Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Day Before the Hard Day's Night

Why have I never heard of The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (1994)? Or even it's predecessor, What's Happening! from 1964. It seems that the brothers Maysles (Monterey Pop, Gimme Shelter) were given full access to the Beatles for their first 1964 visit to America. They shot a documentary for TV called What's Happening!, a piece of slang that they taught Murray the K. Then, in 1991, it was re-cut to add the Ed Sullivan show performances.

The whole thing seems a lot like outtakes from A Hard Day's Night. The boys riding on a train, cutting up, telling jokes, smoking cigs. Screaming girls outside the limos, and at the show. Goofing on the questions at press conferences, listening to themselves on Paul's transistor radio.

It's neat to see them respond to a stupid question from the press ("Are those really wigs?") with a stupid answer ("Yes, we're all bald"). Then you see Paul reading the Q&A in the paper, pause, and conclude, "It's funny." He's not entirely sure, maybe he could have come up with a better one. Because they are all trying very hard to be entertaining, to be clever, to be cool. I'm surprised at how earnest they seem. Just once does John look at the camera and say, "I just don't feel like laughing."

The performances are always amazing. These guys were such performers, turning out tight versions of the songs we know so well, then rolling right into the next one, or putting their heels together and taking a deep bow. Really reminds you of what is was all about.

You don't get a lot of the boys singing or playing offstage, although George plays a little blues number in the hotel, and John blows a few notes on a melodica. And those few notes later became "Strawberry Fields".

Not as funny as Hard Day's Night, but real.

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