British music group The Beatles need no introduction. Almost everyone would know at least one of their tunes which have lasted decades. From their inception in the late 1950’s to their end in 1970, the group’s influence on music has been assured. Whether you’re fans or not one should admire their ability to churn out popular music as well as knowing how to sell them. One way of getting their music to the masses was touring, which this film details. Directed by Ron Howard, ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years’ chronicles their touring concerts between 1962 and ’66.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became mega-stars as they circled the globe with their songs. How their travelling affected their song-writing as well as their relationships as at the heart of this movie. In between touring, they also made two ‘fictional’ movies – ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’. Both became huge hits on the back of ‘Beatlemania’ but have outlasted the band itself to become cult classics. Moving from country to country would challenge the mettle of any band, let alone one trapped in the constant ‘goldfish bowl’ existence of the emerging mass media. Using interviews with the surviving Beatles, celebrities and archival footage, the film delves into their public performances at The Cavern Club to their last live concert in San Francisco in 1966.
The film questions whether it was genuine talent or expert publicity which made them famous. The answer would be a bit of both as the Fab Four knew how to trade quips and barbs with the media scrum and using it for their songs. Their patience answering endless questions amidst the often scornful gaze of their interviewers elicits sympathy. As the film points out, their carefully crafted image was one the media always seemed eager to deconstruct. How the group stood firm against this cynicism is a testament to their skills in dealing with the press. This in turn would help them deal with their millions of fans whose enduring worshipping would also push the group’s resolve to enter new personal and musical directions.
Howard handles the footage well and mostly avoids just showing endless concert footage. Adelaide even receives a brief mention, giving a glimpse of a time free of instant communication and authentic emotions. The fans certainly became emotional with the constant screaming at concerts becoming hard to endure. It’s no wonder The Beatles stopped touring with their feelings of being in a zoo watched by spectators all too real. It’s easy feeling sorry for the group with the successful monster they created. This ultimately is the film’s biggest success as it shows them as very ordinary guys living the dream in spectacular fashion.
Beatles enthusiasts will probably go into orbit with this movie. There are plenty of toe-tapping tunes to indulge in whilst viewing a time capsule of an era that no longer exists. One could only imagine how the Beatles would have survived today’s instant media age with its ability to pass swift judgement. Perhaps something they may not have handled. Their touring years may have ended at the halfway point of the band’s life, but their most exciting phase was ahead which would cement their place in music history.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 7
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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