The Beatles, rare and unseen
2009. Features home movies, personal photographs, private memorabilia and recently discovered film.
By Tony Copple
Billed as the unofficial account of the biggest band in the world, and narrated by Phil Collins, Steve Harley, Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith, Tony Barrow, Tony Bramwell, Ken Dodd and Gerry Marsden (among others), this documentary is timely in view of the 9 September 2009 release of 14 Beatles albums in (hopefully) finer fidelity than you have been accustomed to with the earlier releases. Watching the film makes me eager to see what Gilles Martin has done with his father’s poor stereo mixes on Please Please Me and With the Beatles. But let’s now stick with lo fi images and sounds.
The DVD is arranged chronologically in five parts, and allows for various perspectives on the band’s genesis and progress, from Liverpool to the Bahamas filming “Help.” We see The Beatles relaxed, at play, on and off stage, The division into parts seems designed for TV slots separated by ads, with clever use of a modified Hard Day's Night album cover for introducing the speakers. There is something appealing about amateur video used sparingly, particularly when it is the first known movie of the band, albeit without sound.
The wonder of the phenomenon that was the Beatles comes across well on this film. Phil Collins rightly says “It’s hard to explain to people who didn’t live in the sixties….” And it was to be several years before this new thing in music was recognized across the Atlantic. In UK I will never forget dancing all night in 1963 to “Please Please Me,” music with a quality and urgency I had never heard before. The Beatles were indeed “packed with talent and charisma.” But they also worked incredibly hard, well recounted by Norman Smith. That combination of talent, charm and hard work has resulted in the Beatles industry 45 years after, of which this video is a product.
The use of amateur video from the early sixties is a challenge since it seldom has sound, so Wienerworld has superimposed current interviews on the historic movie footage. When the footage is panning (which it does much of the time, particularly in the hands of the fab four on their holidays) the resulting combination can be disconcerting. A goodly amount of time is spent on the Paris Olympia performances with co-acts Trini Lopez and Sylvie Vartan, which took place immediately before the first Ed Sullivan Show. Mickey Jones, who was Lopez’ drummer and had never heard of the Beatles before the concerts, rates their live performance very highly, and both Mickey and Sylvie remark on their charming personalities. This is the first retrospective I have seen to explore the Paris concerts. Included throughout the documentary are segments from Lennon interviewed in Paris and not seen before.
This DVD is a helpful addition to any serious Beatles collection, giving insight from lifelong aficionados like Steve Harley of those early days, and showing that, apart from their talent and stuff, JohnPaulsGeorgeandRingo were just like us, which is why we still love them as well as their music, and want to be reminded every so often of how they were.
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