Beatles fans and curious newbies will find plenty to devour in Ron Howard’s documentary “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years,” for which he conducted new interviews with the surviving band members and others from their inner circle. An amazing array of found footage adds to these revealing and intimate new interviews, and succeeds in making the film not just about the Beatles themselves but about the experience of Beatlemania, often directly from those who first fell under their spell.
Aspects of this film would not be possible without today’s technology, which is fitting since Howard wanted this film to not only be a gift to the legions of existing Beatles fans, but to capture and recreate the band’s meaning and significance for a younger, possibly uninitiated, generation.
Through social and traditional media, Howard solicited and received hundreds of images and recordings from fans throughout the world, resulting in some fantastic, never-before-seen stuff, most notably from the San Francisco Candlestick Park concert in 1966, their last for years. A fan recorded the concert from her great seats in the eighth row, and this will be the first time the public sees the footage.
The audio restoration of the Beatles’ live performances is the other revolution in this film. Despite the huge amounts of money to be made touring, The Beatles’ decision to stay in the studio and record was due to the fact that their concerts didn’t sound as good as they wanted them to, thanks to the screaming of thousands of hysterical fans. Ultimately, Beatlemania killed the experience of seeing The Beatles live.
The meticulous audio restoration for “Eight Days a Week” creates an experience you couldn’t have had even if you’d actually been to one of the concerts, that of actually getting to hear the music played live. Even the surviving musicians themselves were surprised and delighted by the audio.
But the strengths of “Eight Days a Week” aren’t just technical, they’re also emotional. The heart of this film and the delight of watching it is the camaraderie between The Beatles themselves. In one interview, Ringo ashes his cigarette continuously into John’s hair while John talks. In recent interviews, Paul and Ringo tease and laugh, and their mutual affection and regard are obvious.
Fan experiences also play a role, notably that of Kitty Oliver, an African-American fan attending her first integrated event at their concert in Jacksonville, Florida. A rider in the The Beatles’ contract stated they would never play a segregated venue.
Beatles fans, grab a doubting youngster and take them to the Crescent Theater for a journey that is exciting and emotional to behold. Wonderful photos and films from their early days in Liverpool and Hamburg emphasize the years they spent playing together before hitting it big. Ron Howard brings a narrative structure to a wealth of images and sounds, and it’s a great story, even if you think you’ve heard it all before.
“Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” starts Sept. 15 exclusively at the Crescent Theater.