The Beatles: 8 Days a Week is showing at cinemas for only 8 days and 4 have gone. So should you rush to catch it? YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!
There are a lot of Beatles docos around, and I’ve seen every one of them that’s come my way. If you’re into music docos and/or rocknroll, chances are you have too. So why should you shift yer schedule around to make sure you get to this latest one during what’s left of its 8 day season at local cinemas?
Cos you’ll never get a better idea of the electrifying experience that was The Beatles live, that’s why! Or a better or more coherent composite picture of who Paul, John, George and Ringo were as individuals, and as a band.
We all know the history, but director Ron Howard has done a tremendous job of filling in the details of that ground-shaking first phase when The Beatles became a global cultural phenomenon, before the lads abandoned live performance for the sanctity of the recording studio. There is newly accessed footage of the band’s live performances (the filmmakers scoured archives and used social media to hunt down photos, recordings and amateur film from fans). It’s been cleaned up using the wonders of digital technology, and comes up a treat on the big screen.
Highlights include Super 8 film of early Beatles club and pub gigs in Liverpool and Manchester, before Brian Epstein had them dressed in suits. Back then, they wore their street gear on stage: leather jackets, Tshirts, jeans. They looked great! And bejaisus did they rock out! Ringo thrashes his minimal drum kit with punk fury, hair and sweat flying, while Paul and John’s head-shaking at musical climaxes gets the gals screaming. It’s fun, it’s high-energy, it’s thrilling – rocknroll at its purest.
The big coup, though, comes after the credit roll: previously unreleased footage of the entire Shea Stadium concert of 1965, one of the last The Beatles played, in 4HD (and yes, it makes a huge difference to the visuals). Cops cover their ears against the squealing and screaming of an unprecedented 50,000 plus crowd of mostly teen girls in various states of hysteria, often accompanied by bewildered parents, as The Beatles go off on stage! Not to be compared with their early UK gigs in terms of raw energy, but both the sound and vision are beyond anything I’ve seen of their live performances in previous docos. Through the wonders of digitisation and technology, the music has been extracted from the crowd noise, laying bare the exuberance and precision of their live performance. Amazing they could be so tight under such primitive conditions. Ringo comments that he couldn’t hear a thing, and took his cues from the movement of Paul and John’s arses!
This Shea Stadium footage will not be released on Blu-ray or DVD, and in any case it’s at its best on the big screen. That alone makes a trip to the cinema mandatory for any self-respecting Beatles fan.
But 8 Days a Week is not just for Beatles nerds. This doco captures rocknroll’s moment of detonation as a cultural force majeure, and provides an unparalleled clarity of context for the Beatles phenomenon, socially, culturally, historically, but most fascinatingly from the point of view of the lads themselves. You leave the cinema with a new respect for the way they handled themselves. No other band in history has endured such touring pressure, and such pressure of expectation. You’ll never listen to Lennon’s Help in quite the same way again.
Actually, that goes for the rest of the early(ish) Beatles work. Since watching 8 Days a Week, I’ve played Help, Revolver and Rubber Soul over and over, not out of old fart nostalgia brought on by the film, but because the songs have a new resonance about them. I’m not going to try to explain that. See the film, and you’ll know just what I mean.
Movie website: http://thebeatleseightdaysaweek.com/au/
The Beatles: 8 Days a Week features: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, The Beatles, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Mark Monroe, P.G. Morgan (story consultant)
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