Monday 3 October 2016

Film: 'The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years'

I'd guess that only true fans of the 'Fab Four' will want to watch this Ron Howard-directed film. My having lived through their times, seen innumerable TV programmes and read extensively on the subject, there was little here, if anything at all, which I hadn't already known. Nevertheless, the majority of the footage used is newly aired, and coupled with recent interviews with Paul and Ringo, into which is spliced archive footage of George and John (the latter virtually only in sound) - as well as with long-term fans such as Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Elvis Costello and Eddie Izzard - it all makes for an interesting compendium of the 1963-66 history of the most famous group the world has ever known.  

Excerpts from their first live performances in the U.K. are shown, as also in the U.S.A., including their TV appearances, and other concerts from around the globe. But rarely is a complete song shown being performed before it's faded out to give way to a voice-over.
This was a period when the group was as close-knit as they ever would be, with their manager, Brian Epstein who was the 'glue' who held it all together. The four of them got on very well with each other, so that these three years is, in a sense, also the most uninteresting time that they ever went through. It was only when the cracks of disagreements began to appear in the wake of Epstein's untimely death (not mentioned here) that the group's own story started being enthralling - and later accelerated by Yoko's intrusive presence (also outside the film's scope, going only so far as 'Sergeant Pepper').  
Due credit is given to the recently-deceased George Martin, the brain who enabled Paul and John, and later George, to really take off, fly and soar with their own compositions far higher than they otherwise might have managed alone.

Because there weren't any revelatory moments in the film for me, I did start to get a bit fatigued. Predictably, the group's live performances, even with enhanced sound quality, audibly fell below the standard of the studio recordings of releases we have grown up with, so that was no surprise.

After the end of the 90-minute 'main feature' there's a further half-hour taken from their live concert in Shea Stadium, the fan-girls' continuous screaming becoming near-overbearing.
I was less interested in their renditions of old rock 'n roll standards like 'Long Tall Sally', 'Roll Over Beethoven' etc than I was in wanting to hear them performing songs they had penned themselves - incidentally here with a strong bias in favour of Lennon-composed numbers. But that's because my admiration for them has, right from the start, being essentially based on the incredibly high standard of their songwriting capabilities than that of their performances as a group.

I think that those who are less familiar with the Beatles story will get a lot more out of this film than I did. Rather than watch it again, I'd rather sit myself down. close my eyes and wrap myself in the sheer sublimity of half a dozen or more of the Beatles' albums, a standard which I think, though may have been approached by other artistes, both contemporary with them and in all the decades since, has never been surpassed.................6. 


  1. I kinda think like you ... give me the music instead.

    1. They are/were fairly ordinary people, Bob. John was the most interesting of them because you never knew what he would say next, occasionally outrageous, but as a whole their personalities are not really enough to merit an entire film. Their songs will survive a lot longer than details of their lives will live in our memories.