Turn It Up! Movie Review: A Celebration of the Electric Guitar

Written by Scott Blitstein

I was sixteen years old, standing in a pawn / jewelry shop owned by family friends. I looked up at the wall and there it was, a beautiful mahogany wood grained Gibson SG Electric Guitar. I had always loved the look of that particular guitar, the double-cut design, the deep brown color, the Gibson logo on the headstock. Besides, a Gibson SG was what Pete Townshend played at Woodstock. Frank Zappa, Angus Young, Tony Iommi, and Frank Marino had all played similar guitars. I had to have it so $300 later it was mine.

This wasn’t when I started to love the Electric Guitar but it was when our relationship got physical. It’s been said that the relationship between a musician and his or her guitar is a special one, and the documentary Turn It Up! examines this in great detail.

Turn It Up! examines not only the electric guitar but also the guitar player and the relationship between the two. A who’s who of players talking about the electric guitar, the ones that they play, the ones that they’ve owned, which ones they’ve loved and why.

In addition, the movie also provides a wonderful history of the electric guitar, the rise of Gibson and Fender and what distinguishes them. Did you ever wonder why the year 1959 seems magical to musicians, aficionados and collectors? You’ll get the answer here.

To be honest, the real draw here is the performance footage, great guitarists playing amazing guitars. Robbie Krieger jamming Doors’ licks on his own Gibson SG, Slash soloing on his Les Paul, Albert Lee playing Jimmy Bryant’s 1959 Telecaster, B.B. King displays his signature vibrato while Ann Wilson, Steve Lukather, and more show their guitar chops and their collections. If you’re a fan at all of guitar music and history, you’ll find yourself practically drooling at the amazing collection of instruments on display here.

Narrated by Kevin Bacon, Turn It Up! cruised along nicely balancing all of its parts to keep me interested. You get the history and some deep knowledge but it never strays too far in to become boring.

You don’t need to be a guitar freak to like this movie, any music fan can find something here to keep their interest. I like that it’s entertaining and educational, giving a pretty complete standalone package. If you’re married to a musician and wonder why they always seem to need “just one more guitar,” maybe watching this will give you greater insight into their behavior. If you’re a musician yourself, Turn It Up! is well worth your time, you’ll maybe get a new appreciation for an artist or the guitar. You’ll have fun either way.

I viewed the standard digital download version but the DVD and Blu-ray versions contain a bonus disc with extra features and more footage that sounds pretty interesting, particularly the mini documentaries including one on the legendary Seymour Duncan.

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