The term “Beatlemania” has become to most either a distant memory or a term from a history book, depending on your generation. Now, though, people of any age can get an in-depth view of the British Invasion, thanks to Oscar winner Ron Howard’s recent documentary, 8 Days a Week: The Touring Years.
Featuring compelling interviews with remaining band members Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the rock doc chronicles the group’s meteoric rise in the UK and their later touring years in America. “I wanted to make a movie for people who think they know and love the band, but they don’t really have a sense of that intensity of what The Beatles achieved, what they lived through, and what was going on in the world at that time,” explains Howard.
The film itself was created in a peculiar fashion: Howard appealed to the public for any archival Beatle footage, and gradually culled the thousands of clips received to formulate a cohesive synopsis of Beatlemania. The result? Hardly any new information for a dedicated fan, but nevertheless a pleasure to view on the big screen. “I haven’t seen it yet!” chuckles McCartney alongside Starr in an interview. “But we know it’s gonna be good!”
And indeed it is. The tone of the film is relentlessly optimistic, and rightfully so. It’s nearly impossible not to crack a smile at the early days jamming together in Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club. When asked of the moment he first joined John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison onstage, Starr reflects, “I’m an only child…and I suddenly felt like I had three brothers!”
The sound quality, too, is exceptional. “We couldn’t hear ourselves when we were live, [there was] so much screaming going on,” recalls McCartney. Yet with the film’s new, remixed sound, the audience can now hear every note from every concert recorded.
Likewise, the film quality was exceptional. Not only was much of the footage rare, but a great deal of it was painstakingly edited into refreshing, convincing Technicolor. “To see the [restored] footage was exciting! I hadn’t seen it in a thousand years!” declares Starr.
A surprise to many audience viewers was that The Beatles staunchly refused playing for segregated audiences. "I just think [segregation] is stupid,” stresses McCartney in archival footage. “You can't treat other human beings like animals. That's the way we all feel, and that's the way people in England feel, because there's never any segregation in concerts in England--and if there was, we wouldn't play 'em." Consequent of their commendable stance against racial inequality, a seven-year-old Whoopi Goldberg ecstatically recalls seeing The Beatles perform at Shea Stadium. When asked in the film what this was like, Goldberg mimics her head exploding.
Goldberg, though, is not the only star to have seen the Fab Four. A brief clip of footage reveals none other than a young Sigourney Weaver jostled by the ecstatic crowd at the 1962 Hollywood Bowl concert.
The movie makes it clear that the term “Beatlemania” was no exaggeration. Mobs of screaming fans, sobbing teenage girls, and entire police squadrons followed the group wherever they went. “We were all very young, and all pretty scared,” admits McCartney. In such a manic time, Starr poignantly relates that “We weren’t like brothers, we were brothers. We looked out for each other […] The music was changing. And we changed with it.”
Indeed, from mop top heads in Liverpool to still shaggier locks at the Hollywood Bowl, 8 Days a Week succeeds in capturing the group’s manic touring years and the contagious joy they brought with them.