The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

 

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The Beatles go on tour...

 

Beatles, The

 

It’s an extraordinary story. Four teenage chums from Liverpool become a cultural epidemic in what was to be the most defining decade in history. Yet between Vietnam and all the assassinations, The Beatles brought joy to countless people in every corner of the globe. It’s an iconic narrative, which, like Hamlet, Carmen and Pygmalion, has been reworked a myriad of times – on film, on television, on stage and in art. Yet the facts still dazzle: the group’s debut album, Please Please Me, remained at the top of the UK charts for a staggering thirty weeks, only to be replaced by With the Beatles, which remained at No. 1 for another 21 weeks. In the US, five of the band’s 1964 singles occupied the top five places on the Billboard chart simultaneously. A year later they played the Shea Stadium in New York to a record 55,600 fans, in what was the first concert to use the legendary venue. And so on…

 

Here, the director Ron Howard has introduced previously unseen footage of the Fab Four along with digitally restored sequences of yore, while liberally drawing on the help of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. The result is a familiar story well-told, with commentary supplied by Paul and Ringo as well as Richard Lester, Elvis Costello and (bizarrely) Eddie Izzard. More interesting is the fresh perspective from the fans’ point of view, including footage of younger versions of Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg caught in the onlooking mêlée. Fruitier still are the images of screaming teenage girls in the throes of hysteria, preventing the singers from hearing themselves perform.

 

Of course, this is just the story of The Beatles’ rise to fame and dominance on the touring circuit – as the title describes – putting aside the later dramas for another time. What is so infectious about the film is the musicians’ carefree bonhomie, with the real creative highlights occurring in the recording studio. The film covers the years 1963 to 1966, after which many more hits were to come, as well as musical innovation and tragedy. But then Ron Howard has always been a filmmaker with a nose for a good, gratifying story and after 1966 – well, that was another story.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Featuring  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Larry Kane, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, Eddie Izzard, Sigourney Weaver, Neil Aspinall, Richard Lester, Kitty Oliver, Howard Goodall, Jon Savage.

 

Dir Ron Howard, Pro Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Scott Pascucci, Paul McCartney and Nigel Sinclair, Screenplay Mark Monroe, Ph Michael Wood, Ed Paul Crowder, Music The Beatles.

 

Apple Corps/Imagine Entertainment/White Horse Pictures-StudioCanal.

137 mins. UK/USA. 2016. Rel: 15 September 2016. Cert. 12A.