I Finally Saw The Beatles On The Big Screen!

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One of the biggest news events in Beatle-land this year has been the recent release of the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles’ touring years, entitled The Beatles: Eight Days A Week. As I have mentioned before, it’s been a dream of mine for years to go see a Beatles movie in the theaters and pretend I’m a fan from the 1960s seeing A Hard Days Night upon its release.

I tried to do that back in 2012, when a documentary called The Beatles: The Lost Concert was scheduled for wide release in theaters. This documentary (supposedly) captured the frenzy of the Beatles’ first concert in North America, which occurred in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964. Unfortunately, it was never released in theaters due to copyright issues. When I learned of its canceled release, I was heartbroken, but I never stopped believing that perhaps one day another Beatles documentary would find its way to a theater near me.

I first heard about The Beatles: Eight Days A Week over the summer, and even after watching the official trailer on the Beatles’ YouTube channel and visiting the movie’s website, I still sort of thought it was too good to be true. I reserved mild hope that I’d be able to see this movie, but I figured that my efforts to see the Beatles on the big screen and learn new Beatles trivia would be thwarted once again.

However, as events fell into place, the stars aligned, and my prayers were answered, I actually was able to see this movie at a theater near my school just a few weeks ago! I was so excited at the prospect of seeing 90 minutes of remastered Beatles footage and audio, and the movie definitely exceeded my giddily high expectations.

At this point in my Beatles fandom, I’ve read and watched so much about them that it’s difficult for me to be shocked by any aspect of their narrative. And yet I continue indulging in Beatles-related releases like this movie because I am always amazed at their magical story. The Beatles’ rise to success in the 1960s is a remarkable tale, filled with astounding chart domination, incredibly concentrated musical output, and incalculable influence on the culture of their era. I keep coming back to Beatles movies, articles, and programs because I revel in hearing about how they took the world by storm and altered the whole concept of rock music and success for a band. It’s infectious and endlessly fascinating.

Back to the movie at hand, it certainly did not blow my mind with a wholly new perspective on the Beatles’ touring years. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie-watching experience for a Beatles fan. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of backstage footage that I had somehow never come across on YouTube or television. These clips emphasized that the Beatles really were a hilarious four-headed monster, at least in their early days. The movie also detailed a few points about the Beatles’ stops in specific areas of which I was not previously aware.

These included a 1964 Beatles concert in Florida that they flatly refused to perform unless they sang to an unsegregated crowd. Though the Beatles were from England, they were very conscious of the racial tensions present in the US at the time and took this opportunity to maintain their belief that any form of segregation was morally wrong and unacceptable to them. This isn’t really a huge spoiler, but I previously had no idea that the venue actually agreed to unsegregate the seating for that particular concert so the Beatles would still perform,  which helped set a precedent for unsegregated concert venues in that and surrounding areas.

This movie also focuses a lot on the difficulties that the Beatles faced during their rise to worldwide acclaim through their tours. I was not wholly aware of the actual danger that they were in just entering a building or driving around. There were many clips of near-riots on streets all over the world that stemmed from the Beatles’ arrival in that particular city. This is a helpful reminder for aspiring musicians that the only sustainable reason to become a musician is because you deeply love music, not because you want to be famous. I am always in awe of the immense scope of Beatlemania in the mid 1960s, but it certainly was not all good days and sunshine.

Despite all of this, I would trade just about anything to spend one day experiencing the height of Beatlemania. However, seeing this movie in the theaters is probably the next best thing. The Beatles: Eight Days A Week may not be groundbreaking, but honestly, barring some huge, covered-up scandal I don’t know about, it is difficult for any new Beatles project to be groundbreaking. What I absolutely love about the release of this movie is how it contributes to keeping the Beatles’ music and story alive in today’s generation. As long as there is the occasional Beatles-related project or musical re-release, I’ll have confidence that they will remain eminent figures in cultural lore.

The Kinks: They Really Got Me

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

It seems that every few months, I become obsessed with a new band or artist that’s already famous to most humans and their household pets. Last summer, it was Elton John. February break, it was Gavin DeGraw. Spring break, it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But as I’ve delved into the wonderful world of British Invasion-era bands, I’ve recently fallen deeply in love with the Kinks. I’ve enjoyed their music for a long time, but since I heard a couple of their songs on the radio last week, I’ve listened to them more than ever before. They are not completely unlike the Beatles, but they definitely have their own, distinctly British sound. There are so many things about them that I love, so I’ll list a few of them here.

1. They are (in my opinion) extremely underrated.
Sure, I like bands like Led Zeppelin and Queen a lot. They’re great. But I honestly feel that their overall musical output is just a tad over-celebrated. However, the Kinks, for some reason, are not on as much of a lauded pedestal as many other bands (yes, the Beatles are very lauded and celebrated, though deservedly so). I don’t know why this appeals to me, I guess I just like the idea that they are not as “mainstream” popular. And I always root for the “underdogs” of rock who never seem to get the accolades they deserve. Like George Harrison!

2. Ray Davies. Need I say more?
I’ve basically been listening to the Kinks nonstop for about three days, and I can safely say that I haven’t discovered a Kinks song I don’t like. I finally understand why Ray Davies is considered, as my dad has been telling me for years, a musical genius on par with the Beatles. His lyrical style is honest and accessible, but also clever, witty, and often amusing. I also love his voice, because it’s very different from any of my other favorite singers. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!
His songs are very melodic and easy on the ears, but they also make me stop and think about life. And his utter British-ness is, to me, very appealing. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.

Yes, uninformed interviewers from the 60s and 70s always make me cringe (did this guy really think that people at a Kinks concert in 1977 would be screaming the whole time?), but Ray is so quietly charming and witty that I don’t even mind. He has fantastic hair, which always helps. He also says here that he isn’t as good looking as Mick Jagger, but I respectfully disagree. 🙂
Hmm, soft-spoken, underrated musical geniuses from the sixties with fantastic hair. Have we, at Beatle Me Do, seen this before…? 🙂

3. The Kinks invented a whole lot of things.
I did not know this, but apparently the 1965 Kinks song “See My Friends” is the actual first pop song credited with Indian influence, BEFORE the later, sitar-flavored “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Now that I listen to it, I definitely hear it. Take a listen for yourself!

Also, their first big hit, “You Really Got Me,” is commonly recognized as one of the first proto-metal and punk songs because of its power chord structure and overall rawness. I’m not really into metal as a genre, but this is definitely one of the best harder rock songs of the early sixties.

4. They wrote my favorite rock Christmas song.

I listen to this year-round, with no shame whatsoever. It’s a really great song!

Now that I’ve introduced the Kinks on this Beatle blog, I will at some point in the future describe my favorite songs by them. In the meantime, I need to actually go through their discography in detail beyond their greatest hits compilations. I refuse to be an uneducated fan for long!
I’m also praying that the supposedly confirmed reunion album and tour between Ray and Dave will actually happen. How awesome to see these legends together in concert! One can only hope they will put aside their differences long enough to make their fans happy.
In the meantime, have a fantastic week! 🙂

50 Years since Please Please Me… And I’m still waiting for the next Beatles.

WARNING: Essay-like post alert. This post is long. Sorry. I guess I’m in a chatty mood!

Hopefully this title isn’t misleading, because I’m not actually 50 years old. But today does mark 50 years exactly since the Beatles’ debut album, Please Please Me, was released. Listening to it today, it doesn’t really sound dated at all, because to me, the idea of the Beatles as a young rock band singing these songs is still exciting.
This got me thinking that the Beatles have been a part of the music world for half of a century, with no signs of their popularity waning. Right now, I know a lot of people my age who love the Beatles and I see people wearing Beatle shirts everywhere I go. They’re still a part of pop culture over 40 years after their breakup. It’s astounding to me that in the last 50 years, no one has replicated their popularity, songwriting proficiency, or musical influence. I firmly believe that the musical revolution they were a part of in the 60s will never be recreated in any form. The Beatles were truly one of a kind and innovators in every aspect of culture, from clothing and hairstyles to movies, and of course had a massive impact on the music industry. I don’t think that there will ever be another Beatles because by definition, they were one of a kind.

So why am I going on and on about how amazing the Beatles were and how no one will ever replace them? Well, as readers of this blog know, I generally prefer to listen to music from 30-40 years ago as opposed to what is on the radio now, and that’s not because I’m a 15 year old stick-in-the-mud who belongs in the 60s and thinks that the Beatles are the only musicians worth listening to. I actually do enjoy music from a number of artists from this generation, mostly from the folk-rock or alternative genres, including Foster the People, thenewno2, Phillip Phillips, Adele, and Maroon 5. I choose to be interested in music today because you never know what might come on the radio. There could be a song you hear that introduces you to artists that you didn’t even know existed, but that you now love because you gave them a chance. Although I primarily listen to older artists, I think that those who only listen to classic rock could miss out on some new exciting band that grabs their attention. I’m always thrilled by the possibility that there will be another Beatles to come around in my lifetime, but with the direction that most modern music is heading, I don’t think it will ever happen.

The fact of the matter is, for every song that I hear on the Top 40 stations today, there are usually 10-15 songs that I don’t like. I’m hardly ever possessed to download a song that I hear on the radio, and that’s because nothing about modern music excites me. Most of the songs on the pop stations follow the exact same formula, and I can predict exactly how each song will go before I hear the whole thing. Now, that’s not to say that pop songs of the early 60s didn’t go by a formula, because I’m fully aware that many early 60s songs sound pretty alike.

However, what made the Beatles so special was that they found a way to break this formula and be true originals, and I just don’t see that potential from most of today’s artists. I’m not a fan of the idea that almost all pop songs today have to be about partying, drinking, or some other risque activity. That doesn’t excite me, make me happy, or make me feel good about life. It actually depresses me, which is not what I think music is supposed to do. Music, to me, should make you smile and want to dance, and just because a song has a dance beat fit for a club doesn’t make it happy and danceable in my mind. Whenever I hear the Beatles, I smile and feel better about life, just because they existed, and I really can’t say that about most modern artists.

Also, I wonder what has happened to showcasing actual talent on stage. I see performances on awards shows of artists with more back up dancers that I can count, lip-syncing to a song that is not that good, and I just think, “Can they sing? Can they sing and play an instrument at the same time?” That, to me, is real talent, not being able to wear a catsuit on stage or rap lyrics that are filled with curses and insulting, derogatory remarks. I also can’t stand that 90% of singers sound exactly like someone else, or everyone else, in the industry. I identify strongly with a unique voice singing a song, not just a good voice.

Finally, the lyrics to most songs today have no real depth or poetry to them and are basically interchangable with most other songs. Lyrics to a lot of rock songs from the 60s and 70s, and also into the 80s and 90s, are actually interesting and the song is worth hearing just for the words. Sometimes when I listen to my favorite Beatles albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver, or one of George’s albums like All Things Must Pass, I just listen for the lyrics and how beautiful they are. That type of lyrical creativity is not very present among most popular songs of today.

So, the message of this post is, if you really want to hear music that is cool, exciting, and makes you happy and feeling good about life, look no further than the Beatles. Other than Foster the People and thenewno2, both of whom I feel actually make an attempt to sound new and interesting, most music today is fairly generic and formulaic. Yawn. I’d rather listen to the Beatles harmonizing beautifully on “This Boy” eight days a week than hear “What Makes You Beautiful” for the thousandth freaking time.

To FINALLY conclude this post, which I’m 100% sure is twice as long as anyone is willing to read, if you somehow make it to the bottom, here’s your reward for reading the whole post. This might be my #1 favorite live performance of the Beatles. I guarantee that no artist today could pull off what they do here: singing 3 part harmony flawlessly on live TV, on an amazing song that they wrote themselves, while playing instruments and standing within an inch of each other. Not to mention that they’re the best looking band ever! 🙂