There are some bands for whom a documentary is a great chance to give some new found recognition – see Anvil, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Now – others allow a peek into the world we wouldn’t usually – see Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster and Iron Maiden: Flight 666. There’s something in these stories that appeal to fans and non-fans alike. These are films driven as much by narrative and human nature as the music.
So what do you do when the story you’ve been tasked with documenting is perhaps the most well known in all of pop history? What do you do when you’re dealing with a group whose lives are studied as part of the national curriculum?
The answer, if you’re Ron Howard, is to focus on a smaller cross-section of the artist’s career. If Anthology was the documentary Magnus opus then Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years is the CliffsNotes version of the definitive story.
That’s not to criticise. With Anthology spanning three parts and near six hours, it can be too heavy a task for the casual observer. With a relatively more casual 90 minute running time, Eight Days A Week can take in the young and curious as well as the veteran fan of the Fabs.
The arc follows the band from the release of their first no.1 single ‘Please Please Me’ into the hysteria of Beatlemania until the implosion that led to the group’s retreat from the live scene. Using chiefly Paul and Ringo as contributors, there’s a feeling of the definitive word, even if much of their lines feel as if they’ve been told several times in interview anecdotes and the Anthology series. The pair are engaging and fun, and you can even feel that glimmer in their eyes as they recall their glory years.
The real coup de force of this film, however, is the live footage. Remastered to exclude or include the infamous screams as and when required giving us a feel of being in the eye of the Beatlemania hurricane, while also showing us that beneath it all, The Beatles were a tight little unit even when flying blind.
The inclusion of press conferences and private videos show us that on and off stage the band possessed a sharp Liverpool wit, as well as confidence that belied their young years – all members were 26 or younger when they quit touring.
You’ll laugh at the jokes; you’ll marvel at their power, and you’ll smile at the timeless melodies of Lennon/McCartney. Just don’t take this fun and exciting documentary to be the definitive on the storied history of the Fab Four.