplained. Here, too, is an abridged list of things Chris hates: chart music, vegetarians, the commercialisation of Christmas, Neighbours, war, McDonald’s, suits, the charity industry, environmentalists and “old bastards and fogeys”, despite the fact that basically all his pet peeves make him sound fogeyish.
What shines through most vividly is Chris’s burning love for heavy metal (and Quo): “Speed metal is just some of the finest, fantastic musicianship you’ll ever hear,” he gushes at one point, “I mean, to play an instrument that fast!” Part coming-of-age video diary, possible reality TV forebear, it’s a 50-minute doc that everyone who grows up bored in a small town should be forced to film of their own lives, BBC backing or not. Don’t you wish you had something this great to remember your suburban adolescence by? And if this is you, now, why aren’t you making something similar? As Chris says in the dying embers of his masterwork, “I’m sure you were all teenagers once… I’m sure we always will be… some of us.”
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