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Road Trip: The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years
I'm a part of a generation old enough to remember when The Beatles first became popular in the United States. My brother and sister bought Beatles records, while our parents pretty much didn't understand why any of us liked the music they considered noise. I don't remember the first time they were on The Ed Sullivan Show, but I have since seen every one of the broadcasts of their appearances. From 1960 through 1966, The Beatles rose from the ranks of the club circuits in England and Germany to the one of the most in-demand performing acts in the world. Once they secured a recording contract, the world took act of these four young men from Liverpool. Fans wanted to see the band for themselves, and couldn't get enough of Beatlemania. The 2016 documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years takes a look at a time the band spent a lot of time on the road while balancing other entertainment interests, seldom finding the time to rest.
The film primarily focuses on the period when John, Paul, George, and Ringo rose from the ranks of new artists on the scene to names everybody knew. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr share their memories of the time, while comments John Lennon and George Harrison made support the memories Paul and Ringo express in the film. One of the other major players is Larry Kane, a young TV reporter who covered The Beatles on many concert appearances in the USA during 1964 and 1965. Some celebrities and fans also share the time the Fab Four hit the road to ever-increasing crowds. Those outside the band and their inner circle, though, didn't realize how the rise to fame had started to affect them as both people and performers.
I'm always interested in seeing a film about The Beatles with fond - and occasionally, not-so-fond - reminiscences of one of rock's most famous bands. Eight Days A Week delivers on both counts. Director Ron Howard uses some familiar footage, as well as a lot of footage that seldom gets seen, such as a show The Beatles did in Manchester shortly before they crossed the Atlantic. There, the crowd was excited and happy, but more controlled in their enthusiasm. The film also shows a more serious side to the Fab Four, who pleased with their music and their humor, but also made their own stand against segregation, insisting in their performance contracts that everyone be welcome to their concerts. There's also a bit of historical perspective presented, from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the escalating war in Vietnam.
The one thing I wish the movie had included was a slightly greater input from Howard himself. He wrote some comments about the time and his love of The Beatles for the DVD release of Eight Days A Week, but it's not the same as having audio or video of Howard articulating his thoughts. As The Beatles grew in popularity, Howard was in the middle of a run playing Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Maybe he didn't want his speaking to overshadow his documentary, but I think that would have nicely complemented the talk provided by Kane and others, including Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, and Elvis Costello (who has himself written songs with McCartney). The special edition of Eight Days A Week not only includes a booklet, but it also contains a second DVD that includes, among other things, views on the enduring legacy of the band, additional concert footage, and insight from others not included in the film. Among the most noteworthy here is Peter Asher, half of the sixties duo Peter and Gordon who later became a record producer. He shares his memory of his duo being given A World Without Love by McCartney, which became a #1 hit in both England and America. Viewers even get a snippet of Paul singing that song on and old and unpolished demo.
Eight Days A Week shows a band who saw their quick rise to fame start to feel as though they did, indeed, work an extra day every week. The documentary takes a balanced look at The Beatles' life on the road and other contractual demands, as well as providing an insight on that period. I'm sure that the music of the band will be enjoyed for generations to come, and that many of songs will be sung long after anyone living in that time has gone. Eight Days A Week shows a very busy and productive time in the lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and the desire to focus all of their musical productivity on their output in the studio. While the world often changed radically during the band's years together, The Beatles changed the way rock bands presented themselves. All four lads became stars, and many screaming fans served as proof of their fame.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years 3.5 stars. Inside touring, and a real hard day's night.