What a great little band is how Paul McCartney describes The Beatles. Eight Days A Week more than proves his point. As the popularity grew, the audiences got bigger and the girls screams louder and more shrill it became more difficult to make good music. The PAs were very poor as no one had ever played rock n roll to this size of an audience ever before. There were no onstage monitors.
When Giles Martin remixes the original recordings and we get to hear the band beneath the white noise of teenage screams it is a remarkable record of a great little band. Ringo speaks of watching the bums shaking to work out were they are in the song. As a drummer he comes out of this as a great musician. They all do. Dizzy Miss Lizzy just rocks out.
The madness that it became has never been more accurately catalogued. As the film begins McCartney describes it as having been simple at the start. By the time we get to late 1965 and into 1966 these four guys who start out as the boys next door, as much influenced by The Goons as Elvis, have got caught up in a freak show. Everything around them is mad. By the end you can see in their faces the consternation at the furnace they are being burnt alive in and the frustration that their genius is not being heard.
In the midst of the madness something else struck me afresh. How did these guys churn out such a catalogue if music in such a short time while doing so much touring. It is, however, one thing to write on the road but to come up with such a machine gun fire of hits… bang bang bang.
This is the genius. Few writers have been able to knock out hits year on year. That The Beatles did it while touring, filming and making two albums a year. Glory! I mean even after She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand this movie gives you Ticket to Ride, A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love and Help!
The footage is great, the editing engaging both with four young men who were hurled into mania and with the political, social and cultural changes going on around them. I was particularly taken by interviews with Whoopi Goldberg and Black historian Dr Kitty Oliver who suggested that The Beatles he broke some segregation barriers.
The film had me imagining two what ifs. What if they had had the same PAs that we have now. How good would this band have sounded? And secondly, what if they had gone back on the road at the time of Let It Be. The Rooftop concerts from 1969, that end the film, are evidence of them still being a great little band. Oh the music we lost!
If Ron Howard wants to follow this one with another then what about one on The Beatles’ women? The wives are obliterated from the story like in the First and Second World Wars! When you get to the end and The Beatles cannot take it anymore you wonder how they put up with nearly three years of this and then have to ask how their wives and partners coped.
It therefore needs to be asked if the fact that Ringo and Harrison had new wives had anything do with their decision to quit the road. Harrison seems the first to scream ENOUGH. He’d just married Patti. Did time at home with her not seem more appealing than another hotel suite? It is part of the story missing here.
All in all, this is a great piece of work. It is a fascinating time in our recent history. This band was the soundtrack and also propelled the changes happening. It is all well captured in Eight Days A Week.