Director: Ron Howard (2016) BBFC cert: 12A
This rock and roll documentary examines how the touring years of the Fab Four affected their musical output and consequently the cultural landscape of the world.
It’s a triumph of research and editing. Though hugely enjoyable even for a casual fan such as myself, there isn’t much new and the genius you can hear has been around for over fifty years.
Clearly a passion project for director Ron Howard, he mines exhaustively from a wealth of archive material. This allows the band to speak for themselves with their trademark goofy charm and sharp wit.
Journalists from the time contribute their memories and various famous people pop up to declare how much the band meant to their youth, such as an entertaining Sigourney Weaver.
We follow their meteoric rise from the cramped belly of Liverpool’s Cavern Club to become the first ever band to conduct a stadium tour of the US.
Despite unparalleled period of chart success, an exploitative recording contract encourages the ambitious band to hit the road to make some real money.
Due to the boys unprecedented popularity, US authorities were worried about fans’ safety and insisted the group play giant stadiums, leading to their selling out the 56,000 seater Shea Stadium in Chicago.
The bands innate decency and fearless naivety results in their successfully challenging the segregation of audiences in the US south. They also deal with bomb threats, riots and hordes of screaming teenage fans wherever they go.
Decisions are made democratically, albeit it’s a democracy where John Lennon is the first among equals. Though we’re spared the creative differences which were to tear the group apart, the on-stage placing of George Harrison between Lennon and Paul McCartney suggests a temporary buffer to the schism to come. The much maligned Ringo demonstrates his almost violent musical contribution to their success.
We see how crucifying schedule of recording and performing contributes to their collective decision to quit touring in August 1966 to focus on recording. A superb montage to A Day In The Life shows how they develop physically, emotionally and artistically.
After a three year hiatus their last ever gig was performed unannounced from the roof of their Savile Row Apple office. This places it firmly in context and it becomes an act of spiritual and creative catharsis.