“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”, on Arte: birth of Beatlemania

Let’s move on from the commercial hook of the documentary, which is inept, unless it is second-rate British: “You know the group

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”, on Arte: birth of Beatlemania

Let’s move on from the commercial hook of the documentary, which is inept, unless it is second-rate British: “You know the group. Not his story. » Formulated in 2016 about a secret as well-kept as the Beatles, it makes you laugh, to say the least, as the Fab Four's gesture has been documented and rehashed to younger generations. Notably in 1995 with Anthology, a television series in eight episodes, where the heroes told their stories. Paul McCartney, George Harrison (died in 2001), Ringo Starr and producer George Martin (died in 2016) then opened their archives for what must have been “the” sum on a phenomenon that was musical, societal, even religious. “We were normal, the rest of the world was crazy,” summed up the wise George Harrison.

What can The Beatles add, twenty years later? Eight Days a Week (French title: “The Beatles. The World Is Theirs”), by American director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Rush)? His film focuses on concerts and tours, the conquest of America starting with his appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964. In a word: Beatlemania.

The milestones range from 1961, with the debut at the Cavern, a jazz club in Liverpool, to the pop stars' final stage appearance to stardom on August 29, 1966, in a San Francisco football stadium filled with 25,000 spectators. . Certain images have continued to illustrate stories about the baby boom generation: female screams and crying fits, fainting, overwhelmed police officers...

Unpublished material

But Ron Howard's team also undertook extensive research work and got their hands on previously unpublished material, collected from television stations or from fans, who recorded their memories using super-8.

Among the most astonishing amateur documents, this vision of Sigourney Weaver as a teenager, filmed in the crowd of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The actress retrospectively testifies to her emotion and confides having been “in love with John”. We also hear her colleague Whoopi Goldberg – who attended a concert at Shea Stadium in New York – assert that their songs transcended racial barriers.

On this subject, little-known insight is shed on the group's performance at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1964. The Beatles managed to impose on the organizers the desegregation of the public (the civil rights law had just been promulgated) , a first in this place, making it a sine qua non condition for their arrival.

These emotional feelings contrast with those of those involved – the two survivors, McCartney and Starr, lent themselves to new interviews – who were quickly frightened by this “circus”, according to Lennon’s expression. The sound system of the time could not combat the incessant din, so the drummer explained that, failing to hear them, his only reference point was the rhythmic movements of his comrades who had their backs turned to him... It is difficult to know, in these conditions, what the Beatles were really worth on stage.

For the studio, the final sentence was prepared in December 1966, when they took refuge at Abbey Road to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album that will transform pop music into a work of art.