EIGHT DAYS A WEEK; THE TOURING YEARS, a Beatles doco by RON HOWARD (Universal DVD/BluRay)

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EIGHT DAYS A WEEK; THE TOURING YEARS, a Beatles doco by RON HOWARD (Universal DVD/BluRay)

Just as there were predicable howls of disapproval from the jazz elite when Clint Eastwood announced he was making a bio-pix of Charlie Parker (Dirty Harry taking aim at Bird?), so too were there was a chorus of disbelief when it was learned that Ron Howard – Richie Cunningham in Happy Days! – was making a doco of the Beatles' touring years.

What the naysayers didn't take into account was that Howard has long been much more than a television actor and as a director his films (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code, whatever you thought of them) were enormously successful.

So Howard had clout and money behind him, and doubtless that is why his doco Eight Days A Week; The Touring Years was so good.

Elsewhere has already written about it here, but now the DVD/BluRay arrives and it has 100 extra minutes of footage which includes “rarely seen full length live performances”.

In other words, the extra footage is as long as Howard's original doco.

Unfortunately what isn't among the extras is the Shea Stadium documentary which screened in cinemas after Howard's film. Doubtless the gnomes and accountants within Apple Corps are holding that off for a Christmas to come.

Although the set has the subtitle “the band you know, the story you don't”, there is not a lot new – aside from footage and some interview subjects like the wonderful Ronnie Spector – which illuminates “the story” for anyone who has had more than a passing interest.

The phenomenon of Beatlemania is seen in Howard's film, the explanations -- that huge cohort of young people, their Transatlantic sound, the fact they presented a unified front of four equals and so on – is explored on the extra footage.

You do wonder why people like English classical composer Howard Goodall and highbrow/populist author Simon Schama were approached in the 24 minute Words and Music film (to give the story of a pop band some cultural elevation?).

91i_Ks6aEHL._SL1500_But after the 18 minute Early Clues to a New Direction (the collective, humour and women in the lives of the young Lennon and McCartney) and five live clips, the 43 minute A Deeper Dive brings out voices from Liverpool like writer Bill Harry, fan club founder Freda Kelly, their first manager Allan Williams (“the man who gave the Beatles away”) and his wife of the time, the strikingly beautiful Beryl.

They – and others – place the band back in the context of the city that shaped them. And it wasn't just Liverpool.

There are fans who were at the first Ed Sullivan Show and the Washington Coliseum gig (and at the after-match function) and so on. Even today that memory is burned into them clearly and they become emotional all over again about the excitement of being a teenager and seeing/meeting the Beatles.

So Howard's film, while mostly free of surprises but chock-full of great and often previously unseen footage (some of it colourised), is much better than the naysayers and skeptics would have had you believe. And the extra disc in the box – which also comes with a 64 page booklet of photos and essays by Howard and writer Jon Savage – just drives the point home.

The point being that here was a rare conjunction of talent, wit, energy and personalities, and in just a few short years they changed the attitudes, culture and music of our world . . . and the excitement in those early touring years is as palpable as the creative leap in their second career as a studio band.

It's just a pity about the bloody awful cover.


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