“We’re not part of Western culture, we’re just having a good laff!” says John Lennon to a reporter asking him whether the Beatles are now part of Western culture in the year 1963. It is, I would think, the understatement of the century and one of numerous and, in hindsight, hilarious comments made by The Beatles in director Ron Howard’s absolutely riveting documentary about The Beatles’ touring years (1962-1966).
I know The Beatles and I like their music, but after watching this film I have found a real sense of appreciation at how hard these guys worked. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (The Touring Years) documents, in meticulous detail, the Fab Four’s rise to fame in Liverpool, England in 1962 and follows along country to country, city to city (even Adelaide gets a look in) and The Beatles’ total world domination, right up to San Francisco, when they stopped touring in 1966.
The archival photos and footage are fascinating and showed a side to The Beatles rarely glimpsed. The band really looked to be enjoying themselves when it all began. The narrative that runs through the documentary is engaging. We start with the youthful exuberance and joy of touring in the years 1962-64 and then, as they get older, the bitterness and invasion of privacy by the media and fans on tours from 1964-66, which was the inspiration for the song ‘Help!’ We then see the rise and enjoyment of music again as The Beatles release Sergeant Pepper in 1967.
Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) has produced a remarkable piece of work which takes us through the band’s ‘bigger than Jesus’ controversy, the band’s influence on the civil rights movement and how hard the guys worked in the studio. The Beatles wrote their own songs, played their own instruments and were not forced to do anything they didn’t want to by their record company. They performed 815 shows in 15 countries and 90 cities in only four years and then just stopped. There is no band in the world that has worked so hard and this is the appeal of this film; it evokes empathy for the guys as they relentlessly tour country to country.
Howard has said what drew him to this film was that it gave him an opportunity to give a whole new generation of people an insight into what happened to launch this extraordinary phenomenon and, in my case, he is exactly right. I left the cinema with a greater appreciation of what they went through. The music, of course, is fantastic. If you stay after the end credits there is even a half hour concert from when the band played at Shea Stadium. From Beatles lovers to music lovers, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (the touring years) touches all bases. Playing for only one week only at Palace Nova, starting from September 16, it is definitely one of the most insightful things you will see this year.
Five pudding bowl haircuts out of five.
Reviewer: Shane Berketa