Well shake it up baby, now ... twist and shout

13 September 2016 - 10:19 By Neil McCormick


The Beatles were the first stadium rock band, before stadium rock had even been invented. "The equipment they had is what a band might use to play in a garage now," according to producer Giles Martin (son of the late Sir George Martin) who has painstakingly remixed primitive live Beatles recordings for a new film and album. "Drop the garage in Shea Stadium with 50,000 people screaming. That's a Beatles concert. I doubt anybody could hear a thing, and that includes the band."Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years is a big screen documentary retelling The Beatles story as a live band. Oscar-winning director Ron Howard has dug into a vast archive of footage to create a visceral impression of Beatlemania from the inside as well as out. It focuses on the period from 1963 to 1966, when The Beatles spent more time on the road than in the studio."There is always another crop of stars but no one has ever got close to this," says veteran US broadcaster Larry Kane, who acted as an adviser to the movie makers. "I got the chills watching the footage. I felt like I was right back there again."He notes that Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra "had their moments" but changing technology, demographics and the very mood of the times created the conditions for The Beatles to strike as no pop stars had done before."It was a shared experience on a global scale, like a snowstorm or a hurricane the world was going through together."As a 21-year-old reporter, Kane was invited by Beatles manager Brian Epstein to join their entourage, travelling to every stop on their 1964 and 1965 US tours."I watched 52 concerts. I was on the plane and in their hotel suites. It was something to see because people really didn't understand the phenomenon, they weren't prepared. Security was very lacking. The Beatles had two roadies, and they were playing to the biggest audiences anyone had ever seen."The police departments weren't going to use batons and sticks to beat up children, so they didn't know what to do. How do you handle thousands of people storming the stage? It was just chaos all the time, and when we got to Vancouver [in August 1964] it sort of exploded."You had 7000 people collapsing chairs as they were running along, and tripping on them, a lot of injuries. The intensity of the crowds, the craziness, it was really scary. I think that's when they realised 'we better start taking care of business here'. So what did they do? They hired another roadie."Giles Martin had the task of reconstructing the sound, using new technology to de-mix tracks, separate and boost individual elements, and suppress the background screaming that made every Beatles live recording virtually unlistenable (the film is accompanied by a new version of The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, their only official live album)."The original idea was to let you experience what seeing the Beatles would have been like back in the '60s, but in fact we have done way better than that, because you can actually hear them," says Martin."They were touring sports stadiums with 100-watt amps and all the vocals and guitars going through Tannoy speakers used to make announcements at baseball games."By comparison, he notes, "Paul McCartney probably travels with 18 trucks now, a megawatt PA system, in-ear monitors, video walls, lighting rigs. The Beatles might as well have been playing with ear muffs on. It's just purely relying on muscle memory. It's amazing they could stay in tune at all."If it seems peculiar that all this hysteria was being generated at concerts where no one could hear the performances, Beatlemania was clearly about more than just music. It was a period of generational change, the coming to age of the baby boomers, when the young started to outnumber the old and decisively take over the reins of popular culture."The sex appeal of the four together was extraordinary, the music was extraordinary, and the combination was this bombastic explosion of emotion," suggests Kane.John Lennon, always keen to puncture myths of the Beatles, once described their tours as being "like Fellini's Satyricon. When we hit town, we hit it."Kane suggests things were not as debauched as Lennon implied. "Most of the time was spent with each other. They hung out together. They didn't drink much. They smoked a lot, which was par for the course. They were always very respectful to their teenage fans. They were real troupers."- ┬ęThe Telegraph 'The Beatles: Eight Days A Week' will be released on Friday

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