Believe it or not dear reader, I do try to be open minded as philosopher Herbert Spencer suggested, “a principle that cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance is… contempt prior to investigation.”
About 20 years ago friend Martin J suggested we go to the QFT in Belfast to see the 1925 Charlie Chaplin film ‘Gold Rush.’ It is the film where Chaplin performed one of the most memorable moments in cinematic history; the dance of the (bread) rolls. Not only was it in black and white, it is silent.
There are folk who wouldn’t contemplate watching a black and white film thus depriving themselves of such classics as ‘Boystown’ starring Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy. I digress…
Meanwhile back at the QFT my buddy said he would give me £1 if I didn’t find ‘Gold Rush’ satisfying. Coming out the door I told him he owed me 50p.
Wind forward to last week and the same friend suggested I open my mind to viewing ‘Eight Days A Week’ in Dungannon cinema knowing full well I never really got the Beatles. A two hour documentary, the sound of the Fab Four and after a Wednesday at the coalface, I knew it was going to be a “hard day’s night and I’d been working like a dog…” I exited the picture house won over, totally!
After all these years I finally get The Beatles! In my defence the iconic group was slightly before my time as they broke up after ten years in 1970 when I was still in primary school.
Theirs is a remarkable story of four working-class lads from Liverpool who conquered the world. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had a long hard apprenticeship playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, sometimes for eight hours a night. They soldiered on.
Their popularity took off after their first hit ‘Love Me Do’ in 1962. The fascinating documentary depicted a unit, a tight-knit team, Four Musketeers who were ‘all for one and one for all’.
Paul McCartney was so moved by their bond and loyalty, he struggled at times to talk during film maker Ron Howard’s programme.
It is difficult to overstate how popular The Beatles were. They were a world-wide phenomenon that drove crowds absolutely crazy. However through it all they dealt with the press, including many inane questions, with a marvellous wit unlike that other cult figure Elvis Presley who came across as staid with a personality bypass in interviews.
Harrison spoke of the comfort of having his band mates going through the same adulation while Elvis was very much alone.
With The Beatles there was a notable absence of warring egos and no specific frontman in the mode of Jagger and The Rolling Stones. The main writer took frontstage … “Help I need somebody” sang Lennon while McCartney belted out, “I don’t care too much for money; money can’t buy me love…” For their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the US, Lennon stood back while McCartney fronted with ‘All My Loving’.
They were four young men who kept their heads, while all around them was losing theirs.
Their stand against segregation in 1960’s America was powerful with Whoopi Goldberg leading the tributes. “Don’t lump your racial baggage on us” was their credo as they refused to play in a venue that separated people on the basis of their colour.
“You can’t see until you can see and you can’t hear until you can hear,” said my late friend Ernie. Perhaps it was the shaky LPs or the screaming girls put me off. The sounds in “Eight Days A Week” are incredible.
Don’t leave before the miracle happens. As the credits rolled on the big screen the small audience left the Dungannon complex. However they failed to read the small print. There was another 20 minutes of footage of the Beatles concert in Shea Stadium in 1966. It is mind-blowing. The harmonies in ‘Ticket to Ride” and other hits are more like what one would associate with a family group such as The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys.
Even drummer Ringo Starr’s rendition of ‘Act Naturally’ is a treat as he was a firm favourite of the American audience.
It had to end some day and their last gig on a rooftop in London is hugely symbolic, as Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono blamed by many for splitting the group, watches on. You didn’t think Bono came up with the song on the roof idea himself?!
After that they hit the studio where McCartney came into his own with anthems such as ‘Hey Jude’, Let it Be’ and ‘Long and Winding Road.’
A modestly budgeted independent film documentary about a pop culture phenomenon that played out half a century ago is out-grossing multi-million dollar major studio feature films, proving a new a time-honoured music industry adage, “Never underestimate the power of the Beatles.”
For all my loving of Liverpool it took a long, long time for the penny to drop. Next time I’ll visit the Cavern Club on Mathew Street where it all began.
“…I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be – there will be an answer, let it be.”
Posted: 11:04 am September 28, 2016