I re-watched “Yesterday” last week, which reminded me of just how great the Beatles’ music sounds, even now.
Fifty-six years ago the then mop-top quartet came out with their first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” The film has a homemade feel to it. They made it when the phenomenon called “Beatlemania” had reached a crescendo, “A Hard Day’s Night” covers a manic day in the musicians’ busy lives. Even now it blows us away with the energy and freshness of the Lads from Liverpool. In 1964, the release date, the Beatles had a long string of catchy pop tunes. Hits in the movie include “All My Loving,” “Tell Me Why,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “She Loves You.” The songs still arrest our attention and lift our hearts. One hour and 27 minutes.
“Help” came out in 1966 and has a plot involving human sacrifice (Ringo has run afoul of a Hindu cult.) The sketchy plot provides a frame for showing off the boys’ weed fueled antics. It has silly moments and lots of funny moments, but best of all, it allows us to see the Beatles as young men and to again hear the tunes. Notable songs include “Help!,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’re going to Lose That Girl,” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” I think a lot of us have these songs stashed up in our brain attic to hear whenever we want. Are you smiling yet? The run time is one hour and thirty-two minutes.
The “Magical Mystery Tour” in 1967 switched gears on us. The film has the colorfully dressed boys traveling around in a psychedelic school bus like Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. This film has recognizable tunes like “All My Loving,” “Your Mother Should Know,” and “Hello, Goodbye” along with more mysterious lyrics like “I Am the Walrus” and a song performed by The Bonzo Dog Band, “Death Cab for Cutie.” The latter song became the name of another rock band years later. Fifty-five minutes.
In 1968, the full-blown psychedelic animated film “Yellow Submarine” blasted onto the screen and into our eyeballs. The movie followed the Sergeant Pepper’s album, a visualization of the song lyrics. The music includes “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “A Day in the Life.” We had not seen or heard a movie like this before. It runs one hour and 25 minutes. Watch out for the Blue Meanies.
The last film the boys made together, or at least all appeared in, was the 1970 “Let it Be,” which recorded the coming apart of the band. This film has the Beatles at their musical apex if also at the nadir of their time as a band. Some songs here are “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Across the Universe,” “The Long and Winding Road,” the incredible “Let it Be” and their only song to mention Arizona, “Get Back.” “Let it Be” runs for one hour and 20 minutes. The Academy gave the band an Oscar for best song, “Let it Be.”
While we are locked up we can still see movies that make us happy.