Director: Ron Howard
Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Larry Kane, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Izzard, Elvis Costello, Richard Curtis
Written by: Mark Monroe
Running Time: 137 mins
Release date: 15th September 2016
First off, a rant. To the multiplexes across the country. Please stop showing 20 screenings of the latest blockbuster tripe in seven screens so that you can free up a screen of two, then a superb documentary like Ron Howards’s The Beatles: Eight Days A Week -The Touring Years, can get a proper release instead of random one screening slots which sell out the moment the tickets are released. Surprisingly, there is an audience for this kind of film, probably more so than the likes of , say, Ben-Hur. Then you wouldn’t have half empty screens for those films. I have had to wait over a month to catch it. Not good enough! Rant over!
Howard’s fascinating film follows, as the title says, just the touring years, which were a lot shorter than people would imagine. Starting in 1962, when John, Paul, George and Ringo released their first album, the Fab Four hit the roads, triggering Beatlemania in the UK in a big way.
Using state of the art production and digitally remastered tapes of these screaming, chaotic concerts, we can finally hear and appreciate how brilliant these young men from Liverpool really are. Dampening down the hysteria and bringing the sound up, we are given absolute treats to our ears as we follow the rise to fame of these lads, who didn’t consider themselves as culture, just as a bit of fun.
The film follows them over to America, where the mania spread like wildfire. From the now infamous appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, to performing at Shea Stadium in New York, where the sound had to be played through the baseball grounds tannoy system, this film gives us glimpses into the time when the boys are asked ridiculous questions, only for them to fire back witty and intelligent answers, through the recording sessions where we get to hear the out-takes and the conversations that prove just how close these lads really were.
We are allowed to witness these disdain when told that, during the civil unrest in 60’s America, that their performance in Jacksonville could be segregated. How the toll of travelling from country to country, being bundled into armed trucks after a gig, led to the group deciding to call touring a day. All incredibly insightful and interesting.
Using vintage footage of John Lennon and George Harrison, as well as new interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, we get to live those years on the road, along with plenty of fascinating talking heads from fellow fans like Whoopi Goldberg and Sigourney Weaver, as well as Larry Kane, a US reporter who was forced to go on tour with the band and live their every move.
Full of warmth and wit, as well as the genius of them as musicians, Howard has hit a real winner. A film that zips along at a terrific pace, never a moment wasted with triviality but brimming with facts, fun and finally, the music. Shown along with the full Shea Stadium concert (all 30 minutes of it), this is a film that demands to be seen on a big screen with the best sound going. Shame it wasn’t given a wider release as this would have been an enormous hit.