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Expert Comment: Howard's tapestry of delights has a familiar ring

Penny Lane Friday 16 September 2016

Dr Mike Brocken, Senior Lecturer in Music, attended last night's world premiere of Ron Howard's Eight Days A Week - here he gives his verdict. 

The Ron Howard documentary film of the Beatles' touring years between 1963 and 1966, Eight Days A Week premiered at FACT in Liverpool last night, and for the most part is an exquisitely collated and edited piece of work.

The deftness of touch with which both Howard and Giles Martin have pieced together the audiovisual materials was a joy to behold, with footage further authenticated by the presence of the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, together with the sadly moving voices and images of John Lennon and George Harrison. For those of us who would call ourselves Beatles fans, the work is a truly bitter-sweet experience from start to finish and a reminder of how ill-designed tours, the ravages of Beatlemania and the press, and the inadequacies of performance technology effectively put paid to the Beatles as a touring band in 1966.

Notwithstanding, for this viewer there were a few problems: the prologue appeared incongruous and something of an afterthought: a 'schoolboy's guide to the roots of the Beatles', laden with the usual indigenous cliches. Further, there were too many talking heads: for example while Whoopee Goldberg's memories of her mum buying tickets for the Shea Stadium gig were genuinely moving, Howard Goodall seated at the pianoforte making musical comparisons with Mozart appeared incongruous.

Other than the Beatles themselves, the star of the show was undoubtedly Liverpool Hope University's good friend ex-anchorman Larry Kane, who alongside the Beatles themselves carried all of the required credentials to successfully relate the story of those three US tours.

However, 'there's the rub', as it were, for at times the movie appeared to be almost completely built around the BBC Timewatch programme from several years ago, in which the same story was very successfully narrated - especially via similar reminiscences from the erudite Mr Kane - but did not involve the direct cooperation of the surviving Beatles.

So ultimately although we once again received confirmation that the US tours gradually contributed to the dissolution of the Beatles as a live act, nothing new was learnt. Indeed if one were cynical, one might be tempted to suggest that the film merely acted for Apple Corps as a precursor to next year's 50th Anniversary celebrations of the release of the Sgt Pepper LP.

But that would be to detract from what is actually a beautiful piece of work from Howard - and it's good to see that Paul and Ringo appear to be pals once again. 

mike brocken Dr Mike Brocken (pictured) - full profile

 The Beatles, Popular Music and Society (MA)

 Department of Music 

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