Ron Howard’s Beatles Documentary

“The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”

Every artist should see this movie.

It could ignite Beatlemania all over again. But it’s the arc that gets to you. Four lads with no future forced to believe in themselves turn into jaded men who just can’t do it the same way anymore.

That’s right, they’re in Germany, playing for eight hours a day and becoming disillusioned. That’s what they don’t tell you, the road to success will not only have potholes, but perceived dead ends, anybody who tells you they’re convinced they’ll make it is lying. But John would tell the other blokes living in one cramped room with a loo down the hall that they were going to the “toppermost of the poppermost” and they’d soldier on.

To the point where Brian Epstein takes notice and takes charge.

Every great act has a great manager. One who not only paves the way, but has vision. Much has been written about how Brian made bad deals, but he got the band deals, when otherwise they’d have just faded into oblivion, ended up as illustrators or blue collar laborers having a laugh at the pub regarding the reckless days of their youth.

Brian Epstein had faith. As did George Martin.

And from there, it was a rocket ship.

And we were along for the ride.

And oh what a glorious trip it was. Imagine sitting at home minding your own business and then having a mellifluous sound come out of the radio that not only woke you up, but changed your life. That’s what the Beatles were, a left turn off the beaten path, one we took instantly, a journey upon which we never looked back, one which made us happy.

And then they sustained. Everybody thought it was a fad, that’s why “A Hard Day’s Night” had to be rushed out, before it was over. The old men didn’t believe, they’d seen this thing before, as for the lads, they were clueless, they were just soldiering on, busy all day, trying to hold on.

And the performances are electrifying. From when if you couldn’t get a ticket you were truly left out, your heart’s desire was to be inside, where you couldn’t hear but you could feel, and feeling is everything.

They were climbing the ladder, they were going for the brass ring.

And then it became meaningless.

Life is about doing what you’re good at endlessly, until you die or retire.

But not if you’re an artist. An artist challenges not only himself (or herself!), but the audience. You go by your gut, if you’re playing it safe, you die inside.

Money was important, but proving their worth, impacting the populace, that was more important.

You see they were testing limits, and we were along for the ride.

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” sounded nothing like what was already on the radio. We blinked, and then climbed on board.

“Rubber Soul” had no singles, it was pooh-poohed and then embraced, it lasted.

And “Sgt. Pepper” was a climb beyond Everest, not only was it unexpected, not only were we unprepared, but they went there and we followed them, we’d follow the Beatles anywhere.

But by 1966 there was nowhere they wanted to go other than home and to the studio. Live gigs had lost their luster. They were disorganized dashes for cash. It was no longer about the music, but “The Beatles,” and that wasn’t enough.

They were cheeky. They didn’t give the reporters what they always wanted.

They smoked. When you see Paul look to George for a light while John is talking to a reporter you light up inside, privy to this intimate moment, this is not stars frolicking for the camera, but real people going about their lives, just like you and me.

But they weren’t.

But they were part of our lives. You’ve got no idea how important Beatle albums were unless you were there. Money was limited, you or your parents would buy an LP and you’d play it endlessly, till the grooves went gray, till you knew every lick by heart. So when you see the story played out on film…

It’s about the music.

But pictures convey a message even more strongly when you’re telling a story.

Beatlemania really happened. Gods walked the earth. They were nurtured by the system and then spread their wings and flew, more attention was paid to them than Jesus. That’s right, John Lennon’s statement may have irked the fuddy-duddys, but not those who truly believed.

And they were scared, of retribution, of violence, because…

It had never been done before. Not on this scale, not in this way. They were inventing it as they want along, and were working too hard to second-guess it, they were running on instinct.

But they grew, they evolved. From puppy love to adult introspection.

And they took us along with them.

This is not VH1’s “Behind The Music.” This isn’t even that multi-night Beatles television extravaganza of two decades past.

No, this is the tuning fork, resonating, getting it right.

Too many of the talking heads are superfluous. Just because you’re famous now, we don’t care what you think about then, the Beatles were for everybody, we owned them just as much as you. But when Whoopi Goldberg talks about being a fan, going to Shea Stadium, you marvel, these four Scousers broke the color line.

Sugarcoat it, put it in a vault, make it a curio.

But you’ll be getting it wrong.

This is the story of my generation. Of being all you can be, of pushing the envelope. Not doing it for the money, but the sheer existential joy and satisfaction.

You’ll be singing along to the songs.

You’ll feel like a voyeur watching footage you never thought existed.

But first and foremost you’ll be inspired. To pay your dues. To get it right. To do what you believe in your heart. To test the limits.

Those are the Beatle lessons.

And they still need to be learned.

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