Over a period of four years The Beatles went from a group of four Liverpool youths playing in the backrooms of pubs to changing the music industry and Western society forever when they toured the USA. Director Ron Howard has gone through all the archival footage of these extraordinary years and created a documentary which is clearly made by but more importantly for fans of the biggest band in history.
There’s nothing particularly new here but Howard has put together everything a documentary about the Beatles needs to have. Charting the band’s history from Lennon and McCartney meeting at a county fate to their first hit single and finally to the time when the dam finally broke and Beatlemania descended upon the world.
The tagline reads “the band you know, the story you don’t” which isn’t quite right. Any Beatles fan with a basic knowledge of their story will know all the major beats covered and know the trajectory of what happened when the Beatles went to the USA. But this doesn’t detract in the slightest, for there are plenty of celebrity interviews with everyone from Eddie Izzard to Sigourney Weaver and both Paul and Ringo are interviewed about their memories of touring for the first time which doesn’t happen very often (for a good reason I suppose, they’ve must have been telling the same story for 70 years now).
What really makes this a treat is the music. Even though their early songs was very simple love ditties for the plain Janes of the world it’s still the Beatles, and here’s the chance to listen alongside context and with visuals. Seeing the band play to sold out shows is a true spectacle. If you think that young girls today tend to get a little bit excited over One Direction and Beibs this is just a taste of what Beatles concerts must have been like. My father was lucky enough to go to one of their concerts when they came to Melbourne in 1964 and the stories of utter hysteria are jaw dropping. The fainting, the crazy mob mentality and above all the never ending screaming are all on display in footage that has been digitally remastered.
Alongside the music the other treat is all the new pieces of trivia here to discover. For example, when playing in the South the band refused to play to a segregated audience, which was quite a bold move for a British band to take at the start of the still very conservative 60s. Or in the Billboard Top 100 in April of 1964 when the Beatles were the only band in history to have the top five spots taken up by their songs. What makes this all the more incredible was that it was happening to a group of young men barely into their twenties, who suddenly found themselves the four most famous people on earth.
Speaking as someone who has an Abbey Road poster hanging on his bedroom wall, this is an absolute treat. Even if you’re not a fan of the Beatles – I’ve been told people like this exist but don’t really want to believe it – this is the documentary that might initiate you. Any music fan will have an absolute ball with this exquisitely put together documentary but for Beatles fans in particular Howards film will make you fall in love all over again with the four Liverpool youths with the mop-top haircuts.
Eight Days a Week is Australian cinemas from 15 September through Studio Canal.