Rock 'n' Roll Guns for Hire: The Story of the Sideman

Rock 'n' Roll Guns for Hire: The Story of the Sideman


Earl Slick played guitar for David Bowie for over 40 years but he’s hardly a household name. Now though he’s moved centre stage to front this primer on the role of the side man — or woman. “Sidies” as Slick affectionately calls them, are musicians hired to play on studio sessions and be part of touring bands. They have to complete an artist’s vision without stealing any of the limelight — as Keith Richards notes wryly, “the better you are at your job the less people notice you”. Directed by Francis Whately (David Bowie: Five Years), Slick explores that dichotomy in interviews with sidies including the Stones’ Bernard Fowler, Stax records’ Steve Cropper, and Prince collaborators Wendy and Lisa. Despite being a bit indulgent at times — do we need to know about Slick’s diversification into customising jackets? — the film has some great moments such as Fowler being caught between a feuding Mick and Keith, Wendy and Lisa’s unsparing assessment of women’s place in the industry.


Earl Slick, David Bowie's sideman of 40 years, looks at the men and women behind some of the greatest songs of the 20th and 21st century. The sidemen are often the forgotten `guns for hire' that changed musical history and this documentary reveals what it feels like to live in the shadow of a star, a story of triumph and thwarted ambition. Contributors include Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Billy Joel, as well as sidemen past and present for Prince, David Bowie, John Lennon, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones and Beyonce.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Earl Slick
Contributor Mick Jagger
Contributor Keith Richards
Contributor Billy Joel
Director Francis Whately
Executive Producer Phil Dolling
Producer Francis Whately
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