The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years gives a fascinating insight into a slice of pop history, with some new chat from Macca and Ringo, plus archive discussion and footage of all of them, including an early comment from Paul that when the started and went into the dressing room, it was only once they’d put all of their outfit on, including their Beatle boots, would they feel like they look the part.
Beginning with their first album, Please Please Me, released March 1963 and spending 30 weeks at No.1, before long, we get to April 1964 when, for the first – and the only time a band has ever achieved this in the US, they occupied the Top 5 singles places. That happens so rarely, even now, although Justin Bieber did achieve a similar feat in the UK with the Top 3 singles places taken, some of them swapping over so he retained the top slot but with a different track. However, singles aside, how many bands, these days, would put out more than one album a year like The Beatles?
In that same year, the band are asked when the bubble is going to burst… a fair question, given how quickly most groups disappear, but clearly the bubble still hasn’t burst in 2016, and won’t for a long time.
This documentary takes us from their early days up to January 30th, 1969, the day they all performed together for the final time, doing a one-off gig on the roof of their offices. Even before that, with the constant slog of going from country to country, they were tiring of touring and feeling like they’re in a circus. After all, once they had played Shea Stadium with an audience of 56,500, where do you go from there that’s bigger? To that end, it reminds me that many moons ago, I briefly attempted stand-up. I bet even at that venue I would’ve got at least three people laughing.
At the point where the film comes to an end, we’re given a smattering of the experimental period they followed into, which I personally found far more interesting than their initial pop songs that brought them their fame.
The film takes in audio from session recordings, the assassination of JFK soon after their success, plus nuclear bomb tests and all the problems throughout the world, the band’s run-in with marijuana, words from George Martin, and new interview snippets with various celebrity fans, including writer/director Richard Curtis who describes their characteristics – “John was surprisingly fearless, Paul was surprisingly cute, Ringo was cheeky and irresistible, and George was the one that my sister was in love with”; Eddie Izzard: “the best way of dealing with heckles is to say the first thing that comes into your mind”, while Sigourney Weaver discusses being in a gig audience in 1964, with footage included.
There’s also Ed Freeman, one of just a couple of roadies that they had at the time, as they didn’t have a huge entourage like some bands would have, and when the fans rushed the stage in Cleveland, he said he thought he’d get seriously hurt.
Overall, this is a very good film, and it even had a one-night theatrical screening around the country, on September 15th. However, I never understood why the tickets were around £20 apiece, since at the end of the day, it’s still just a movie that runs 106 minutes, it’s not the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything.
Oh, and… One Direction, my arse! 😀
The film is presented in 16:9, so will have been very slightly trimmed top and bottom for 1.85:1 theatrical screening, and is in 1080p high definition. When it comes to assessing the picture quality, it’s going to vary wildly as you’d expect, but when there’s new interview footage or any stills/footage that is pristine, it’s pin-sharp. Hence, I have to give the picture 10/10 because everything is being brought to the screen perfectly.
There’s some 4:3 concert footage which gets cropped to 2.35:1, which is a bit odd.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and is a mixture of dialogue and Beatles tunes, as you’d expect. No problems here, either.
There are some great extras on disc 2, which effectively, are less like extras and more like a continuation of the film, and they effectively double its length:
- Words & Music (24:13): Paul and Ringo talk about the early days, and how they couldn’t read music back then… and they still can’t. From then on, and split into 6 parts – and all chaptered, we get into the nitty gritty about how they improved their craft over time.
- Early Clues To A New Direction (17:55): More discussion about the band, specifically looking about how they grew up and progressed in such a short period of time, including chat from Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg and Jason Bourne director Paul Greengrass.
- The Beatles Live 1963-1965 (11:59): Five hits in various locations – She Loves You, Twist And Shout, Can’t Buy Me Love, You Can’t Do That, and Help!
- A Deeper Dive (43:12): A stack of additional footage such as filming A Hard Day’s Night and recollections of Shea Stadium.
- Alternative opening (3:07): Set out in the style of an old-style slide projector, presented by author Malcolm Gladwell.
- Audio descriptive track: The only disc one extra, this does exactly what it says on the tin.
And while I was only available to review the content of the discs, the Special Edition also includes a 64-page booklet, including an introduction from director Ron Howard, an essay by music journalist and author Jon Savage, plus rare photos from The Beatles’ private archive.
There is also a single-disc version of both the Blu-ray and DVD editions, but if you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll buy the 2-disc versions.
The main menu features a very brief clip of The Beatles singing Dizzy Miss Lizzy. It lasts all of 29 seconds, so why not show the whole song? It sounds very odd just stopping and starting. There are 25 chapters which is great, and subtitles in English, French and German. The English ones are mostly fine, bar the odd slip, such as when reporter Larry Kane makes reference to 13 performances, yet the subtitles say 15.
Running time: 106 minutes
Cat.no: OPTBD2931RO (disc 1), OPTBD3092R1 (disc 2)
Released: November 21st 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Audio: English DTS HD-MA 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1: English and French
Subtitles: English, French and German
Widescreen: 1.78:1 (16:9)
Disc Format: 1*BD50, 1*BD25
Director: Ron Howard
Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Scott Pascucci and Nigel Sinclair
Screenplay: Mark Monroe and PG Morgan
Music: Ric Markmann, Dan Pinnella and Chris Wagner
John Lennon (archive footage)
George Harrison (archive footage)
The Beatles (archive footage)
Neil Aspinall (archive footage)
Brian Epstein (archive footage)
Mal Evans (archive footage)
George Martin (archive footage)
Roger Moore (archive footage)
Jimmie Nicol (archive footage)
Yoko Ono (archive footage)
Billy Preston (archive footage)
Ed Sullivan (archive footage)
Pete Best (archive footage) (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.