After a wildly successful independent theatrical run, Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years comes to DVD. And just in time for the holiday shopping season, no less.
The two-disc collector’s edition is a must-have for Beatles aficionados and 60s music fans alike. But before we talk about all the special features included on the bonus disc, let’s take a moment to recap the documentary itself, which had fans across the globe talking about the incredible highs and lows of Beatlemania on tour.
In its finest moments, Howard’s film celebrates the whimsy and power of the band mates’ first brush with fame. Their pure joy at making it big after so many years of toil is contagious, and you can’t help but root for them as they break through one barrier after another during their global onslaught, from the heady early days of American Beatlemania through the traumas of their final concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in August 1966. The film powerfully draws you into the Beatles’ vortex in breathtaking, unforgettable fashion.
Although some viewers may be troubled by Howard’s usage of colorized footage, the documentary’s greatest moments occur towards the end, when the filmmaker connects the dots between the trials and tribulations of the band’s touring years and their triumphs across a succession of landmark albums before their disbandment. As the group’s days on the road come to a close with their harrowing 1966 American tour, Howard shrewdly points to the masterworks to come when the band mates enjoy the space to dedicate themselves fully to the dazzling trajectory of their art on such works as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, and Abbey Road.
Which brings us back to the two-disc special collector’s edition. While many fans might be understandably put off that the Shea Stadium concert was not included in its entirety among the DVD’s gems, there is still plenty of great material to gawk at—most notably, the never-before-seen interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. In addition to an illuminating featurette about Liverpool during its beat music heyday, the special edition includes an enlightening chapter on Beatlemania as a sociocultural movement, and not merely a musical one.
But by far and away, the most exhilarating footage is to be found in the full-length performances of the Beatles live in concert performing “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “You Can’t Do That,” and “Help!” These rarely seen performances are well worth the price of admission all by themselves. Experiencing the tumult of those early high-octane songs is thrilling indeed.
Yet watching The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years in the theater and now on DVD, I can’t help but wonder where Howard goes from here. As evidenced by the documentary’s extended theatrical run, the Beatles are clearly still riding high more than 50 years after they first graced these shores and, in short order, altered the landscape of popular music for generations. Perhaps the time is nigh for Howard to take his project a vital step further and tell the in-depth story of what happens after the group abandons the road. The Studio Years, anyone?