Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (Brockway)

 Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week

The Beatles, the supergroup consisting of John, Paul, George and Ringo, are a pop culture frequency and a digital music commodity, now marketed by iTunes. Their influence and vocabulary are ubiquitous and all encompassing, perhaps motivating Steve Jobs who named his computer company Apple, the same as The Beatles' recording entity. As fate would have it, the name as well as Steve Jobs's handling of The Beatle catalogue has led to numerous past lawsuits.

In 1964, however, The Beatles were just four young kids on tour. A new documentary by Ron Howard "The Beatles : Eight Days a Week", gives you a front row seat. It was a slower time with the iPhone decades away. Life was in black-and-white.  The Beatles came from Liverpool: art school students only wanting to play.

They wore leather jackets. One meeting from manager Brian Epstein changed everything. Epstein bought the boys dark suits and cut their hair in the shape of moppy bowls. The four became mirror images, doubled by two: Mod mannequins, ready to lead the young into a glib and spontaneous future.

Here are John and Paul, ultra-pale and grainy with always something to say, snappy with a quip. Most striking in the film are the enormous crowds. Huge ribbons of teen girls break down and tear at their hair, either from ecstasy or shock. Some faint and collapse to the ground, prostrate and overcome. The Beatles as a sound became a religious experience. Instead of giving psalms, John  and Paul, acoustic apostles, gave pratfalls and smiles. The four of them Chaplinesque clowns who wobble and shake without any premeditation.

Whoopi Goldberg tells of The Fab Four showing her the courage to be uniquely herself. Sigourney Weaver confesses her love for Paul. In its last quarter, the film has a sinister tone with the tour clearly getting to John. The four become aware of segregation along with The Right wanting to smash and burn their records. John said religion was passe and that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

John, the naughty apostle, suddenly stumbles and apologizes. This moment along with the endless multitudes of girls who tremble and shake in supplication, are  arguably the best segments in the film.

Above all, what you see is The Beatles circa 1964. John with a small white guitar, Paul with a gray one, George struming while Ringo bangs away. The music is metallic, clanking like an old motor, rolling and loud.

Behold The Band, laughing and gigging, vibrant in the joy of play. There are only small dabs of darkness here, but the traces are present. John gets edgy and yells at reporters. The trap door of psychadelia is close behind.

For some two hours though, millenials and Beatle-lensed Baby-Boomers alike can rejoice in "Eight Days a Week," glimpsing the birth of John, Paul, George and Ringo, a fledgling four in monochromatic threads who grew to give us a new and colorful sound.

Such smiling percussion is bittersweet.

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