It was 50 years ago this August when the most influential act of the rock era said "no mas" to touring. The ranks of those lucky enough to see the Beatles live are dwindling, but true fans keep the flame going with mementos, books, photos and ticket stubs.
Concert footage and behind-the-scenes clips from road trips and tours are still out there, and a literal army of dedicated folks have been trying to find a way to rein it all in and bring it to the big screen. Even as far back as 2003, Matthew White (then an archivist at National Geographic in London) pitched the idea to Beatles’ Apple Corps after finding footage from an emergency landing in Anchorage, Alaska.
The idea swelled over the years, with various entities joining the ranks (including One Voice One World and White Horse Pictures) and the call was put out in 2014 for fans and professionals to send in their clips and audio. The resulting film, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, had a soft launch in September before streaming to Hulu, but it didn't make it to Houston.
Master storyteller Ron Howard directed the documentary and, after realizing the genius of Brian Epstein's fortuitous decision to put the band in matching suits, the thousands of disparate elements began to fall together and take shape. The film opens with a six-and-a-half-minute color clip from 1963 ("She Loves You" and "Twist and Shout") and ends with the last true live performance they did in 1969 atop the roof of the Apple offices in London for the Let It Be film.
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It also documents their opposition to segregation and early efforts on behalf of civil rights (they insisted on desegregating the 1964 Gator Bowl concert). Most perilous, however, are the number of times they almost came to harm while performing. Beatlemania-crazed fans broke windows and stampeded and rushed the stage on numerous occasions. They received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and from those offended by John Lennon's statements on religion, and bravely (foolishly?) risked electrocution while performing at outdoor venues under torrential downpours.
The reviews are good, and apparently even die-hard fans will discover something new. In addition to the professional and amateur film clips, the doc includes interviews with 50 people who had a connection with the Fab Five (including Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Kane and Kitty Oliver), as well as interviews with Starr and McCartney.
It will be available for digital download and on Blu-Ray and DVD beginning November 21; visit thebeatleseightdaysaweek.com. When the documentary released in September, we had a few fans upset that it didn't make it to Houston, but now you can see it on the big screen with four showings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years screens at 4 p.m. October 29, 1 p.m. November 4, 4 p.m. November 19 and 2 p.m. November 27. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7531, mfah.org/calendar/eight-days-a-week. $7 to $9.