Here’s the thing with The Beatles. We practically know everything there is about the few years John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr have spent together, through obsessively poring through archives upon archives of studio notes, collecting bootleg recordings of alternate takes and live performances, and of course poring through various books written about them.
At this point, barely anything – is left to the imagination. Yet fans have an almost insatiable hunger for new material and information about the Fab Four. A hunger that probably won’t go away even if Paul McCartney decides to release Carnival of Light or even if EMI decides to open up the Abbey Road archives to everyone.
As a formerly obsessive fan myself, I realize that most of the attention given to the Beatles have been focused on their studio years from 1966 to 1970. This obsession with that particular period is not without merit – starting with the Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane double single and culminating in the masterpiece LP that is Abbey Road, the studio years have been a whirlwind of creativity and innovation that is arguably unmatched to this day.
But what led The Beatles to this path? What made them decide to leave concerts and all the money that comes with performing to record-breaking crowds? This is what director Ron Howard seeks to answer with Eight Days a Week.
Starting off (pretty vaguely) from the Hamburg years and culminating in their final concert in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the documentary covers their touring years and their reasons for retiring from touring.
I honestly think that Eight Days a Week could’ve done a better job with a few facts like when Ringo Starr exactly joined the band (no, he didn’t join The Beatles during the Hamburg years as the movie so subtly implied), how it downplayed their terrible experience in the Philippines, and their early flirtation with drugs.
But for someone who knows just about nothing about The Beatles other than they sang Let it Be and Yesterday, Eight Days a Week is a good introduction. The documentary explores the early days of Beatlemania, the controversial “Bigger than Jesus” remark and the backlash, how different (and frankly, primitive) concert preparation back in the 60’s were, with various organizers woefully unprepared to handle crowds of that magnitude, and of course how the grueling touring schedule finally took its toll on the Fab Four.
We’ve listened to their songs too much and it’s easy to forget that they were a bunch of kids who just broke the rules all of the time and were way in over their heads. Seeing the Beatles interact with each other, with their personalities in full display was a treat. And I hope this documentary can finally put to rest the notion that Ringo is a terrible drummer.
As a documentary, it does not delve much into the mythos as, say, The Beatles Anthology, but it’s still a fun watch that deserves two hours of your time – especially after the end credits roll and you are treated to footage of their groundbreaking Shea Stadium concert, remastered in 4K.
BRB, gonna listen to all of their releases for the nth time.
Have you seen The Beatles: Eight Days a Week? What do you think of it? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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