EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS
|Concerts and tour stops for The Beatles, 1963-1966|
But then they brought in Hollywood director Ron Howard and everything changed. What did we get? We got sort of an "extra disc" to the Anthology DVD series. Short clips and celebrity talking heads. Okay, perhaps this is a more entertaining film for a broader audience, at the cost of alienating us Beatles fans. Plus, you're no longer telling the story about the touring years. What the story in the film is, is this: The Beatles are touring North America, and the mania forces them to end touring and concentrate on their record career instead. The concerts the Beatles gave in other countries is just added as a sprinkle of spice to the story. We also get an insight into what the Beatles did in the recording studio, and we leave them in January 1969, when they once again and for the last time gave a live concert.
|Live at the NME Poll Winners Concert in London, 1964.|
The final song, "Can't Buy Me Love" was partially used in the film, colourised.
A lot of footage originally filmed in black and white had been colourised for this film: the Washington DC concert film, the press conference at the airport in New York, Lennon's apology at the press conference in Chicago, "Help!" from the Blackpool 1965 concert and "Can't Buy Me Love" from the NME Poll Winners Concert. The colorised footage was a hit and miss sort of thing which mainly missed, with orange skin tones, orange tongues and black and white between the hair and the ears. I would rather have them spend this money on getting more rare footage!
And when it came to the concerts, audio producer Giles Martin used the same tactic that he employed for his soundtrack to the "A Hard Day's Night"-film, he recorded and overdubbed the sound of individually screaming girls of today to the images. This was done every time the film zoomed in on a smaller group of girls, and also onto the Shea Stadium film, which we saw after the main feature.
Some fakery which should have been edited out: The fake Shea Stadium poster, and a black and white shot of the current front door sign of Abbey Road Studios. It wasn't even named Abbey Road Studios at the time, and later in the film we see the real sixties EMI Studios door sign, so why keep in that latter day one?
|Fake Shea Stadium poster.|
I first saw this film last Tuesday at a press showing, and again two days later on Thursday 22 September along with an audience. In fact it was a full house here in Oslo at the biggest theatre in the cinema complex. And it seemed the audience loved it. I knew I was in good company when the Apple logo appearing on the screen in the beginning of the film got a round of applause! People were genuinely entertained and laughter and applause followed a lot of the scenes. As for the Shea film, this had first generationers singing along, as if they were attending a karaoke film or - indeed, a concert. Most of the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves (the handful of people who left before Shea were probably the disappointed ones) and the film was favourably reviewed on Facebook by the people I knew in the audience - most of them members of Norwegian Wood, the Beatles fan club of Norway.
|You Can't Do That in Melbourne.|
One thing Howard accomplished, was to bring new light to the fact that The Beatles refused to play to segregated audiences. This is a well known fact for us Beatle buffs, but it hasn't been very publicly known, or rather, it has been forgotten about. It's a fact which certainly has historical significance and plays a part in the liberation of the black communities of USA. And this aspect of the film was used to promote the film before it was even released. Great, well done!
I had really high hopes for this film, but the result is at best a forgery. The best way to see this film is to start with no expectations or knowledge whatsoever. Because then it is actually quite entertaining. It is better the second time you view it than the first, because then you're prepared for its limitations. We didn't need the Beatles in the studio or filming "A Hard Days Night" and "Help!". And as much as we love to see footage from the Apple rooftop concert in 1969 (and here we did get previously unseen footage from "I've Got A Feeling"), it falls outside the scope of the theme of the film. And it's not because there's any lack of material from live performances between 1963 and 1966 which could have been shown instead. On the contrary, The Beatles as a performing band during their touring years is vastly undercommunicated here – because of all the concert footage that exists but isn't used! We miss Holland, we miss Germany 1966, we miss Australia! There's way too little from Japan and the Philippines story is grossly underplayed. Manila was as much a nail in the coffin for The Beatles' touring career as the Ku Klux Klan and Beatle record bonfires. Thank goodness for that 2014 documentary, "When The Beatles Drove Us Wild" and other, unofficial documentaries who tell us more of the true story. Lacking as they may be in the music departement, they give us more footage of The Beatles on tour, as well as insightful interviews with people in the Beatles' entourage.
When the film premiered in Liverpool, it was prefaced by two short films: An introduction by Paul, Ringo and Ron Howard especially addressing the Liverpool audience (and Howard openly admitting that he had never been to Liverpool but really wanted to visit some time), and an 11 minutes long film where people from Liverpool were interviewed. Only there did you hear from people like Allan Williams, Joe Flannery, Beryl Marsden, Freda Kelly, and siblings Beryl Williams and Barry Chang who went along to Hamburg with the Beatles. And in Japan, more footage from The Beatles' visit to Tokyo was shown. The latter two films will be included as bonus features on the home cinema release, deluxe edition.
|The audience audibly present|
SHEA STADIUMIt was very nice to see and hear The Beatles at Shea Stadium on the big screen and with good sound – although the volume was a little low during the screenings I attended. With a monumental stadium like Shea, you really want to have really loud audio to convey the atmosphere of being there. The audio was not only remixed but also substituted by Giles Martin and was a mishmash of this and that. "Twist And Shout" is mostly the studio version with added audience noise, "Act Naturally" is from the concert, but with the guitar solos added from the studio version, "Baby's In Black" is again a mix of the concert and the studio version, "Help!" is the 1966-version they recorded at CTS especially for the Shea film soundtrack, and "She's A Woman" is from the Hollywood Bowl! The sound is very narrow stereo or even mono, with a stereo effect on the audience. The picture quality is probably as good as it gets, it was filmed in 35mm but I do believe that the film was sometimes zoomed in to focus on the lead singers and that meant a drop in quality during those scenes only. Again, this was already present in the original version and there seems to be no outtake footage available, so it is what it is. Seemed to me the film wasn't very much edited at all, from the 1966 TV version, which means that outtakes of George with his Gretsch guitar from the missing "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" appears in "A Hard Day's Night" in between him playing the Rickenbacker. Fan edits of the Shea Stadium film has rectified this, but it's kept in here. It was really nice to hear Ringo sing "Act Naturally" live (with his hi-hat work leaking into the vocals), he did a good enough job of it so it was never really needed to have the original film featuring the record as a soundtrack back in 1966.
I do hope that Apple elects to release The Beatles At Shea Stadium in full at some point in the future, and with an option to hear the real concert soundtrack instead of this mashup Martin version, for those of us who prefer historical accuracy.
There's a very good two hours long podcast discussing Howard's film and the Shea film, which includes important interviews with insiders working with the production crew, Chuck Gunderson and Erik Taros. It's hosted by Robert Rodriguez and Richard Buskin. You can find it here.