I was very excited when I read the review of The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years in The Straits Times yesterday. It got 4 out of 5 stars from this very strict reviewer, and it was mentioned that it would likely float the audience out of the cinema on a cloud of rock ‘n’ roll euphoria and that it has a playlist that would make any fan weep with joy.
The documentary shows the four lads from the beginning of Beatlemania, in 1962. They sounded different and were different and natural; in the beginning it all seemed really simple but at the end it became quite complicated. They were the top band in Liverpool, and the film opens with footage of the band playing at the ABC Cinema in Manchester on 20 Nov 1963 to hoards of screaming, yelling and adoring fans, with many young girls sobbing or bursting into tears, something that Paul McCartney gets emotional recalling in an interview. The boys just wanted to play because playing was the most important thing; but where were they going? To the top! Although they did not at that time realise what was to come. There was great comaraderie between the four friends and they were described as fearless (John Lennon), cute (Paul McCartney), cheeky & sexy (Ringo Starr) and irresistible (George Harrison).
The film followed the incredible sensation through their performances at the Olympia (in Paris), the Ed Sullivan Show, the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Coliseum at Washington D.C., Roundup Scottish TV, Anfield Football Ground, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beirut, Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo, Hamburg, Adelaide, Melbourne, Wellington, Sweden, Cincinnati Garden, Canada, Milan, Madrid, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, St Louis, Toronto, Canada, the Bahamas, New York City and Hollywood Bowl. They were also honoured and decorated by the Queen of England.
The Beatles were fresh and honest, and they had a special sort of stage presence that drove the fans wild with ridiculous antics (eg mayhem wherever they go, adoration and hysteria in equal amount, mobs smashing windows, 4,000 fans waiting outside their hotel room, 7000 kids rushing to the stage with 240 ending up in hospital, 50,500 people outside the hall with 5,000 seats).
Among the famous fans interviewed for this film are Whoppi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Elvis Costello, Dr Kitty Oliver (historian), Larry Kane (journalist), Howard Goodall (composer), George Martin, Peter Sellers, Eddie Izzard (comedian), Jon Savage (author) and Brian Epstein (their manager). The sheer output (both in terms of quantity and quality) of these boys were compared to that of Schubert (1797-1828) and Mozart (1756-1791)!
What was surprising to me was that classical music (namely the theme from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 and Largo from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto The Seasons) were appropritely used in the background during the narration in sections of the film !
Among the approximately 52 songs in the footages are I Saw Her Standing There, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Can’t Buy Me Love, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart, Twist and Shout, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Ticket To Ride.
The four members of The Beatles were very close to each other and always stuck to each other. Once, when asked what they would do if the bubble burst, they said they’d just laugh. Indeed, there came a time when they were merely going through the motions, found no enjoyment in what they were doing and all agreed it was enough as musicians they felt the only reason in life was to make music. They had gone on tour when they were supposed to be growing up. They each decided to be someone else, to have a new way of being, new everything, to become fresh again. They performed together for the last time on the rooftop of their office building in London in 1969.
I hope there is another film made about what became of them thereafter – how each achieved success and the impact they made on generations of fans.