From the time The Beatles entered the collective conscience of American teenagers until the time the group called it quits was just seven years. (By comparison, the relatively-recent Adele released her first album eight years ago.)
Despite their short collective life, there’s been no band in history more comprehensively studied, well documented, and universally praised. It’s what makes Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years seem a little superfluous while at the same time being a grin-inducing return to the magical mystery world of mop-tops and Sergeant Pepper.
Starting with footage from a November 1963 Manchester concert and continuing through the 1969 rooftop farewell, Eight Days is a must-see for Beatles fans (even those who claim to have “been there done that” with the Beatles Anthology and any number of other documentaries about the band), and it’s otherwise a fun ride for anyone who can yeah-yeah-yeah-along to “She Loves You”.
Featuring interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, alongside archived sound from John Lennon and George Harrison, Eight Days chronicles the rise of the Fab Four from a performance perspective. It’s not a history lesson; the names Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe, and Ravi Shankar are never mentioned, and Yoko Ono is only mentioned once in passing. This is a film about the Beatles’ live performances featuring the recollections of several celebrities who witnessed it first-hand, including Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, and Elvis Costello.
Director Ron Howard reached out to fans to get old videos from the performances, and the result is a first-person look at The Beatles in action, supplemented by fascinating stories from the lads themselves about what it was like to walk in to Shea Stadium; the emotions they had as they touched down in Australia, Japan, and the Philippines for the first time; and how it felt to say goodbye to the road after their last concert, in San Francisco 1966.
There are no startling moments and no revelations in Eight Days that will leave you gob-smacked. (In fact, the most interesting recent Beatles tidbit isn’t even in the movie—it popped up in a Newsweek article just last week: according to a sound expert, the noise at Shea Stadium in 1965 was louder than if you were standing 100 feet under a jumbo jet as it flew by. Imagine that.) This film is about the music, and there’s plenty of it, and it’s still among the best music ever made.