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Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr attend the world premiere of The Beatles: Eight Days a Week

Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were among celebrities attending the world premiere of the Ron Howard film The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.

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The premiere, at the Odeon Cinema in London’s Leicester Square, began at 6pm. It hosted by Edith Bowman and Liverpool comedian John Bishop, who interviewed guests including Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer.

McCartney and Nancy Shevell arrived at 6.40pm, shortly followed by Starr and Barbara Bach. As he walked through the waiting crowds McCartney gave autographs and high fives, whereas Starr preferred to keep walking and flash smiles and peace signs.

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Also present at the premiere were celebrities including Stella McCartney, Madonna, Michael Keaton, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Liam Gallagher, and Giles Martin.

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The event was live streamed on Facebook, and simulcast in cinemas around the world. Following the showing of Eight Days A Week, cinemagoers were treated to a 4K restoration of The Beatles’ triumphant 1965 show at Shea Stadium.

Ron Howard’s film provides a dose of heady nostalgia to those who were there, although frustratingly little new for hardcore fans. Much of the material – including interviews with John Lennon and George Harrison – previously appeared in the wider-ranging and superior Anthology series, which is long overdue a reissue.

The Beatles begin the film fresh-faced and eager, effortlessly winning over the world with their timeless melodies, easy charm and winning humour. By the end of it they are exhausted, bored, snapping at journalists, and desperate to retreat to the magical cocoon of EMI Studios.

In between those key points, the film covers the concerts, recordings, filming and travel, focusing mainly on the years 1963-66. As Starr points out in a voiceover, they made so little money from the records that they were forced to go on the road year after year, until tensions, hostility and waning interest on all sides left them with nowhere to go.

Eight Days A Week contains new interviews from McCartney and Starr, and with celebrity fans including Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg and Sigourney Weaver. The 60s footage includes fantastic Pathé material from a 1963 performance in Manchester, and some fan-shot clips which range from high quality to grainy and barely-watchable. Some footage is colourised, and photographs are treated to 3D, smoke and rain effects, which provide a modern sheen but may look dated in years to come.

The audio is one of the film’s strongest aspects. Sound desk recordings were used for some of the live footage, and Giles Martin did a sterling restoration job. A few snippets of previously-unheard studio outtakes were tantalising, and will give die-hard Beatles fans something to savour.

There are some other diamonds: previously unseen footage from The Beatles’ final concert at Candlestick Park, shot from the sixth row by a fan; an interview with US roadie Ed Freeman, a little-known figure in Beatles folklore; audio of the very first time The Beatles were played on US radio.

The documentary flies through the early years, ignoring altogether their first tour in Scotland with singer Johnny Gentle. Jimmie Nicol, who temporarily sat in for an unwell Ringo during the 1964 tour of Europe and Australia, is seen on screen but his presence remains unexplained. Loyal roadie Mal Evans is likewise glimpsed but gets barely a mention, and Brian Epstein’s crucial role in helping them conquer America and the world is unfairly underplayed.

This is also a sanitised history. McCartney acknowledges their fondness for cannabis during the filming of Help!, but absent are the stimulant pills which fuelled the band’s early years. There are plenty of screaming and fainting teenagers, but not a hint of the 1960s sexual liberation which The Beatles fully embraced. To his credit, Howard does discuss The Beatles’ role in fighting against segregated audiences, and the heavy toll that Lennon’s “we’re more popular than Jesus” comments had on him and the group.

With its brief 97-minute running time, Eight Days A Week ultimately fails to get to the messy heart of The Beatles’ life as a touring band, from their modest Liverpool beginnings to the final tour, in which venues failed to sell out and the group didn’t care. The film’s tagline may be “The Band You Know. The Story You Don’t”, but ultimately it’s the same act – and tale – we’ve known for all these years.

Last updated: 23 March 2018
Album release: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Paul McCartney live: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
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