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‘The Beatles’ celebrates the beauty of collaboration

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years” (2016). Cast: Interviews: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Elvis Costello, Larry Kane. Archive Footage: John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Yoko Ono, Ed Sullivan, Pete Best, Billy Preston. Director: Ron Howard. Screenplay: Mark Monroe. Story Consultant: P.G. Morgan. Web site. Trailer.

When one thinks of a cultural icon that helps to shape the character of a generation, a rock ‘n roll band probably wouldn’t be the first candidate that comes to mind. Yet, for those who came of age in the 1960s, fewer symbols hold nearly as much meaning, both personally and collectively, as a quartet of musicians from across the pond – the Fab Four, the Liverpool moptops, the band that became virtually synonymous with a generation, the Beatles. Their impact on music, culture and the sensibilities of Baby Boomers coming into their own – especially in the band’s early days – is the subject of a fun and lively new documentary, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years,” currently playing in a limited theatrical run and streaming on demand on Hulu.

Director Ron Howard, a longtime Beatles fan, has created a fascinating picture, deftly chronicling the band’s early days, the touring years from 1962 to 1966. The film presents an impressive collection of restored archive footage – some of it quite rare – and present-day interviews with surviving band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as vintage clips of their collaborators, John Lennon and George Harrison. These elements are effectively complemented by conversations with fans who grew up with the Beatles, including Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver and Elvis Costello, as well as those who were associated with the band at the time of their tours, including filmmaker Richard Lester (director of the band’s films “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) and “Help!” (1965)), Miami radio reporter Larry Kane (who accompanied the band on one of their tours) and longtime producer George Martin (presented in voiceovers covering archive footage).

In addition to the historical record, the film provides a look at the impact the band had at the time and the legacy it has left ever since. In the early 1960s, for example, the group’s revolutionary sound, the band members’ radical haircuts and their cheeky, sometimes-irreverent playfulness were symbolic of a generation of teenagers stepping up and charting their own path, a departure from the conformist ways of the previous decade. Then, as the turbulence of the ʼ60s unfolded, the band’s outspoken views mirrored and helped shape the social changes emerging at the time, particularly in areas like the civil rights movement. And, as the Beatles’ career soared, the group became an innovator in the music industry, launching the modern era of rock concert performances and, eventually, an increasingly sophisticated and inventive sound, one that opened the door for countless acts that followed.

When one looks at the overwhelming success the Beatles achieved and the impact they had, it quickly becomes apparent that they were masters at the practice of conscious creation, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Admittedly, they may not have been aware of this philosophy (though, given John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s explorations in to alternative and Eastern thought, that may not have been the case), but they certainly knew how to make it work for themselves, their peers and, ultimately, the world at large.

So how did they make it work? Well, for starters, given the prolific nature of their work in so many different milieus, not to mention its consistent quality across the board, they obviously knew what they were doing as artists. Be it as live performers, recording artists, songwriters or movie stars, they always rose to the occasion, never failing to come through and to please the ever-swelling ranks of their fans. But, then, they were able to accomplish this because they believed in themselves and their talents, notions clearly reflected in their output.

This success resulted chiefly from their collaborative efforts, with all band members working together, with their thoughts, beliefs and intents all on the same page. This should be obvious from their work. But it also becomes evident during interviews in the film, when they admit that nearly all of their creative decisions arose from unanimous decisions, adding that, if they didn’t achieve unanimity, proposed ideas didn’t proceed. This is an excellent example of co-creation at work, one that anybody seeking to collaborate on a joint effort can draw from for inspiration.

It should be added that such collaboration went beyond just the four band members. The Beatles also engaged in inspired co-creation with their manager, Brian Epstein, their producer, George Martin, and with supporting musicians, like Billy Preston, who played a significant role in the group’s music in its later years. The success of this metaphysical team effort illustrates our innate connectedness to others and the role it plays in the magnitude of the results we can achieve when we work together effectively, both on a conscious and subconscious level.

Of course, no matter how confident and self-assured we may be about our beliefs in ourselves and in our joint undertakings, it won’t matter much if we fail to recognize and avail ourselves of the synchronicities that emerge to help make the realization of our opportunities possible. These seemingly perfectly tailored “coincidences” provide the means for materializing our aspirations, but they don’t mean much if we’re unable to spot them and/or don’t act on them. Like all of our creations, synchronicities also arise from our beliefs, but recognizing their existence and significance is crucial if we’re to take things to the next level.

For their part, the Beatles were experts at this. As the film shows, they knew how to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves, capitalizing on them with an almost incredible ease. It’s as if virtually everything they touched turned to metaphorical gold, whether it was creating the opportunities for meeting the right people, forming the right associations, undertaking the right creative projects and so on. In each case, though, these outcomes always arose from the synchronicities that made their potential – and subsequent fulfillment – possible.

The Beatles’ success, in turn, made it possible for them to become innovators and trend setters. They used their talents, both artistic and intangible, to shape and change the face of the music business and, over time, the very culture of society at large. That’s a phenomenal accomplishment, and virtually no other artists have had comparable impact. They not only made a mark of their own, but they also opened the door for those whom would follow them, enabling the birth of a vast array of previously untried artistic conceptions. Those who walked in the Beatles’ footsteps owe them a lot, for they showed the way for how to transform the conceptual and the intangible into fully fleshed out manifestations.

In the end, this may well have been the Beatles’ biggest and most meaningful accomplishment. And, given that it benefitted both themselves and others, it’s a prime example of the concept of value fulfillment in full flower. The film shows how their efforts in this area all began and what they eventually led to, taking viewers through the steps of their journey on this magical mystery tour of their own.

For those who grew up with the Beatles, such as yours truly, it’s difficult to accurately express what the band meant to the children of that generation, especially since no group has ever had quite the same degree of sweeping musical and cultural influence as the Fab Four did. However, this picture captures the spirit of this impact quite effectively, providing aging Boomers with an opportunity to wax nostalgic and for those born later to get a taste of what the fuss was all about.

“Eight Days a Week” is a fun, lively, nostalgic but never star struck look back at the early days of the band. Just as the Beatles helped provide an enjoyable diversion from the challenges of the time, so, too, does this film in giving viewers a refreshing respite from today’s myriad challenges. Its good feelings are so infectious that I dare you to try sitting through the picture without tapping your toes or swaying in your seat.

More than 50 years have passed since the Beatles emerged on the scene, yet we still applaud them, their music, their collaborative spirit and everything that made them who they were. I guess that’s what it means to have real staying power, and the moptops keep on proving it – eight days a week.

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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