This film was previously reviewed in June 2020 as part of our Sheffield Doc/Fest coverage.

Many so-called rockumentaries have tackled the pressures and pains that come with rock and roll stardom. But a question these films never address is what if your band have never hit the big time and, as comedian Stewart Lee puts it in his new film, have been “hampered by ongoing commercial indifference?” Well in the case of Robert Lloyd and his post-punk group The Nightingales, the answer is a resounding “f*** it, just keep on rocking”.

Together with Brass Eye director Michael Cumming, Lee has knocked together this endearing DIY-doc that traces the history of The Nightingales and pieces together their legacy. Part travelogue, part extended interview, we follow Lee and Lloyd as they retrace the latter’s past through Birmingham and London. It is clear from the get-go that Lee has a huge amount of respect for Lloyd and vice versa, and this feeling of mutual appreciation quickly becomes the film’s wholesome backbone.

Another charming through line is the surprising similarities between Lee’s way with words and Lloyd’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek lyrics. At one point, Lee tells a story about a Nightingales’ song that uses a bakery as a metaphor for society. “What are you talking about?” Lloyd replies, “I just used to work in a bakery.” It is these pithy, digression-filled interactions that keep the doc ticking along and make Lloyd such a cheeky, lovable character. As much as the subject of the doc is about the Nightingales’ history, it seems Lee is often far more interested in just spending time with Lloyd.

On the surface, King Rocker may be little more than a rather niche passion project. But it is through Lee and Lloyd’s friendship the film really elevates itself, as Lloyd tells the comedian at one point, “the problem with you is that you overanalyse everything.” Maybe we need more Robert Lloyds in the world.



CAST: Robert Lloyd, Stewart Lee, Frank Skinner, Marc Riley

DIRECTOR: Michael Cumming

WRITERS: Stewart Lee, Michael Cumming

SYNOPSIS: Comedian Stewart Lee traces the history of largely forgotten punk group The Nightingales, talking to lead singer Robert Lloyd about their legacy.