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.