Beatles Doc to Be Directed by Ron Howard

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” … and with a love like that, you know you shouuuuullllld … “

DEVIN McKINNEY  •  News comes through this morning, via Rolling Stone, that Ron Howard will direct a documentary about the Beatles’ lifespan as a touring band, covering the years (approximately) 1960 to 1966.

The film will be assembled, Anthology style, from existing footage from all manner of sources—television, film, even silent Super 8 footage shot by fans (to which bootleg recordings will be synced)—combined with sit-down interviews with Paul, Ringo, Yoko, Olivia, and a variety of fans who attended the original shows, along, perhaps, with their children and grandchildren.

Sounds like a nice project, with the potential for exciting combinations of raw footage and unreleased sounds.  Continues the by now rather impressive lineage of well-done, richly detailed, expansively sourced Beatledocs.

A nice pendant to the Rolling Stone article, for which Howard is interviewed, is that he confirms the provenance of a surprising, not to say stupefying Beatlepic posted here, precisely a year and four days ago.

[MG here: Howard and friends are asking any fans who saw the Beatles live to submit their stories/material for possible inclusion in the film. “We are looking for rare or unusual footage, photographs, and audio recordings, particularly those that highlight the fan experience – what it was like to be a part of the frenzy.” Check it out — and maybe submit a story (or those cufflinks Aunt Mariel ripped off Paul back in Manila) — at The Beatles Live Project.]

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12 Comments

  1. Wow, this is great news. The touring period is a fascinating topic, probably the most familiar but least known portion of the Beatles’ career. Some commenters on the RS piece made the interesting point that people like Jane Asher and Pattie Boyd might have a lot to say that’s not been said. And too bad they waited until after Nell died, though surely he wouldn’t have gone “off the rez.”

    Dark-browed person that I am, I hope they get into the sordid realities of touring, but I bet they won’t. The oft-stated problems — not being heard, recreating LP cuts on stage — were solvable; people did keep touring. The real reason the Beatles left the road was the centrifugal force of all the mayhem, which caught up with them in ’66 (Jesus, Manila, etc). This fueled a growing sense that, sooner or later, something really bad was going to happen. If that was the feeling, there was no reason to try to solve the logistical problems.

    And when Brian died, the person who they looked to handle all that stuff — the millions of details — was gone. That’s when it became impossible; the Beatles really stopped touring because Brian died. After India, “we don’t wanna tour” is what John and George would say when they meant “we don’t wanna be in the Beatles,” but were too chickenshit to say that.

    But I think they all missed it; even “Bed Peace” was Lennon’s attempt to scratch that itch.

    • Nancy Carr wrote:

      I agree that this looks very promising. And it will be interesting to see if they get people who haven’t talked, or haven’t talked much, to share their recollections. To my knowledge Jane Asher’s never broken her silence about her time with Paul — hope she does this time.
      When it comes to the logistical problems, like being heard over the screaming and coping with fan behavior (hurling jelly babies, etc.) it’s striking to me that the Beatles were the first to have to contend with such large-scale concert hysteria. There was some precedent for it, with Frank Sinatra, Elvis, etc., but the scope, intensity, and duration of crowds’ response to the Beatles was really like nothing else.
      Whenever I go to a large concert now and note the sound system, the security, etc. I think about the Beatles paving the way for all that. It had to be both exhilarating and terrifying for them when they went on stage.

  2. Craig wrote:

    Will Pete Best be interviewed for this film? Lord knows he ought to be, and it shouldn’t just be stock footage of an interview from 1985. C’mon Ron, go find Pete as well as demanding that Jane finally do an interview. I completely and totally respect her decision re Paul but it is time to open up; it’s gotten beyond “kissing and telling” at this point and it’s about history. She owes it to the world, to the future, to sit down and spill. Granted, I don’t think (but who knows?) she has any groundbreaking stories to tell but boy it’d certainly be nice to hear her go off on Francie Schwartz for once.

    • Drew wrote:

      I hope Jane Asher stays silent. She doesn’t “owe it” to the world or anyone else. Her relationship with Paul was private, and more power to her that she wants to keep it that way. She didn’t date the Beatles. She dated Paul. And with the internet the way it is, tabloids like the Daily Mail would jump on anything she said now and would distort, exaggerate, and no doubt use it to attack Paul.

      Nope. I’d rather she just let it go. We don’t need to know everything about the Beatles. Just destroys the mystery.

  3. hologram sam wrote:

    Not sure how much light Jane or Olivia or Yoko can shed on the Beatles touring days. Unless the lads came home from tours and told their wives/girlfriends everything. Which I doubt.
    The Manilla incident should be interesting, but I doubt anything new will appear in this documentary. Ron Howard is a talented director and a nice guy, but I’m not sure if he’ll go very deep with this film. More likely it’ll be “screaming fans! confusion! primitive sound systems!” and leave it at that.

    • @Sam, I read the inclusion of Yoko and Olivia as pro-forma. If they hadn’t been included, there would’ve been a hue and cry. I personally don’t want to hear what Yoko has to say about the touring years; you know she’s going to be dismissive of anything John did before her — “the mopheads or whatever” — and if she does say anything, it’ll be some second-hand gripe about how awful/demeaning John felt the whole experience was. You know, “He felt like ‘a performing flea.'”

      Touring was a drag, no question; but it was a very lucrative drag of The Beatles’ (and Epstein’s) own making. To do everything you possibly can to become the biggest group in the world, and then bitch incessantly after the fact about the downsides of being the biggest group in the world (as John and George did, practically to their dying days) suggests a lack of autonomy that I just don’t buy. I think it’s more about what motivated John (and to a lesser extant George) to get up in the morning: “HERE’s something to get mad about…”

      I suspect (hope) that there are a whole bunch of untold stories from people who experienced The Beatles on tour. If people are honest, it will be worth watching. If not…not. (Of course I’ll watch it regardless.)

      • hologram sam wrote:

        I like that they are collecting old silent fan films, cleaning them up, then syncing them to audio. I also like that they are seeking out some of the screaming fans to get their recollections. I like the fact that the documentary has narrowed its focus to the touring Beatles. For a time there, they were the hardest working Liverpudlians in show business… I’m glad Ron Howard is doing this.
        (I made the mistake of jumping down the rabbit hole of the rollingstone article comments. A mistake. The usual claims that Ringo was a talentless lottery winner, a few insults hurled back and forth, a pissing contest, some gratuitous lies, more fighting, etc., with a few smart comments scattered here and there like pearls in a litter box.)

  4. J.R. Clark wrote:

    What a coincidence…I am directing a documentary on Opie Taylor’s unsung beat group, The Sound Committee! Take a look at my trailer and check out Ron Howard’s Lennonesque rhythm guitar:

  5. Craig wrote:

    “We don’t need to know everything about the Beatles. Just destroys the mystery.”

    Seriously, Drew? Seems odd to me to see you write this, considering you’ve been on this site (as well as myself) endlessly debating and dissecting the brilliant minutia that is part of the Beatles story. If you’re looking to maintain the mystery of the Beatles, you’re on the wrong site and following the wrong band, who genuinely answered more questions about themselves than perhaps anyone else. Now, if you were hoping to maintain the mystery of Dylan, that I could understand and appreciate. Part of Dylan’s appeal to me is his mystery and the ambiguity of his career and songs.

    • Within reason, we can know what happened, and who said what to whom, but the essential mystery can’t be destroyed: what it felt like to be that, to do that, to live it.

  6. Craig wrote:

    Fair enough, Michael, but I wasn’t really referring to that type of mystery. I was thinking of the mystery behind songs and such. Speaking of that, do we still not know what Ticket to Ride was all about? Is it still a mystery?? I know the theories but is there a definitive answer?

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