Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years
Although I’ve seen Paul McCartney in concert twelve times, including this year at Milwaukee’s Summerfest (see my review here), George Harrison on his only U.S. tour in St. Louis in 1974, and Ringo Starr with his All-Starr Band in 2014 (see my review here), I, unlike one of my aunts (who saw them at Comiskey Park in Chicago), never saw the Beatles in concert, as they had stopped touring the day before I turned 10 years old. Clips from that August 29, 1966 concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, are shown in this documentary from Oscar winning director Ron Howard and writer Mark Monroe, which focuses on the Beatles’ incredible touring years 1963-1966. Paul McCartney would return to Candlestick Park to play a final event at the stadium almost 48 years later on August 14, 2014, before the stadium was demolished in 2015.
In the film we hear the Beatles legendary producer Sir George Martin say that the Beatles would release a new single every three months and a new album every six months during the early stages of this period, an incredible creative pace. Martin’s son Giles was the music producer for the film and the remastered album Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which is considered to be the essential companion to the film. Read my review of the album here.
Howard, shows us (through photos, video and interviews), what the Beatles touring years of 1963 through 1966 were like when the band toured 15 countries. Though he focuses on the band on the road (concerts, press conferences, hotel rooms, appearances on television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show), he does address important issues along the way, such as the Beatles refusing to play a Jacksonville, Florida concert if the audience was to be segregated, and John Lennon’s controversial 1966 comment that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” at the time. What Howard shows us is what was referred to as “Beatlemania”, specifically the young females in their concerts screaming (you can also hear this on the Live at the Hollywood Bowl album).
Howard tells the story chronologically, using current interviews with the two surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as historical interview footage from John Lennon and George Harrison. McCartney states “By the end, it became quite complicated. But at the beginning, things were really simple.” Howard also includes interviews with people such as Whoopi Goldberg, who was one of the more than 56,000 who attended the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium, where the band’s sound came from tinny stadium speakers; Sigourney Weaver, who we see in historical black and white footage attending an early Beatles concert; and Miami radio station journalist Larry Kane, who travelled with the Beatles on their 1964 U.S. tour.
The film tells us that the Beatles had a poor record deal financially, and so made most of their money at this time touring. Unfortunately, due to the screaming, they could barely hear what they were playing. As they moved into 1966, they were more interested in experimenting in the studio with such songs as John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” than they were playing on the road. As they finished their show at Candlestick Park, they all agreed that would be the end of their touring. Howard finishes the film with their last live performance, a January 30, 1969 rooftop concert that was recorded for their Let it Be film.
As a Beatles fan, I loved this film. I saw a lot of video that I had not seen before. For younger readers not too familiar with the Beatles, check out this film to get a glimpse of what Beatlemania was like.