Almanac Cinema – The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years

“Tell me that you’ve got everything you want
And your bird can sing”

 

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years is an absolute joy. Although it does not really provide much in the way of new, important to be learned, material for die-hard Beatles fans, Ron Howard’s film is a great nostalgic treat for baby boomers and illuminating for anybody else. At the forefront throughout is the exhilarating music, particularly at the live concert performances. The film reveals the Fab Four as a group rather just four individuals. It demonstrates their huge impact on society at the time and how they handled the onslaught of publicity with humour and self-deprecation – even if some of it now comes across as a bit twee.

 

Archive film of many concert performances emphasises just how well they worked together after many years of practice had honed their skills and also how much they enjoyed themselves. And through it all are the wonderful harmonies of John and Paul, the deft touches of George on that great big Gretsch and the solid back up of Ringo, acting naturally astride the drum kit high up at the rear.

 

Their song writing and song development in the Abbey Road studios is also shown with just a touch of the “backwards tape” innovation that would mark some their later work. The influence of Brian Epstein (in the Cavern days and beyond) and George Martin (in studio production) is discussed with, importantly, due recognition being accorded to these two by individual Beatles.
Social issues such as their refusal to play in front of a segregated audience in the American south and John’s “bigger than Jesus” controversy are also touched upon.

 

The crowd scenes portrayed in the film A Hard Day’s Night mirror the actual, whether huge queues waiting in vain to enter the Cavern or the physical jostling experienced by the group as they arrived at or left a venue. The Adelaide reception was similar to that experienced in many cities. A motorcade journey along Anzac Highway (including the section near Keswick Bridge where a number of us school truants were among the gathered throng waiting in eager anticipation), a public reception in front of the Town Hall where it seemed most of the youth of the city had congregated and the stake-outs outside the South Australia Hotel where the Beatles stayed. And much screaming at the concerts.

 

There is great movie footage of a number of concerts on tour, especially the ripper Shea stadium concert. There was always a genuine attempt to communicate with the audience, despite the crowd hysteria, and ever obvious was the group having a rollicking time together. It was the overwhelming demand caused by the sheer number of fans, with accompanying lucrative benefits, that forced the lads to perform at huge stadiums with tinny speakers rather than smaller clubs or halls. Eventually it became too much and there would be no more touring after the 1966 Candlestick Park concert in San Francisco.

 

While the film represents something of a rose coloured view – there is no dissent on display, no mention of matters such as the Brian Epstein suicide and little of any drug impact, the archive interviews with the four and recent interviews with remaining members Paul and Ringo, all add perspective.

 

Other highlights include the following:
– Interchange between John and an American journalist.

American Journo: “Which one are you?
John: “Eric”

American Journo: “Well now Eric……”
John: “It’s John, actually”

 

– Film of the Liverpool soccer crowd at the Kop end of Anfield singing She Loves You

 

– Elvis Costello’s comments on their song writing development and how it was remarkable that, when playing the larger venues, the Beatles could stay in tune despite all the crowd noise.

 

– Comments from Whoopi Goldberg and another fan of experiencing a Beatles concert as an African American in a predominately white audience.

 

– A portent of things to come in the form of the figure of Yoko on the periphery at their final public performance on the Savile Row rooftop.

 

 

Best track of the movie for mine – Baby’s in Black from the Shea Stadium concert. Wonderful harmonies and George bending a note. It still goes round my head. Oh, and John playing keyboard with his elbow on I’m Down.

 

 

Do yourself a favour. Go see Eight Day’s A Week – for tomorrow never knows.

About Peter Crossing

Peter Crossing loves the pure 'n natch'l blues. A conflicted Crows supporter and former resident of Canberra, he has enjoyed the fact that GWS brought an exciting style of Australian football to the National capital. He is a member of the silver fox faction of the Adelaide Uni Greys.

Comments

  1. yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah!

  2. Wesley Hull says:

    For someone that still plays Abbey Road and the White Album to work each day, the movie was a sheer delight. But what it does for fans who just weren’t lucky enough to be touched by them directly, the movie shows how far ahead their music was…and therein lies the crux of EVERY argument about who will be the “new Beatles”. No one can, in my opinion, because no one can ever scale the heights they did in both adapting and creating musical styles. I am a love of their Revolver to Abbey Road era, as this was their most creative and experimental period.

    Or was it? The movie does a great job of showing that their rock n roll of the early era was still light years ahead of others and was as influential on the work of other artists as the later era…more so.

    Probably the most joyous 30 minutes for me, however, was the Shea Stadium concert at the end. We see so much of the Paul and John combo, and how George was the quiet one to one side. But watching George and John laughing during “I’m Down” while John sizzles the keyboard and George laughs and giggles showed for me better the love of each other…and that did show clearly later in their solo years.

    You are right…there is nothing new here in terms of education…just new photos and clips. But the way they have collated the story is a different approach and that is what makes the movie fresh and delightful.

    Well done, Ron Howard.

  3. Agreed with everything PC and the comments say. The reengineering of the Shea Stadium concert recording to take out most of the crowd noise is amazing. You can hear them and they are bloody good for a 4 piece, but by then the arrangements of their newer songs are surpassing what 3 guitars and a drum kit can produce live. So they concentrate on the older numbers and some rockers.
    I swear its so good my hair has started to regrow!

  4. Listened to Sgt Peppers again the other day, shaking my head as usual. Seems to me tricksy stuff from people tired of music. “Let’s throw this at em and see if they’ll cop it.” When I’m Sixty Four for Chrissakes!! Songs over before they’ve begun. Ideas that don’t develop.
    Like John got out of bed one morning and said to Yoko, ‘Hey, Yokes. What’ll I do today, hun? Discover the sitar or recover the settee?’
    ‘You arsehole. I’m sitting on the settee writing a haiku. Do the other thing, the sitar thing.’
    Something like that anyway.

  5. Peter Crossing says:

    Thanks for your comments
    Peter W – I concur
    Wesley H/Peter B – I agree re the sound at the Shea concert. The film editing made for terrific audio of the lads, especially in a small theatre with 100 people. The brief grabs of the crowd noise showed how it must have actually sounded – deafening.
    ajc – I think there are some great tracks on Sgt Peppers – but also a bit of fluff. In the film, McCartney said that, at that stage, they needed to find a new persona or some such. Rubber Soul and Revolver stand the test of time more than Henry the Horse. The movie is worth viewing.
    Addenda
    Name me a better pop song than In My Life.
    Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine was #1 on the Australian Top 40 charts 50 years ago last week. I can relate to the verse about Father McKenzie because at the time I was just moving on from having to sit through sermons like that!
    I have heard live versions of Day In The Life (Neil Young shredding his guitar) and Tomorrow Never Knows (creditable offering by local Canberra band George Huitker’s Junk Sculpture). They were good but made me think “What if …..”
    Also, the Beatles did “Hey Bulldog” back in 1969. Prescient.

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