Prologue: I had severe Beatlemania from about age 8 to age 18. It’s amazing what sort of extreme obsessions a young human brain is capable of creating. Moving on…
“It was … important to try to tell a story that would convey to people who really have no idea — I’m thinking of the millennials, I suppose; people who have grown up with the music and think they know something of the story — the intensity of the journey and the impact they had,”
Ron Howard on his new documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”.
Now, I am always skeptical of any film named with TWO subtitles, but I definitely did not anticipate that Ron Howard’s documentary would make me think of the Beatles in a new way. Surely I, who for 10 years devoured every possible piece of information about them that I could find and thought of nothing else during my waking hours, would have considered everything there was to consider about the Beatles. But no. In fact, Howard’s generously titled film provided me with not one, but TWO new perspectives on The Beatles.
TB:EDAW-TTY, whose title contains a ridiculous number of letters even as an acronym, finally allowed me to comprehend something about the Beatles that I had heard dozens of times but somehow never fully considered: their scale of their phenomenon was MASSIVE. Indeed, it covered the entire globe.
I was born into a world with internet. Even in it’s 20-ish years the internet has grown astronomically to dwarf its former self. Events on a global scale are commonplace in the 21st century, and they are part of the world I have always lived in. It wasn’t until I saw the film which should have just been called “The Beatles: Touring Years” that I understood that such a cultural phenomenon of that scale had never taken place before. Never! They did the first ever stadium tour by a musical group. 250,000 people turned out for their arrival in Australia. The volumes of their album and ticket sales were unprecedented. A lot of unprecedented things happened in the 1960’s that caused a sea change in youth culture and put it on course for how we live today. One of those cultural events was the Beatles. The Beatles were the first of their kind; and they did it without any internet at all.
This revelation blew me away. Maybe I felt a scrap of how blown away people were to be actually witnessing it then, in the 1960s. People that are still alive!
Despite the fact that there is still a huge portion of our population who was alive to witness The Beatles, and the fact that they remain hugely popular, the Beatles are not, in fact, a modern band. I saw the 1960s with fresh eyes as it was presented in The Film. All these years I had thought of the Beatles as timeless, still relevant today, not having diminished in popularity. I imagined myself in the 60s all the time; I imagined them just like the present.
But it was plain to see by the grainy faded analog footage of the era: the Beatles happened in a completely different world than ours. Fifty years have passed. Fifty! The changes that have occurred in the world are immense. The Beatles are truly part of history now. Certainly more than enough time has passed to observe their sprawling effects on modern music and culture. Fifty years, in that way, was a long time ago.
I have always found it incredible that a cultural phenomenon that happened decades ago in a different world could play such a huge role in my life and development and so many millions of others’. And that, indeed, is the massive legacy of The Beatles.