photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
much has been discussed, CELEBRATED and parsed out regarding the generational GLOBAL CULTURAL PHENOMENON that as THE BEATLES, so it is always interesting when a recent documentary takes a stab at a narrative most fans feel they already have a handle on. RON HOWARD's THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS (APPLE CORPS, 2016) as its title suggests is concerned with the influence that their live performances had on the band's state of mind and thus their CREATIVE MINDSET up through their last touring performance in 1966 (famously the band did a one-off final performance in 1969 from the rooftop of their LONDON APPLE CORPS office to a film crew, coworkers and unsuspecting bystanders).
in essence their two major stateside touring cycles that saw them play to FANATICALLY ENTHUSIASTIC crowds, first in theaters and later in stadiums, drained the band. though immensely FINANCIALLY LUCRATIVE (as the band made relatively little from their lopsided record deal), these live gigs due to the feverishly impassioned teenage crowds quickly became an UNCONTROLLABLE CIRCUS. they played through terrible PAs and could barely hear themselves on stage. adroitly the RON HOWARD-directed film picks up on the powder keg of a POLITICAL, SOCIAL and CULTURAL MOMENT that was the UNITED STATES in the mid 1960s in the wake of the JFK assassination, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the VIETNAM WAR. in a sense THE BEATLES found themselves having to deal with issues such as CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS manipulating their words in bad faith with sinister ulterior motives and SEGREGATION at shows in the AMERICAN SOUTH. i never knew that THE BEATLES refused to play a series of dates starting in FLORIDA id they did not integrate the crowd. those shows were historically the first integrated events at those football stadiums, which is INCREDIBLE.
luckily for the band members, they experienced all of this as a group. unlike say ELVIS PRESLEY who went through similar cultural heights all alone. the band kept each other grounded and when they made a decision as a group they stuck together on such. they essentially EMPOWERED themselves with the further assistance of like-minded manager BRIAN EPSTEIN, who had their best interests at heart. that PRESSURE-COOKER live atmosphere of their gigs led to them developing an INTIMATE sense of group cohesion that led to a deep focus when entering the studio. for them the studio was a place of respite from the press and outside obligations. it was a site of CREATIVITY and COLLABORATION.
the push and pull of the road and the studio is something i hadnt considered before. post 1966 the band abandoned live gigs and dove headfirst into expanding their sonic and conceptual palette into a string of records that basically defined their lasting impact on WORLD CULTURE.
just seems TRAGIC in a way that their stateside live gigs where such a DANGEROUS and ultimately UNFULFILLING affair for the band on nearly every level. seems a bit of a WASTE.