Beatlemania

Steven Van Zandt at the New York première of The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Rock and Roll Forever Foundation founder Steven Van Zandt recalls his first Beatles song:
Rock and Roll Forever Foundation founder Steven Van Zandt recalls his first Beatles song: "Yeah, it was I Want to Hold Your Hand." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer hosted the Imagine, Apple Corps and White Horse Films New York première of Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years at Village East Cinema last night. Elvis Costello, Sigourney Weaver, Larry Kane, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Izzard, Howard Goodall, and The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night and Help director Richard Lester share their memories in Howard's loving Beatles tribute, written by Mark Monroe.

Julie Taymor, Paul Rudd and Bobby Cannavale at The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years reception
Julie Taymor, Paul Rudd and Bobby Cannavale at The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years reception Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind director's latest film erupts like a sudden familiar, yet fresh, scent that engulfs you and carries you back to a place half-imagined, half-remembered. It's a world where someone loves you, someone please pleases you while everyone twists and shouts and holds your hand. The movie focuses on the years 1962 - 1966 and tells of the beginning of their rise to fame. Izzard remembers them as "cheeky" and in a place "where every kid wants to be." For Whoopi they were "a revelation," she says, "they were colourless and fucking amazing."

At the cocktail reception before the screening, I asked our hosts, Van Zandt and Shaffer, about their first Beatles recollection, and ran into Alessandro Nivola, who was there with his kids. Rock 'n' roll photographer Bob Gruen gave me his second cannoli and joked "you can only have one cannoli."

Anne-Katrin Titze: When did you first discover the Beatles? What was your very first Beatles moment?

Steven Van Zandt: I'm going to talk about that when I introduce the film tonight. Basically, you know, they came on the radio and it was like nothing I ever heard.

AKT: Do you remember what it was?

Steven Van Zandt with Paul Shaffer:
Steven Van Zandt with Paul Shaffer: "The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds - they all influenced each other …" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

SVZ: Yeah, it was I Want to Hold Your Hand. The first American … well, it was the first single we heard. It was technically not the first one released. The first one their own record company finally released. It was the fifth single. They turned down the first four, believe it or not. And finally they got pressure to put out their fifth single I Want to Hold Your Hand and that's the one we heard.

AKT: What did it do emotionally?

SVZ: I don't want to blow my speech tonight.

AKT: Did you have a favorite among the four? Or is that a bad question?

SVZ (laughs): No, actually, I did relate to George Harrison. Everybody seems to … That's the great thing about a band, right? You now have four or five chances to find an audience. That was the great advantage bands had. Yeah, I was a George Harrison person. I loved his voice, I loved his guitar playing, his whole persona, you know?

AKT: Who went in the footsteps of the Beatles?

SVZ: Really, everybody did. They led the way. They were the first to do most things. The first ones to break into the American market, which no English band had ever done, no English artist had ever done. Within a year, they influenced each other - the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds - they all influenced each other enough - but they actually created an art form that began in 1965.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years poster
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years poster

AKT: And now in 2016 is the right time for this film?

SVZ: Yeah. My curriculum, my foundation [Rock and Roll Forever Foundation] has written six Beatles lessons from the film, using the film, that's going to be in school systems permanently.

AKT: Great!

SVZ: Oh, yeah, so that's what we're hoping, that this kind of stuff turns on a new generation, and future generations because it's very important that future generations actually have access to the Beatles.

AKT: Thank you so much.

SVZ: Okay.

Coming up - Paul Shaffer, Alessandro Nivola, and more at the premiere.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years is in cinemas in the US and the UK.

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