Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I would say almost all of us had seen the film before, but not for fifty years. This was their first viewing of the Beatles as young bundles of energy and happy rebellion, running hither and yon to escape the throngs of screaming females. They know of Ringo and Paul, of course, but I don't think they knew about John and George. And the two they knew, they knew as old guys.
The first time I saw the film was at the height of Beatlemania--girls in the audience didn't merely swoon, as girls had done 20 years before for Frank Sinatra. These girls were younger--10 to 16, I'd say, and the hysteria that swept over them at the sight of their fantasy men in Teddy Boy suits was extreme--they screamed, they wept copious, uncontrollable tears, they intoned the names of their imagined beloved over and over, as if to envelope the object of their pubescent lust in an orgiastic embrace. I was just over the age to be so passionate about an iconic creation, but I enjoyed observing the phenomenon. And I loved the music.
A Hard Day's Night was a romp, basically an infomercial about the new musical group. By the end of the movie we'd heard every one of the songs that would be the first of their world-wide hits. There is an unbridled joy in the movie, a surreal wackiness that warms the heart and makes us want to know what will happen next.
Unfortunately what did happen next to the lads from Liverpool wasn't all that good. The world watched as they matured from antic post-adolescents to blissed-out stoners--I'll never forget that debut of the song "Hey Jude" on Ed Sullivan, with the Beatles now swaying, dazedly, chanting the anthem that was to usher in yet another phase of their development right before our eyes. Seeing A Hard Day's Night again with all the faces fresh, the hair tousled and shampooed, the exuberance of young men on top of the world, at the top of their game--touched our hearts. We had all been through so very much together.
I went hoping that the sheer power of that mood would infuse my own offspring, that they would say, "Wow--I wish we had guys like that now!" but that didn't happen. They love music, and they did enjoy the film as a time capsule from a distant era. But they actually said they got tired of the sameness of the music before the film ended. I had relished every minute of the movie and found myself reliving bygone days, as is my wont lately. I came to realize how that music had become the sound track of my life for a number of years even though it isn't so much now.
I was a fan of the Beatles early on and had followed their careers, more distantly as time went by. I was less a fan of John after Yoko, and of Paul after Heather. What meant the most to me was captured in 1964 by this one flicker in time. Sometimes when we see something through the eyes of others we can tell whether we had it right the first time. I'll stick with my first impression here. Whatever the younger generations feel about the movie, the music, and The Beatles, I'm pleased I saw A Hard Day's Night for the first time when it came out...and I was 24.