This weekend brought the opening of Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years.”
Though it’s rather shallow in places — skipping over meeting Bob Dylan, offering no stories about hangers-on and little sense of what life was really like in the bubble (though the idea that the group had to take refuge in a bathroom at New York’s Plaza Hotel gives you an idea) — it’s hard to resist the siren song of the Fabs.
That’s especially true in the early months of American Beatlemania. John Lennon once commented how disappointed he was to see the actual U.S. of A. — “When we got here you were all walking around in fucking Bermuda shorts with Boston crewcuts and stuff on your teeth. … The chicks looked like fuckin’ 1940s horses. … I mean we just thought, ‘What an ugly race.’ ” And you look at “Eight Days a Week,” and you see what he means — and you also see how quickly fashion changed to catch up with the Beatles’ brash, cool youth. They simply radiated something different.
You also see what joy there was in their presence.
It was right there at the press conference at New York’s Kennedy Airport. The Beatles were undaunted by the American press — after all, they’d already faced Fleet Street — and they fearlessly joked in the face of questions about their hair and their music and their hair. It’s hard not to be won over with their cheek.
One of the glories of the film is it features a chunk of the press conference in glorious color, instead of the grainy black-and-white that’s all over YouTube (and to which I linked up top).
Incidentally, the great lines that have been repeated since then — “How did you find America?” “Turn left at Greenland” or “What would call that hairstyle you’re wearing?” “Arthur” — are actually creations of Alun Owen and his “A Hard Day’s Night” script. He obviously got it immediately. The rest of us may have taken some time to figure it out, but fortunately the Beatles are forever.