No, there’s nothing particularly revelatory here. But director Ron Howard, who put together the 2013 Jay-Z concert pic Made in America, catches the exhilarating kick of Beatlemania as the band toured 15 countries from 1963 to 1966. Everything is here, from the band’s hysteria-making American television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show to Lennon’s controversial remark that the Beatles “are more popular than Jesus.” Paul McCartney provides context: “By the end, it became quite complicated. But at the beginning, things were really simple.” True, that.
In fresh interviews, McCartney and Ringo Starr offer comments that Howard joins to archival observations from John Lennon and George Harrison. There are hints at what soured the Beatles on live performance (crowd frenzy, crappy amplification) and pushed them toward in-studio experimentation. The Far Four claim their bond got them through, wondering how Elvis did it alone. Sweet trumps bitter as viewers revel — through concert footage and fan-sourced clips — in the youthful sights and sounds that peaked at Shea Stadium in 1965. Whoopi Goldberg offers her own teenage testimony, recalling how her mother took her to see that Shea concert. “They were colorless,” says Whoopi, who felt like she “could be friends with them.”
Howard backgrounds the doc in an era of civil rights, pointing out that the Beatles refused to play to a segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida. They integrated the Gator Bowl. Still, the documentary rightly keeps coming back to the music and the band’s delight in making it. Good move. It truly is a joy forever.