The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
Dir: Ron Howard
The Beatles have had a few feature length documentaries made about them and plenty of television documentary series made as well. In many respects even a typical four hour/four-part series wouldn't be enough time to cover the bands beginnings, middle and end, as well as their solo projects and beyond. In fact, I'm not sure four hours would be enough to cover either of the four members. The Beatles were huge, the only way to make a compelling, fresh and informative film about them, is to concentrate on one single aspect and that is what Ron Howard has done, rather well too as it happens. In concentrating purely on the touring years, Howard has created (and by that I mean painstakingly edited) the perfect linear document of what life was like looking in and looking out for the Fab Four. Howard has previously produced several documentaries and directed his first in 2013 with Made in America - another music based film concentrating on one specific festival, which has clearly put him in good stead to tackle this popular subject. That said, huge credit goes to editor Paul Crowder, who does a stunning job. I think the fact that Crowder comes from a musical back-ground helps greatly. The footage is brilliant, I'm not a huge follower of The Beatles but I hadn't seen most of it and there were plenty of interesting revelations along the way that I'm not sure were common knowledge, even to the hard-core fans. Overall, it's quite a revealing journey of what it would have been like to be touring the globe, being one of the most famous people in the world. The media hung on every word they said and the adoring fans would state their love at the same time as trying to rip them to pieces for a bit of torn cloth as a souvenir, the talking head interviews, recorded throughout the Beatles lives and career, help the viewer understand just quite what that was like and how they coped (and didn't cope) with it. You can speculate just how much the way of life would have brought the four members down and without clear declaration by either of the four men, you can quite easily read between the lines. That is the sign of a successful documentary. What I really liked though was the detail. For instance, I've seen pictures of their famous Shea Stadium performance but never actual footage. It was restored and released especially for this film and it looked spectacular. Now, they could have cranked up the volume and played any one of their recorded hits but instead they tell it like it was, the fact is that in what was the biggest concert of its kind at the time, the live music was pumped through speaker tannoys and it must have sounded awful. Not that I expect you would have been able to hear them over the screaming anyway but in just this one scene, it shows how big stadium gigs developed and just how ridiculous many of the shows were back then. A must for Beatles fans obviously but there is plenty here to enjoy, even if you didn't much care for them. It's the perfect document of how and why the music industry works today and it is fascinating stuff.