"The band you know – the story you don't" runs the tagline for Ron Howard's compendium of The Beatles gigs 1963-1966 but any serious fan can go ahead and dismiss that. Surely Apple have flogged this horse to death, that there's no more Beatles footage to be unearthed to surprise the self-respecting obsessive fan. Surely they will have seen these images and scenes, and will have studied the brief history, the writing process, and initial grumblings of discontent of life on the road that’s rolled out here. Sure they will. But you know what? Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years is still a lot of fun.
Howard's documentary is one of giddy excitement as he whips up a whirlwind, ploughing through the years to drop in and out of concerts in Copenhagen, Adelaide, and Amsterdam, before moving on to the next. And on and on and on. It would be dishonest to say the director offers up a taste of what it must have been like to move from city to city night after night at the height of Beatlemania but Howard certainly does what he can to get across the energy-zapping chaos of life on tour. There is hardly an image on screen that lasts longer than five seconds, zipping along at a breakneck pace and only really tailing off once the Beatles began to wind down their live appearances circa 1965.
The American tours obviously dominate (there's the expected Ed Sullivan appearances and Shea Stadium and Candlestick Park footage) will smaller gigs and after parties to enjoy but amongst the screaming and the music Howard is at pains to remind us how revolutionary they really were when they refused to play in front of segregated audiences at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Away from the tours, McCartney and Starr recount the fun of making A Hard Day's Night movie and the bored attitude the band had to Help! (McCartney remembers that they were stoned for most of it) with Lennon and Harrison chipping in with archived interviews. The drug intake is touched on (an episode in the Bahamas when the band were taking marijuana) but this is a clean, family-friendly (if noisy) outing.
There are the celebrity faces with Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Elvis Costello (who confesses to not liking Rubber Soul initially) Richard Curtis and Eddie Izzard offering their two cents, exploring the instant familiarity one felt with the band, as if they were friends.
Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years may be a nostalgia trip but it's wonderfully assembled and serves as a reminder as to how big and wonderful the Fab Four were, which can be forgotten so ingrained they are in the pop culture fabric.
Prepare to fall in love with The Beatles all over again.