The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
starring The Beatles
written by Mark Monroe
directed by Ron Howard
This is a documentary film of The Beatles’ touring years during Beatlemania, that is from 1963 to 1966. It mostly concerns the American tours of 1964, ’65 and ’66. But it has to start in the U.K. in 1963 because that is when Beatlemania began. The film ends with Sgt. Pepper (1967), the band’s first major studio album after they ceased touring, and still widely considered one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.
I’m a Beatlemaniac, so no question I was disposed to like the film. But it did not teach me anything new, anything that I didn’t already know about The Beatles, their music and their history. It was exciting to watch relatively high definition colour concert footage. So many early Beatles photographs are black–and-white that the colour clips make them seem so much more real (like seeing colour film of Hitler, or something).
The focus of the film on the touring years 1963-66 is the root of a big problem. Director Ron Howard said very little about the band’s formation from 1956-to-62. 1962 is given only cursory cover, ignoring the two big things about the band that year - the death of Stuart Sutcliffe and the replacement of Pete Best by Ringo Starr. We are told of Ringo joining the band, but neither Best nor Sutcliffe is ever mentioned. There is one still photograph shot of The Beatles in Hamburg with Best behind the drum kit (taken by Astrid Kirchherr, I presume), but he is ignored. Ringo was married to Maureen Cox in 1965, but no mention is made of it, and there is one still picture of John Lennon with his first wife, Cynthia Powell and their son, Julian. But they are ignored as well. Interview footage of Ringo today mentions Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and the film includes two still shots of Ringo with that band. But Rory Storm receives no explanation. Neither does Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer and girlfriend of Stuart Sutcliffe commonly credited with giving The Fab Four their first moptop haircuts. Finally, the temporary replacement of Ringo Starr behind the drum kit in 1964 by Jimmie Nicol while Ringo recovered from a tonsillectomy finds no traction at all. Again, it’s because Jimmy toured with The Beatles in Australasia, not in America, and Eight Days a Week is primarily concerned with the American tours. I thought that definitely gave The Beatles story an incorrect slant.
Finally, no mention whatsoever is made of John Lennon’s two published books of poetry and short stories, In His Own Write (1964), and A Spaniard in the Works (1965). The focus is grossly American-centric and totally trained on the concert music and the fans’ mania. I thought the accumulation of omissions were an error.