Beatles, The - The First US Visit

Year of Release: 2004
Label: EMI
Catalog Number: 07243 5 99360 9 3
Format: DVD
Total Time: 132:33:00

February 7th, 1964 was D-day in America. Two hours before The Beatles were about to set foot onto American soil for the very first time, film director Albert Maysles received a phone call from Granada Television in London asking him if he wanted to make a film of the Beatles' first ever US visit. Albert, who was not so familiar with popular music, asked his younger brother whether at all the Beatles were an interesting group to film. Luckily brother David was well aware of the importance of the Beatles and swiftly convinced his brother to do it. The mere fact that two hours before the band's arrival a phone call had set the wheels in motion for what now looks to be a very important document in the history of popular music, already proves the not so professional attitude of Brian Epstein and his entourage at that given time. However, the black and white nature of this film gives extra depth into that particular period whilst the enthusiasm, wit and naïvety of the fab four clearly shows that these are four "normal" youngsters heading for stardom. It's probably their "normal" charm that has won so many hearts over the years, as the Beatles were and still are the world's number one band.

Albert, with his handheld camera, and David, with his sound recorder, would follow the Beatles nonstop throughout all of their activities, as if the Maysles brothers were the guys' shadows. Their arrival at Idlewild Airport, in their hotel rooms, on the train to Washington DC, backstage, onstage, having a great time at the legendary Peppermint Lounge or their memorable appearances on the Ed Sullivan show, it is as if you're part of the entourage, part of the chosen few who travelled with them from one screaming audience to the other. This film isn't an example fantastic cinematographic quality, as the brothers didn't have extra lights with them, but it's that "everyday" atmosphere that brings the viewer closer to the actual event. I admit having tears in my eyes when I could feel the positive energy not only of the Beatles but also of life as it was back then in the golden sixties. When I compare it with the cold feelings we now have since September 11th and the bombing in Madrid, this film takes you back to days filled with good memories and good feelings. It's as if this DVD carries tons of positive energy.

The film itself shows a chronological statement of the five or so days the Beatles were in the States. As soon as Paul gets in a cab, he takes his transistor radio out of his pocket to listen to one of the many US radio stations talk about the Beatles. The deejay makes plenty of publicity for cigarettes during his show, which again is a big contrast to the cigarette situation today. A little later George and John will even promote Marlboro when they are heading for Washington DC on the train. The main idea for their US visit not only was to promote their music but also to attend no fewer than three different Ed Sullivan shows. With the first show being watched by no fewer than 72 million viewers, practically every single household in the States was watching the show. After enthusiastic renditions of "All My Loving," "Till There Was You" and "She Loves You," Ed Sullivan turns to our four friends telling them Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker have sent a telegram wishing them all the best in the USA. A little later in the film we see manager Brian Epstein dictating a telegram to his secretary to send back to Elvis and the Colonel to thank them. After the first Ed Sullivan Show the band relaxes in the famous Peppermint Lounge where Ringo dances to the tunes of the soul and funkjazz from the live band present.

When they perform in Washingon, Ringo's drum riser has to be turned around by hand so that the other side of the audience can also see them perform. The band switches sides on a couple of occasions with Ringo even moving his own little stage himself. Although everywhere they go the cheers are much louder than the music, the audience present during the Ed Sullivan Show in Miami is very polite and quiet. They are the main reason why the delicate version of "This Boy," with nice harmonies between John, Paul and George, is such a perfect and fragile rendition. This time around Ed Sullivan brings "our" boys the best wishes from composer Richard Rodgers (from Rodgers & Hammerstein fame) who apparently is a great admirer of the band. On the train, Ringo takes care of an eight year old little girl and even introduces her to the rest of the band. She gets their autographs, calls McCartney "uncle Paul" and gives Lennon a kiss on the cheek when she leaves. Pity the makers of this DVD couldn't track this girl down who now must be a 48 year old woman. Her vision of the event would have been an interesting bonus. The film ends with the third and final Ed Sullivan Show where the Beatles perform "Twist And Shout," "Please, Please Me" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." The Beatles have made a huge and everlasting impact and will sell millions of albums in the coming years.

What you see in the actual film is not everything that was filmed by the Maysles brothers. Due to union rules, outside cameras could not film before and during the Ed Sullivan Show. Instead, Maysles asked the father of a family who were watching the show if he could film their teenager's reactions. They agreed and we can see this footage in the extras department. Here we are treated to the "making of" section, in which a lot of material is included that had not previously been released. What I like here is the inclusion of outsiders as to whether they like the Beatles or not. A young guy says he doesn't mind the Beatles but likes jazz better by the likes of Mingus or Mulligan. A young girl who studies at Julliard (where Jordan Rudess would later study) is more into Italian arias and classical music, but most certainly likes the Beatles. Other youngsters are definitely in favour of the Beatles rather than Elvis. "Elvis is old and ugly," some say, "the Beatles are better." The arrival of the Beatles not only means it's all about music. When they arrive at the airport certain people are putting banners up some of which read: "Ringo Starr for prime minister." Another one reads: "Beatles unfair to bald men" whilst a more political one reads: "England get out of Ireland." Now wouldn't Paul McCartney write a song "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" several years later? The film also illustrates the relation between the press and the Beatles. Up until that day on February 7th, 1964, interviewing a pop group was not reserved for the big national papers. This time around, every single newspaper needed to have a reporter present. As an illustration that this was fairly new for the press people, a lot of photographers shout "Beatle, Beatle" when they want to grab the attention from one of the Beatles, as obviously they don't know their names yet! But this of course would all change very soon after that.

The Beatles' The First US Visit is probably one of the most important films ever made about the impact of four young people from Liverpool who would change the world of music between them. Regardless whether this was filmed in the States or somewhere else, it is mainly the way they are as human beings, which is nicely portrayed here. Not one single second do you have criticism because the quality of the pictures or the sound is not sufficient enough. Not one single second do you find it a burden that all of the pictures are in black and white. After all, those 72 million viewers of the Ed Sullivan Show also saw the show in black and white on their small screens forty years ago. This DVD contains much more than just the Beatles, as it also marks a revolution in the way films were being made, plus it contains a decent amount of positive energy, of the golden sixties, as if a portion of love is contained within each single copy. I cried, but they were tears of joy!

Performances include: The Ed Sullivan Show (NYC #1): All My Loving / Till There Was You / She Loves You / I Want To Hold Your Hand / The Washington Coliseum Concert: I Saw Her Standing There / I Wanna Be Your Man / She Loves You / The Ed Sullivan Show (Miami): From Me To You / This Boy / All My Loving / The Ed Sullivan Show (NYC #2): Twist And Shout / Please, Please Me / I Want To Hold Your Hand

Subtitle options: English / German / Spanish / French / Italian / Dutch / Portugese / Brazilian Portugese

John Lennon - vocals, guitar
Paul McCartney - vocals, bass
George Harrison - guitar, vocals
Ringo Starr - drums, vocals

Please Please Me (1963)
With The Beatles (1963)
A Hard Days Night (1964)
Beatles For Sale (1964)
Help! (1965)
Rubber Soul (1965)
Revolver (1965)
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
White Album (1968)
Yellow Submarine (1969)
Abbey Road (1969)
In The Beginning: Early Tapes (Circa 1960) (1970)
Let It Be (1970)
1962-1966 (1973)
1967-1970 (1973)
Live At The Hollywood Bowl (1977)
Live! At The Star-Club In Hamburg, Germany (1977)
Beatles Rarities (1979 (UK)/80 (US))
The Beatles Conquer America (1985) [boot]
Past Masters Volume 1 (1988)
Past Masters Volume 2 (1988)
Unsurpasssed Demos (1993) [boot]
Get Back Sessions (1993) [boot]
Shea!/Candlestick Park (1994)
Live At The BBC (1994)
Anthology 1 (1995)
Anthology 2 (1995)
Anthology 3 (1996)
Decca Tapes [boot]
Ultra Rare Trax/Back-Trak/Unsurpassed Demos [boot]
Live In Tokyo [boot]
1 (2000)
Let It Be ... Naked (2003)

Anthology (2002) (DVD)
The First US Visit (2004) (DVD)

Genre: Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 18th 2004
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 751
Language: english


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