A review of Eight Days a Week; the Touring Years
A film by Ron Howard
Part Four: 1966 and beyond…
1966 was the end of the Beatles as a touring band. The movie shows their frustration.
The year began with three months off! The Fabs are shown lounging in a pool. We see Ringo’s and John’s homes and family snapshots with their children – the only mention of their spouses and children in the entire film (and only Julian is shown).
Although John hardly lived in familial bliss, it showed the band start to drift apart physically and musically. We are introduced to George’s love of Indian music, for example.
We finally see their warts – something the film has avoided up until now. But then again, it had never affected their live performing.
The film tells us the story and shows a montage of the Butcher cover for the US album “Yesterday … and Today”.
On that subject: is this the ONLY documentary of the Beatles that does NOT even MENTION “Yesterday”?! They performed it live in 1966, but there is no clip of their singing it. Leaving out “Hey Jude” is understandable – the song is out of the movie’s timeline – but a song that has been played over seven million times? Of which there are over two thousand versions?
The film next shows us the recording of the “Revolver” album. George Martin, Howard Goodall and the Fabs describe how their musical tastes are finally diverging. They are using Indian music and avant-garde techniques in their recordings. More importantly, they describe how hard (impossible) it will be to replicate these songs in a baseball stadium, where even an announcer’s voice sounds like white noise. “Tomorrow Never Knows?” Forget it …
There is one clip that I have never seen (it still amazes me that after over 50 years there are still film clips and photos that are truly so rare) and it shows the rot of 1966 – even the press is turning against the Fabs. In Hamburg a reporter asks the group why they are so “horrid snobby”.
“That’s your interpretation,” John says, in a tone we will hear a lot in the late 60s and early 70s usually in a bed with Yoko at his side. Paul gives a diplomatic answer (akin to “the quality of our answers reflects the quality of your questions”) which gets an applause, but his tone still has bite. Yikes! Even Paul is getting snippy!
The rest of the 1966 segment is filled with familiar Beatle lore: the protests in Tokyo, the Marcos “snub” in the Philippines and the US tour marred by protests over John’s “bigger than Jesus” remark – events even the poorest of Beatle documentaries portray (that’s not meant to be derogatory – it just means that I won’t go into detail about them here).
And again despite the complaints of their quality, Budokan (for example) is an excellent show with clear audio and video! Bootlegs of the concert exist.
The movie shows the silent film made of the last live performance in San Francisco, with the Fabs providing commentary. George started the group’s anti-touring movement as early as the Shea stadium show, but by the time this Frisco show was finished, the other three finally agreed.
Paul McCartney has a poor cassette recording of this concert made by Tony Barrow. As bad as the sound quality (perhaps not the music) undoubted is, why didn’t he share it with the producers anyway? It can’t be any worse than the sound recording of the village fete where Paul met John …
The Mania Years were over.
For the next five minutes the movie does a recap of the Studio Years. They spend most of the time showing the evolution of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with the Beatles in their Carnaby-Street-pre-Sgt-Pepper clothing as well as clips of the party leading up to the recording of “All You Need is Love”. There is a photo montage of their last six albums.
A placard tells us of one last live performance on the rooftop of Apple Records in January 1969.
Three songs performed at the rooftop concert concluding “Let It Be” complete the film. The clips are clear, clean and sound fantastic! Despite assurances that everything Apple Corps is resolved we STILL do not have “Let It Be” in DVD. Why? I’m glad this movie managed to get permission to use more than just a brief clip: we hear nearly the entirety of “Don’t Let Me Down”, for example. Although “Let It Be” is available as a bootleg, it will be nice to finally get a clean copy.
“Eight Days a Week” is an excellent primer on the Beatles, their music and their live performances, along with the good and bad that came with it. It focuses on only one part of the Beatle mythos but does so thoroughly.
For other events during the Mania Years – or the Early or Studio Years – you may have to rely on documentaries such as “the Compleat Beatles” or “the Beatles Anthology”. Like those, “Eight Days a Week” is something of a white-washed version. For more dirt you may have to rely on books such as Cynthia Lennon’s books on John or former insider Peter Brown’s “The Love You Make”, of which Beatles insiders protesteth too much; if you know what I mean. Ron DiLello’s “The Longest Cocktail Party” is a rollicking fun read on the Fabs’ Apple Corp. The recent “Paul McCartney: A Life” by Phillip Norman is another warts-and-all biography. I am currently listening to the audio book and will review that in a few weeks.
Eric Idle’s “The Rutles: All You Need is Cash” is the closest anyone has come to likely capturing the real Beatles experience … from the Beatles’ viewpoint! George and John are on record as having loved it (George produced and appeared in it).
The only similar documentary is the recent “the Beatles: The First US Visit”, a re-release of a BBC documentary made in 1964 of the Fab’s US tour.
But “Eight Days a Week” has a broader scope than that made-for-television doc. The movie is excellently done. It’s a great jumping-on point for young people first learning about their parent’s (grandparent’s?) favorite group and more about them can be learned elsewhere if their curiosity is whetted.
Old fans can bask in the Mania they may have been too young to experience. Plus there is enough “new” or unseen material to keep us interested.
5:50 into the movie is when Paul almost tears up. The movie is worth that alone.
It is available free to Hulu subscribers or on pay-per-view. It will be released in DVD sometime in the next few months.
I would buy the soundtrack if it consisted of live performances and the rehearsals. The movie rarely plays studio recordings and then mostly over commentary. If you have the Beatle’s music catalogue there will be nothing new here.
I already have the studio recording of “I Want to Hold your Hand”, thank you; but I’ll take the rehearsals of “Eight Days a Week” and the live “Nowhere Man”, please!
I cannot resist one personal story: when I loaded Hulu to watch it for the first time my six-year-old daughter walked into the living room and asked what I was watching. When I told her the film title she looked at me and said, “Daddy! There aren’t eight days in a week!” Which pretty much summed up her feelings about the movie.
I did not intend for this review to go on for four blogs; it must have meant I enjoyed writing about it as much as I enjoyed watching the movie. I hope you enjoyed it!
Corporate shill department: I published a fictional account of John F Kennedy meeting the Beatles, titled, appropriately enough, “The Day John F Kennedy met the Beatles”, available here on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it!
Original Material copyright 2016 Michael Curry