The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years by American filmmaker Ron Howard, one of the modern world’s most popular directors, is a five star work of documentary art, which is now showing on limited release in Australia, offers three hours of fabulousness.
The four likely lads from Liverpool John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, whom we mostly saw in black and white at the time, definitely coloured all our lives while becoming an emblem of rebellion to a burgeoning youth culture.
I was lucky enough to see it with a friend, playing to a packed house on Saturday 17th October here in Melbourne at the Palace Cinema Como. We loved it yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!
Ron Howard proved he was the right man at the right time and in the right place with the skills, the contacts and the ability to craft and assemble all the ageing footage, restore it to cinema quality and produce a fine work of cinema art.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week is at a pinnacle of excellence in both creativity and conversation about defining moments in our past that contributed to our arts and cultural development.
The documentary concentrates on The Beatles ‘touring years’ during the swinging 60’s, after building their legend had begun.
The Beatles doco starts off with much more than a twist and shout, as in full glorious colour the ‘fab four’ perform their popular hit She Loves You.
In 1963 they were the words every young man wanted to hear. The cinema seats all around me were rocking!
Like all the teenagers born at the end of World War II, it has to be said that I totally succumbed to The Beatles and their many charms, finding it hard not to tap my feet every time their music was played on the radio.
Swooning and screaming however was not part of the experience. My father being a strict disciplinarian and a local Headmaster, frowned on such behaviour.
After all, I was 20 when they came to Australia and was expected to conduct myself with some sort of decorum!
‘At the beginning things were really simple’ Beatles member the main charmer himself Sir Paul McCartney points out in a voiceover… ‘by the end it became quite complicated’.
Life’s like that.
In between times the four boys with pudding basin haircuts and thick accents from Liverpool, who ‘just wanted to play’ were rocking the dives and clubs of their own home town.
They thought they had a ‘great little rock and roll band’, a charming understatement from Sir Paul, who at the time points out they had no idea that they would end up thrilling the world in their touring years.
Ron Howard was eleven years old when The Beatles gave their record-breaking concert at Shea Stadium in New York City on their 1965 tour, as 56,000 screaming fans turned out to be part of the biggest music concert on earth up until that time.
He became an icon of those times himself, in his role on ‘Happy Days’, which ‘my three sons’ enjoyed through their formative years.
He has had the footage restored and upped the quality, editing the New York Shea Stadium performance into a stand alone concert, which is offered free following the documentary.
At my session no one left the packed theatre, everyone preferring to stay and clap along. A few shouted out as well. Goodness!
One thing both my companion and I noted was just how heavily everyone smoked in the footage we saw, and we gave thanks afterwards that society has changed.
Before The Beatles no one had ever conceived that four young men who made music people responded to, would end up making women faint and met morph into a frenzy in their droves.
We are not just talking about as many as you could count on one hand but tens of thousands of fans all screaming and fainting at the same time. The police and security people in charge everywhere they went had never encountered such a phenomenon.
Clothes maketh the man and hairstyles too are very important, something the fab four took on with their own ‘existentialist style’ mop tops too into account.
Well, at least their manager, a local record storeowner and music columnist Brian Epstein did. He was certainly integral to their success.
The Beatles in various disguises had been around the traps playing music together and with others from 1957 until November 1961 when they first encountered Brian Epstein at the Cavern Club in Liverpool at a lunchtime concert.
He liked what he heard and expressed his desire to become their manager. His ability to negotiate a studio session and deal with EMI’s brilliant music producer George Martin would change all their lives.
Epstein immediately tackled The Beatles public image, extracting them from jeans and tee shirts and delivering them onto the stage wearing especially stylised modern suits that did not fit the usual mould, making them appear both trendy and sophisticated.
He also had them clean up their conversational style, talking just a little bit posh but with that marvellous sense of individuality they always maintained. They were after all musicians, and highly intelligent individuals and he offered them his respect.
Epstein wanted them to be able to move in the highest circles. He had realised too that they had the ‘gift of the gab’ and that people would love to hear them being interviewed, their natural wit and charm shining through. How clever he was.
Their most popular songs written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon garnered millions of fans; I Saw Her Standing There, I Want To Hold Your Hand, All My Loving, She Loves You, Till There Was You, Roll Over Beethoven, Can’t Buy Me Love, This Boy, Twist And Shout and Long Tall Sally.
When they came to Australia on Tour in 1964, it was an isolated British outpost with many of the citizens in cities clinging to the coastline, descending from English ‘convict’ stock.
The ‘old country’ still represented that ‘green hill far away’, where the tyranny of distance meant that over the years since the English invasion, we had been slow to ‘change our ways’ and very unsure of who we were meant to be.
At the time I grew up believing I was English as my two eldest sisters lived in England following the war and as a child I had to ‘write home’ to them both once a week’.
Now in 1964, at last my family finally owned a phone and a television. This was proof positive we had finally entered the modern age.
I was 20 years of age and The Beatles hits went before them. I owned all of their vinyls and had a pin up poster of the fab four, as well as one of Paul McCartney, my personal pin up, on my bedroom wall.
It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me why in 1968, Paul became the name of my eldest son.
No one since eighteenth and early nineteenth century composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert had written so many hit songs before, but the crowds they were playing to were so very much smaller.
The Beatles when they landed down under were really only three, with a substitute drummer Jimmy Nicol standing in for Ringo Starr who had stayed behind to have his tonsils removed.
Yes, I was lucky enough to see them at the Sydney Stadium, that old ‘tin shed’ where throughout my teenage years I attended many concerts, some as an annoying little ‘chaperone’ for my sister and her beau.
I was also present at inspiring performances by such as Buddy Holly and the Everly brothers, whose work did have an influence on songs on The Beatles album Please Please Me.
Over those years until the 70’s dawned, I cannot remember a moment when a Beatles song wasn’t in the Top Ten. Then as I had to do myself, they began to show signs of growing up.
Sophisticated song writing came about through studio experimentation and experience and we all met morphed into the new world of adulthood together.
The brilliance of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967 received International critical acclaim.
The overwhelming consensus is that the Beatles had created a popular masterpiece: a rich, sustained, and overflowing work of collaborative genius whose bold ambition and startling originality dramatically enlarged the possibilities and raised the expectations of what the experience of listening to popular music on record could be…
… it would revolutionise both the aesthetics and the economics of the record business in ways that far outstripped the earlier pop explosions triggered by the Elvis phenomenon of 1956 and the Beatlemania phenomenon of 1963*
My favourite moment in the film comes right at the end, when the fab four gather together one last time and give their final public performance on the rooftop of the Abbey Road studios in 1969.
Down on the street surrounding, the crowds gather recognizing the music, pausing to enjoy it and pay tribute to a band that helped change their world for the better.
To be able to look back upon ones life in satisfaction, is to live twice** Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr who remain should following the reception given to this great documentary, know that they and their colleagues and friends John Lennon and George Harrison were well loved by a great many people… and with a love like that, you know you should be glad!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
A Ron Howard Film
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
Directed by Ron Howard and produced by Nigel Sinclair, Scott Pascucci, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. The editor is Paul Crowder.
The film was written by Mark Monroe. Executive Producers are Jeff Jones, Jonathan Clyde, Michael Rosenberg, Guy East, Nicholas Ferrall, Mark Monroe and Paul Crowder.
Supervising producer is Mark Ambrose. Co-producers are Matthew White, Stuart Samuels and Bruce Higham. Music producer is Giles Martin and Sound Re-Recording Mixer Chris Jenkins.