If you love classic rock then this is the summer for you. Boulevard Entertainment have released a tremendous collection of documentaries from Tony Palmer on the subject of rock and roll. Alongside features which discuss the iconic figures of Leonard Cohen and Liberace, as well as a truly surreal Frank Zappa study entitled 200 Motels, comes All You Need Is Love — The Beatles, a fascinating look at the biggest rock band of all time and the influence they had on the music of the 1960s.
The film starts as it means to go on with a brilliantly interesting snippet from an interview with Paul McCartney discussing his musical influences and the melting pot of various cultures and musical styles in the city of Liverpool. Much of the Beatles story is told throughout the narrative, from their financial struggles in the early days, to hooking up with manager Brian Epstein. Intriguingly, in following the timeline of the band the film also establishes a kind of blueprint which every hugely successful rock act would follow. After hitting it big in the States, the Fab Four return to Merseyside and face accusations of selling out from fans who have not seen them for seven months. Later on, one of the first moral panics against rock music is profiled in an exploration of the “Bigger Than Jesus” incident.
We had expected this movie to focus solely on the Beatles but we were pleasantly surprised to see the spotlight being turned on to other bands of the era. Roger McGuinn discusses how his band The Byrds were influenced by The Beatles, and supporting footage is shown of them playing a number in 1965 whilst sporting identical haircuts to the Liverpudlians. From there, The Beach Boys are profiled, discussing how they were already successful in America before The Beatles arrived, but nevertheless fell under their sway.
Encompassing the impact of these groups on the culture of the ’60s as a whole, there are some terrific anecdotes to accompany the footage, especially from figures such as Derek Taylor, the press officer for all three of the aforementioned bands. With a glint in his eye he discusses how The Byrds played Jane Fonda‘s birthday party, and how their fans crashed this gathering and made quite the impression on future Easy Rider star Peter Fonda. The commercialisation of popular music is also touched upon with a look at the Hippie boutique opened by John Lennon and George Harrison on Baker Street, and the establishment of, arguably, the first of the modern music festivals in Monterey.
Our only complaint about this film is that it is too short. At fifty-three minutes it does a remarkably good job of telling such an extensive story, and this is of course only the first part of a tale which Palmer would continue in his other features, but we feel that this really could have benefited from being an hour and a half. Notably absent from this ’60s narrative are such important acts as The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Yardbirds. The story of The Beatles is not concluded either, for the film ends with the death of Brian Epstein and misses out the breakdown of the band during the turbulent last couple of years.
All in all, however, we think that this is a truly brilliant snapshot of popular music as we know it, in its embryonic stages. Having been made in the 1970s it has an historical feel to it, and is free of the sometimes sycophantic, rose-tinted way talking heads will look back on events in more contemporary documentaries. A wonderfully insightful film for all fans of rock and roll.
Written By: Michael Dodd
All You Need Is Love — The Beatles is available to buy on DVD from 5th August!