Anyone Else Excited For Ron Howard’s New Beatles Documentary?

thebeatleseightdaysaweekAs a music lover, I will always be a sucker for new original source material about the Beatles. They are the most documented and discussed artists in the history of mankind, but somehow all of that babble is never enough. The more I learn about the Beatles, the more inconceivable their story becomes, especially through the lens of 50 years of history. How was it ever possible that a rock & roll band could become a cultural Colossus like the Beatles? I’ll bet people will still be trying to make sense of it all a hundred years from now.

Ron Howard’s new Beatles documentary, premiering next Thursday the 15th, promises to shed at least some new light on the story. Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years 1962-1966 features plenty of restored concert and interview footage, lots of it never-before seen. Howard crowd-sourced a lot of new material, including a clip shot by a fan showing the band performing their last song at their last-ever show at Candlestick Park, and then walking off the stage. Howard called it the “holy grail” of found Beatles footage.

The other reason to get excited about the film is that Giles Martin was in charge of the audio restorations, so we know the sound is going to be fantastic. Martin has been working wonders in recent years remastering the Beatles catalogue for various projects. For some of the concert footage he had access to newly discovered recordings taken straight from the mixing boards, and I just can’t wait to hear that stuff.

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However I’m certainly not expecting to get knocked off my feet by the doc’s insights. Howard told the L.A. Times that he had a wider goal:

I felt it was incumbent upon me to try to do two things. One was to honor the fans who really would know the difference — the really dedicated fans, of which there are zillions. But I also thought it was even more important to try to tell a story that would convey to people who really have no idea — I’m thinking of the millennials, I suppose; people who have grown up with the music and think they know something of the story — the intensity of the journey and the impact they had.

Paul and Ringo were also quoted in the L.A. Times piece, and both remarked un-ironically how the movie “jogged” their memories. In the film Howard makes a big deal about how the Beatles were the only touring band at the time who had a clause in their contract prohibiting them from playing any racially segregated venues in the U.S. McCartney said he didn’t remember putting the clause in but hey, he thought it was “very cool” that they did so.

Of course it’s quite likely he didn’t remember that clause because he had nothing to do with it. Brian Epstein was a pretty progressive guy and may have been entirely responsible for it, but he was apparently beyond the film’s purview — one reviewer even remarked that Epstein really got short shrift in the film.

That’s the problem with any so-called definitive take on the Beatles story. There are just too many moving parts – when you consider not only the ancillary characters in the Beatles story, but also their own cultural and musical influences – too many moving parts to be accounted for in one book or even a series of books. Letting the moving parts trickle out one by one is the only way to go when “making sense of the Beatles” is a lifetime project.



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