The Beatles: Eight
Days a Week: The Touring Years (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 129 minutes.
OK for children.
A few years back I
was sitting with a group at Joni’s Coffee Roaster in Marina del Rey
discussing music and Bruce Springsteen. I asked them to name their five
favorite Springsteen songs and hum the melodies for me. Not one could
remember the melody of any of his songs, or more than one or two of his
I said if somebody
asked me the same question about The Beatles, my problem wouldn’t be
trying to recall a single melody or title, but would be to choose
between the dozens that would instantly flood my mind. Which would I
choose out of their more than 160 credited songs which are so familiar,
“Yesterday,” “Michelle,” “Here, There, and Everywhere” (maybe my
favorite), “Eleanor Rigby,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Julia” (John Lennon’s
paean to his mother), “Norwegian Wood,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” (written
by Paul McCartney when he was 16); well, you get my point.
Director Ron Howard
said that one of the main reasons he was drawn to this project was to
introduce The Beatles phenomenon to new generations. While he achieved
that, he also showed to those of us who lived through it why they
stopped touring, and what an ordeal it became.
Since Howard was born
March 1, 1954, he would have only been 10 years old when Ed Sullivan
introduced The Beatles to America on his TV show, and he would have been
16 years old when they broke up six years later in 1970. So he would
have been at a very impressionable age during The Beatles’ prime years.
His film is an
amalgamation of wonderful archival concert films of performances of
mostly entire songs and candid interviews with not only the four
Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison,
but also people like Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Lester (director of The
Beatles’ two feature films, Hard Days’ Night and Help!),
Eddie Izzard, and many more about their experiences working with the
Beatles, being fans, and being influenced by them.
Many things come
across in this captivating film, not the least of which is how it paints
the ordeal that touring became. The noise of the crowd was so loud
throughout their concerts that even The Beatles themselves could
sometimes not hear the music they were playing. The crowds were so
passionate that the artists sometimes felt that their well-being was in
danger, and this is well captured in the archival films.
Another thing is how
amazingly prolific they were. Touring would be enough for anybody, but
they also kept producing a prodigious amount of original music, as well
as performing in two movies.
I hate to admit this,
because I am a proud Beatlemaniac. I have several complete music books
of all the Beatles songs, which I play on the piano. I have not,
however, played all of the songs. One I have never played is “Baby’s in
Black” from the 1964 album “Beatles for Sale.” It’s a charming waltz and
hearing it for the first time during this screening was as exciting as
listening to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or “Abbey Road” for
the first time.
I could go on and on
about The Beatles’ music and this movie, but I won’t. This is one of the
most enjoyable movies of the year. When the PR rep who sent me the
screening invite told me it was 129 minutes long, I responded that
normally I’m disappointed when I learn a film is more than 90 minutes in
runtime, but in this case I’m disappointed it’s only 129 minutes long,
and that’s the way I felt when the film ended.
incidentally, with the entire Shea Stadium concert, which I had never
heard. It’s been remixed so that the music is clearly audible despite
the deafening crowd noise. Watching this concert is well worth the price
of admission by itself, but the rest of the movie is just as good.