As its name states, this documentary largely concerns itself with live videos of The Beatles, mostly in the US and UK. It starts out with a nice color clip from Manchester England in late 1963. By this time, Beatlemania had been in full force in the UK for close to a year. This clip captures them just a few months prior to their trip to America (February 1964) and worldwide fame.
As good as the videos of the live performances and press conferences were, for me it wasn’t quite as revelatory as it might have been. As a full-fledged Beatlemaniac, I’ve seen so many videos and read so much about them, there wasn’t a lot new. (In fact, I’m in the middle of reading yet another Beatles book that I didn’t even know I owned.) All that said, it was fun to yet again watch the unfolding of Beatlemania.
What was interesting was to be reminded of how the Beatles’ audience was about 95% girls. (By contrast, the Stones garnered a largely male, somewhat aggressive audience.) So, lots of screaming and fainting occurs.
Paul and Ringo are interviewed for the documentary and they use archival footage of John and George to help explain how they felt about what was going on. There are a few non-Beatle interviews, notably Whoopi Goldberg and Elvis Costello, a fellow Liverpudlian. (Ed Sheeran’s interview got cut for time.) Whoopi loved the Beatles and she said what she loved is that they made everyone feel included. (“And I’m black!” she said.)
One thing I found very interesting is that when the Fab Four first came to America, no one was expecting them to be so witty and charming. They were fast on their feet and able to deftly handle banter with the press. “Are you going to get a haircut while you’re here? ” George – “I had one yesterday.”
But later in the film, after the novelty wears off and the Beatles have been pulled from pillar to post, you witness at least one ugly scene with the press where they’re accused of being “horrid snobby.” (In Hamburg! The very city that made them a great band.) This pisses them off, especially Paul. If nothing else, this film will make it apparent why The Beatles had to quit touring. The strain was just too great for them to continue bearing. (Google Beatles Philippines sometime.)
Another very, very cool thing is what happened when the guys were asked to play in Jacksonville, Florida. When they found out it would be segregated, not only did they completely fucking refuse, they had it written into their contract (which is shown) that they would not play in front of segregated audiences. Ever.
And so Jacksonville – at least for that night – was integrated. The guys had been touring with Motown artists for years and considered Little Richard and Billy Preston friends. They just couldn’t understand this at all. Good for them.
Eight Days a Week is currently streaming on Hulu and I suspect will be out on DVD at some point. A cool thing was that after the movie, they played the Beatles’ entire (30-minute) 1965 show from Shea Stadium. (Alas, this appears not to be part of the Hulu deal.) They remastered it so the songs can be heard. And the band sound good, well-rehearsed. Not bad for guys who can’t hear themselves. (The crowd heard the concert through the tiny PA system.)
It’s frankly exciting to see John and Paul share a microphone on some of the songs. (During the movie, a composer whose name I forget compares Lennon-McCartney favorably to Franz Schubert. Not, I think, in the sense that their songs were as complex as his. But more in the sense of the sheer number of songs they wrote and their continued innovation and experimentation.)
Check out Baby’s in Black Shea Stadium. I love when Paul sings high harmony with John.
So, bottom line is if you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll definitely want to see this. For anybody else, it’s pretty much a matter of historical interest.
Synchronicity – I got in the car after the flick and turned on the radio. It was tuned to a cable channel and they were in the middle of playing the live version of “Baby’s in Black” from the Shea Stadium concert which I’d heard maybe five minutes prior.