We’ve all read the books. We’ve even seen a few films, too. And we don’t trust anyone who doesn’t own the records. But what was it like to be in the eye of that fab storm? It’s happy days, as The Beatles are back on the big screen in Ron Howard’s latest Hollywood blockbuster. The punchline? Truth is stranger than fiction. By Lis Garrett.

I was born in 1967, the beginning of the end, and grew up with The Beatles. They’re my earliest childhood memory. I ‘acquired’ my mum’s 7″ vinyl collection at an early age and the seventies passed me by as I stayed immersed in the sounds of the sixties. The Beatles were a given in our house, my mum adored them and so did I. Their early years were my favourites, ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Twist & Shout’ have rarely been bettered as far as pop goes. And it’s all of these early songs that are the soundtrack to (most of) Ron Howard’s ‘Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years’ film, out now, covering the touring years of The Beatles.

The footage is expertly mixed with modern interviews, offering insights into how the early sounds of the group influenced the world around them and how the youngsters who would become the musicians of my generation viewed those early encounters with this musical whirlwind that was unfolding in front of them. Clearly the film was not expected to cover the complete reality of touring in the sixties and everything that must have entailed – whether that’s an effort to get a lower film rating, expanding the potential audience, or by request from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia and Dhani Harrison, it’s hard to say.

The sheer scale of the tours is presented front and centre – and it’s easy to see why the screaming and hysteria became intolerable. What I wasn’t prepared for was the clear danger and physical menace of the crowds… obviously I remember seeing footage of screaming girls on barriers, but to learn that over 270 people were hospitalised at one gig shocked me. I’d never thought about it before. Indeed, it seems too dark an experience for my beloved band who taught me everything about love and peace and joy in music. The Shea Stadium footage is shocking. The scale, the noise, the craziness… again, I’d never seen that before. You can only imagine the thoughts of the four friends bundled into the back of a security van to escape the stadium. They must have thought the world had gone mad… and maybe it had.

The film made me reflect on stadium gigs now. The numbers might well be comparable – but the hysteria and danger are mostly gone. Have we become so blasé about our musicians? Do we have so much access now that there is no mystique, no overwhelming joy of being in the same physical space as our heroes? Or were The Beatles just so special and so unique, that the reaction they provoked in their audience was a once-in-a-lifetime happening?

Ron Howard’s perfect film shows both sides of the touring animal, with the fans chaotic and demanding, while the musicians who want to share their music are ultimately prevented from doing so by the very people they were desperate to reach.

The Beatles
‘Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years’ 
Picturehouse @ FACT, Liverpool
Find times and tickets


Pic courtesy MPL Communications