Eight Days A Week
A film by Ron Howard
Remastered sound by Giles Martin
There’s a long, long preamble before you get to the film. I need to place The Beatles in their importance to me.
I failed to buy two Beatles LPs (excluding compilations). One was Let It Be in a boxed version. I couldn’t afford it and the unboxed one seemed undesirably second-best. A mint boxed one is now rated at worth £900. The other was Live at The Hollywood Bowl in 1977. I went to buy these 1965 tracks, but foolishly the shop was playing it over the sound system when I walked in. It sounded awful. I passed. I found one a couple of years ago for £1. Great condition. Like most copies, it had only ever been played once. It still sounded awful.
Remastering techniques have improved immeasurably since then, and Giles Martin has “rescued” The Beatles from what his dad, who did the 1977 mastering, described as the noise of a jet taking off … the screaming. I bought the CD, loved it, especially the bonus tracks, You Can’t Do That, a great B-side and Baby’s In Black. When the Beatles LPs were first done on CD, the bass was a revelation as here. When you’re extracting sounds from high-pitched screaming, the bass guitar will be the easiest job, and it’s huge. On a good system it’s the lead instrument. The Beatles had no monitors, and the Vox 100 watt “Beatle Amps” were designed for the 1964 tour, but are feeble in modern terms. One was in our local music shop, and the avuncular owner allowed me to pluck a Hofner violin bass through one. “Where are the tone controls?” I asked. “At that volume it’s irrelevant,” I was told.
Paul McCartney’s choice of the violin bass has always puzzled me. They have a naturally soft tone, and at times on the live CD it blurs almost like organ bass pedals. I’ve seen people playing them live the last few years and they always sound farty to me. Back in 1963, if my memory serves me well, they cost £50, while a Fender Precision bass was £120. That’s a fair reflection of the quality difference to me. Nowadays a violin bass costs more than a basic Precision Bass. However, the style fits Paul’s musical bass lines. I recall a discussion where a young bass player boasted “I can play any of Paul McCartney’s bass lines. What’s the big deal?” The answer is, “But you would never have thought of playing them in the first place.” He has always been one of the great musical bass players. The Beatles all had non-standard guitar choices: John’s Rickenbacker, George’s C&W Gretsch. Everyone I knew in garage bands went in and tried them out in the shop. Then came out with a Fender or a Gibson. The point was the Beatles’ on-stage image got locked early on. I guess their guitars had to match the merchandise.
The frustration was getting to see the film. It was only in selected art house cinemas. Nowhere in Bournemouth or Poole was showing it. This is the town where the Odeon cinema (called The Gaumont) in the 60s,, hosted the Beatles for an entire week in 1963, and had them back twice in 1964. You’d think The Odeon would be celebrating its Beatles connection. Nick Churchill’s book Yeah Yeah Yeah – The Beatles in Bournemouth is a mine of information, photos and realia. It records that it hosted 16 Beatles shows, beaten only by Hammersmith Odeon and Paris Olympia.
The 1960s started in October 1962 when Love Me Do, was released and our entire class at school was smitten. I thought I saw it on Thank Your Lucky Stars – I remember Lennon’s harmonica playing, but apparently it was on Tuesday Rendezvous on 4 December (Bert Weedon on the same show!), and they didn’t play on Thank Your Lucky Stars till Please Please Me. Love Me Do only made #17 in the charts, but its influence in our narrow age group was far wider than that suggests. For years rumours circulated that Brian Epstein got it into the charts by buying 1000 copies for his parents NEMS music store in Liverpool (in some accounts it’s 10,000), but those involved with charts at the time say there were so few chart shops at the time, that such a purchase would have made it #1. So no fix. No hype.
Please Please Me came in January 1963 when Britain was covered with the heaviest snow storm in a century. Snow was on the ground till May. For me, it was great. I couldn’t ride my pushbike to school, and had to go on the bus. That meant the entire journey chatting to girls … I went to single-sex Bournemouth School for Boys, and the bus also went to the neighbouring Bournemouth School For Girls. The schools were joined by playing fields with a line of low bushes down the middle, patrolled by teachers at all breaks. The sports changing room block was in the middle, with no connecting door between the two sides. Rumour had it that a peephole was bored between the showers, but I doubt it. The only peeping in the showers was from all three sports teachers who found it essential to watch us going through. I was told the girls’ sports teachers had the same interests. We couldn’t cross the line, but we could chatter on the bus, and 1963 girls talked only about The Beatles. I talked good Beatles.
The Please Please Me LP came in March. I played I Saw Her Standing There and Twist & Shout incessantly for months … I played the whole LP, but those two were an obsession.
From Me To You was the first time I ever saw a line waiting for the record shop to open. I was in that line, and bought my copy at five past nine on the day of release.
The Beatles played Bournemouth Gaumont for a week that summer. Six days, two shows a day. I saw them. They hung out of the dressing room windows calling down to the kids afterwards. The With The Beatles LP photo was taken at The Palace Court Hotel next door, where they also wrote several songs.
They were back in November 1963 at The Winter Gardens, the large symphony concert hall, probably bigger than most of the cinema venues on that tour. That’s recorded, because the three US News Channels all sent cameras to do a new feature on the Beatlemania phenomenon … “this couldn’t happen in America”. Why The Winter Gardens? It was renowned for good sound. That concert had its screams lifted by The Byrds for So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star.
I was there, Row F. Seat 12. Stage left. We queued all night for tickets. We weren’t too far back … we got in Row F after all, and ahead of us were almost all girls. In 1963, teenagers queuing all night was really strange. The police patrolled and watched us all night too. I didn’t sleep a wink. We just sat on the ground chatting to the neighbouring girls. Mums and dads arrived with thermoses and sandwiches and more blankets. The concert posters on line had the most expensive tickets at 10/6d (52.5p). Mine’s 12/6d (62.5p), but then we were at the front, and maybe they knew that would be sold out immediately.
The screams were a wall of noise. The Beatles in Bournemouth book notes that they were much louder than the later shows. I’d guess they weren’t so much louder as the hall had a better acoustic. It was said a pin dropped on the stage could be heard in the back row. I later operated limelights there. I remember the 1963 noise ran right through the support acts. Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers had a wall of booing and chanting We Want The Beatles. I was sorry at the time as their Can Can 62 single was a youth club favourite, allowing the lads to link arms and race the length of the hall high-kicking. You heard very little of the music, but what an event!
They were back twice at The Gaumont in 1964. I missed the first, saw the second. My peer group were already beginning to move to The Rolling Stones and The Animals. At parties the girls wanted non-stop Beatles. The boys wanted The Rolling Stones. And then they exploded in America in 1964, which is where we get to the film.
The Harbour Lights Cinema, Southampton was the nearest venue, 35 miles away. The last time I was there was The Unthanks Shipbuilding tour where they performed live in front of film footage. They showed Eight Days A Week as … er … part of the Silver Screen lunchtime series for the Over-60s. They give free tea and biscuits too. But sadly yes, all those girls in the 1963 overnight queue are now Over-60s. Some are over-70s. I dug out my Beatles Shea Stadium T-shirt, bought for £2 in ASDA’s January sale last year when my wife pointed out that you can’t get a 100% cotton undershirt for that price.
It’s assembled brilliantly, and right at the start we were marvelling at the ABC Manchester footage from November 1963 with Twist & Shout and She Loves You. It’s as good as any colour footage in the movie, so it has to be done on proper film: technicolour, widescreen (Techniscope). Two songs. Is there more of it? In those days TV was Black & White in the UK. Cinema newsreels were black & white. A Hard Day’s Night was even black & white. Life was black & white. So who filmed it in colour on film stock?
(LATER ADDITION – I was directed to this):
Pathé News filmed the group performing She Loves You and Twist and Shout. Accompanied with backstage footage and crowd scenes, this became an eight-minute cinema feature entitled The Beatles Come To Town, (LINK TO YOUTUBE) shown for a week from 22 December 1963.
Eight Days A Week is basically a documentary, but is a giant step away from the TV variety and benefits from the wide screen. The facts cascade by you. Quarter of a million people lined the streets of Adelaide to see them. Their insistence on a desegregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida single-handedly changed the policies of venues through the South. They did the whole thing with two roadies with a third added for the final American tours. Actually, looking at the equipment, they were hauling less gear that the average 1969 band with a Ford Transit, so I can see that. But the two roadies threw the credits into perspective for me. Two roadies handled Shea Stadium, but according to the credits, it took 23 people to film Paul McCartney’s interview … basically a seated head shot, and the same again for Ringo. I’d reckon one lighting cameraman with an assistant could have handled it.
The snippets of interviews are well selected. Whoopi Goldberg and Kitty Oliver are important on the effect on black teenagers. Howard Goodall does the Mozart / Schubert comparison on songwriting, which was obligatory in the late 60s. Elvis Costello says that as a teenager, he found the shift in style from Beatles For Sale to Rubber Soul took weeks to sink in. I guess I was ahead there. My peer group were heavily into R&B in the Beatles For Sale era, and it was Rubber Soul and more so Revolver that brought us back on board. You also get Larry Kane, John Savage (author of 1966), Sigourney Weaver, Eddie Izard, Richard Lester (director of the two films).
Over and above that, there are archive clips of Lennon and Harrison, Brian Epstein and George Martin, as well as the current interviews with Paul and Ringo. The closing credits have the voices of John and Paul from the December 1963 Beatles Fan Club Christmas flexidisc.
Ringo still looks cool, while Paul is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Ken Dodd. Is it Liverpool DNA?
And in the end … the love you take is equal to the love you make …
And in the end, it’s the comradeship, the unity, the good humour. Look out for the handwritten Lennon lyric, and John had to add the teacher comment “3/10 See Me” at the bottom.
Are there any downsides? Not really, though Pete Best was not only airbrushed entirely out of the picture, but they stated that it all only came together when Ringo joined.
We want to see it in a cinema again. I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out, but really it needs the big screen, proper sound system and the dark. We did hear a few quavering elderly female voices singing along in places, but that was merely heart-warming.
Shea Stadium Film
15 August 1965
This is the extra 30 minute showing after Eight Days A Week. The reason there is so much fascinating crowd footage, is that 14 cameras were running on the day. The 30 minute film is extracted from an original fifty minute version which had clips of the support acts. That was shown on BBC TV in 1966. Yes, after all that fuss, about 36 / 37 minutes was what the audience got. No wonder support acts had such a gruelling time.
Twist & Shout
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
I Feel Fine
Can’t Buy Me Love
Baby’s in Black
A Hard Day’s Night
She’s A Woman is played over the closing aerial shot, and they also performed Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby which is on the OST CD.
The remastered quality is excellent. It brought up questions about the amplification. One of the support band members said in a press interview last month that you could only hear one instrument at a time as you walked across the stage, with its three 100 watt Beatle amps. In discussing Hollywood Bowl in the main film, Ringo said the vocal mics were fed into the Tannoy address system … there wasn’t even a PA setup, and the film cut to the Tannoy speakers with tinny sound.
As usual, going right back to The Cavern, The Beatles set up with two front of stage mics, and a boom mic for Ringo. Not only did the two backing singers share one mic throughout, but when John & Paul were doing a joint lead / harmony vocal, they shared a mic. Now back then, a Shure mic was about £30. No big deal. They must have felt sharing mics was part of their stage dynamic and show rather than a necessity. By the time of the stadiums, maybe it also helped then sing together over the noise.
At Shea, each of the omnidirectional mics for two potential singers had a smaller mic taped beside it. Was that for recording? All reports are adamant that they just had their instrument amps and live drums, but each Vox speaker cabinet has a mic pointing towards it, as would be normal practice 4 or 5 years later when mic’ing amps via a control desk and mixer, into a large PA system. There was a mic facing just above the top of the bass drum. A few years on, even a modest band would have three mics on the drum kit. This was too high to be amplifying the bass drum, so presumably picked up the whole kit (though Ringo’s boom vocal mic could have helped … if carefully mixed). So were they feeding to a separate mixer and PA, or was this simply for the film recording, totally independently of the stage mix? I’d guess so.
The main shock to me was the choice of material, with numbers from the film albums and Beatles For Sale (their weakest LP, squeezed as it was into their heaviest touring period) – few would think of Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Act Naturally or I’m Down among their favourite songs. Baby’s in Black wouldn’t have occurred to me, but after days of listening to the OST album, and then the original, it’s a vastly under-rated song. The absence of She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand surprised me. Watching these selections, anyone would say John is the lead singer, not a thought I’d had before. He sings lead on five (though two have major shared parts with Paul), Paul sings lead on two, Ringo on one. George doesn’t get one, though joins Paul or John on some … but not all … backing vocals. The fun one with George and John sharing a mic is I’m Down where John has moved to a Vox Continental organ, which he’s playing in bits with his elbow.
I enjoyed the cut aways in Hard Day’s Night to Brian Epstein, manfully chewing gum, then perhaps aware of the light on the camera, nodding away to the beat.
I tried to explain their popularity to my grandkids when we got back from the film. “You mean … they were as popular as Justin Beiber?” Hmm. You don’t know the half.
And yes, they were the best band in the world. Ever.