Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”
Takes You Touring With Fab Four
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Over at the Hyatt near the airport is a small structure with a sign designating it as Abbey Road. This is a remnant of the hotel room where the Beatles -- John, Paul, George, and Ringo -- stayed in ’64 when touring in Key West. They were supposed to go on to Jacksonville for a day of rest, but stayed over due to Hurricane Dora, spending the day drinking and jamming with Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry and the Bill Black Combo.

“We stayed there for a couple of days, not knowing what to do except, like, drink. I remember drinking way too much, and having one of those talking-to-the-toilet bowl evenings,” recalled Paul McCarthy. “It was during that night, when we’d all stayed up way too late, and we got so pissed that we ended up crying -- about, you know, how wonderful we were, and how much we loved each other, even though we’d never said anything.”

Paul commemorated that visit in “Here Today,” his tribute to John Lennon.

John Lennon had proclaimed their fame as being greater than some deities, and fans seemed to bear that out, turning up in mass for their concerts.

Now there’s a documentary about their touring years, aptly titled “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week -- The Touring Years.” It’s currently making music at the Tropic Cinema.

Directed by Ron Howard (“Sully,” “Apollo 12”), the film covers 1962 to 1966, from their early days in Liverpool’s Cavern Club to their final performance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. In all, 250 performances in 15 countries.

The film was produced with the cooperation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, and Olivia Harrison.

In it, you’ll see Richard Lester, Eddie Izzard, journalist Larry Kane, and Elvis Costello, among others. Sigourney Weaver recalls attending the first Hollywood Bowl show, and Whoopi Goldberg talks about seeing them at Shea Stadium when she was nine-year-old Caryn Elaine Johnson. Along with photos and archival footage are interviews with their manager Brian Epstein and record producer George Martin (“The fifth Beatle”).

You’re reminded of many past tours -- that incident involving Imelda Marcos in the Philippines, protests when booked to play at the Budokan Stadium in Japan, fans injuries during the US tours, etc. The doc’s newsreel approach unspools fact after fact (e.g. The Beatles were the first band to play stadiums, their touring contracts had a provision prohibiting segregated shows in the South, etc.). You get to see life on the road, but without any sordid details. After all, the film was co-produced by Apple Corps Ltd.

The music includes snippets of familiar songs -- “She Loves You,” “Twist & Shout,” “Help,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” et al. -- enough to remind us of Beatlemania -- as well as tacking on 30 minutes of bonus footage of “The Beatles At Shea Stadium” (yes, it’s their entire set from the August 15, 1965 show).

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” humanizes the Fab Four, showing they were just plucky kids who were out of their depth. And how fandom overwhelmed them and their music.

“We just wanted to play,” Ringo Starr says early in the film. “Playing was the most important thing.”

Step by step, we witness these naïve heartthrobs being transformed into cynical businessmen who toured solely for the money because their record contract paid such measly royalties.

“We were not an overnight sensation,” Paul reminds us. Hard to believe. It seems like the Beatles have been a part of our lives forever. A long and winding road.

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