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Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are back to where they once belonged, sharing a joke in Studio 2 at Abbey Road.
“We were a foursome,” says Ringo. Paul raises an eyebrow and smirks. “In the best possible way.”
We’re here joined by Hollywood film director Ron Howard in the impressive Studio 2 of Abbey Road to talk about the new film – premiering in Liverpool tonight – The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.
It chronicles the exhilaration of four Scouse lads and their phenomenal rise to fame, as well as the toll it eventually took, prompting them to stop touring altogether in 1966.
The film focuses on the sense of brotherhood in the band, particularly in those early years. In a poignant moment, Ringo says that when he joined the band he went from being an only child to having three brothers overnight.
“I do have three brothers,” he says, the distinctive Dingle twang getting stronger with every word.
“I’m an only child. I was in other bands as well but when I got into this band it felt like I was in a foursome.
“You always shared the same car, the same room, there was no order, it was not like I always slept in the same room with Paul, it was like whoever got in the room went to bed.”
Paul smiles, adding: “For me I had grown up with just my mum, my dad and my brother Mike, who is younger than me. So I had never really been anywhere like that, you didn’t do sleepovers.
“I had never been somewhere where someone you didn’t know was brushing their teeth in your room. It was an amazing experience for me, packing suitcases and washing socks…it was all that stuff that brought us together.”
Ringo laughs at the memory: “What you’ve got to remember is when we started out it was guest houses we were staying in, it wasn’t hotels. But even when we were in the biggest hotels in the world we only had two rooms. We just liked to be together.”
But when the fun of being together began to wane in the late 60s, when the well-documented fall outs and acrimony over business deals started to make the headlines as much as the music, it was music that kept them together.
Ringo explains: “If you listen to the music in the later years, as soon as the count in for the song came we all gave it our all. I love that. No-one thought ‘I’m just here for the beer’, it was like ‘let’s go and do our best’ and you can hear that in the tracks.”
It was a good job they could always hold it together as a band.
From June 1962 to August 1966, The Beatles performed 815 times in 15 different countries and 90 cities around the world.
While the film’s focus is on their gruelling tours around the world, there’s a starring role there too for Liverpool.
“There’s that great shot where you see everyone singing acapella on the Kop,” says the film’s director Ron Howard, referring back to the scenes in the film from 1964 where the Anfield crowd sing She Loves You.
“Then there’s Elvis Costello, who is a huge fan and said he’d talk, that brought a lot of additional focus to Liverpool.
“You started with the story, but I actually thought it would be a brilliant idea to focus on the touring years because it gave it a kind of a plot, that particular period of Beatlemania, that journey.
“I was a bit flattered, a bit intimidated by the whole thing, but I began to feel the possibility of a story that could feel fresh because of the focus on touring.”
When the Oscar-winning director was first approached about making a documentary chronicling The Beatles’ touring years, he says he was flattered but also somewhat apprehensive.
Best known as the prolific director and producer of Cinderella Man, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, he had previously made only one documentary, the 2013 concert film Made in America, about rapper Jay Z’s eclectic music festival.
Once he started reviewing the available material, however, he quickly found a unique way into the subject matter. “As I looked at those touring years, I began to see it as a kind of adventure, a survival tale of this incredible journey they were on,” he recalls.
“I thought that was the story I could tell, a cousin to Apollo 13 in a way that would reflect the culture of the times. At the same time, we could explore the dynamics of The Beatles as a band — a brotherhood of sorts — but also as individuals, because they definitely grew, evolved and changed as they were tested as individuals and as a group.”
Those touring years were so well documented, from the screaming girls of The Cavern through to the deafening cacophony at Shea Stadium.
More than how do you decide what to put in, it must be harder to decide what to leave out?
Paul says: “It’s a funny thing, we don’t really plan Beatles projects, they kind of arrive. Like this one, someone will say ‘What about this idea?’ and we think about it and say ‘Oh, that sounds good’. We don’t go out and look for stuff, this was already suggested and we said ‘Why don’t you put it together’ and then Ron was suggested. It was not actually our decision.”
Ron adds: “It was interesting also that it was about the live years, that gave it a great angle.”
The story is told through talking heads and archive footage, some of which hasn’t been seen since it was broadcast live.
“Some of it hadn’t been seen for a long time.” says Ringo.