After forming in 1960, English band the Beatles quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. The level of obsession their fans demonstrated was so intense, the term Beatlemania was coined to describe it. Ultimately the group stopped touring in 1966 when they felt that their music was taking a back seat to their presence on stage.
In order to relay to a new generation how intense the Beatles' touring years between 1962 and 1966 were, director Ron Howard has helmed a new documentary, titled The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years. The film features music, interviews and anecdotes from the hundreds of Beatles' concerts over this four-year span, including never-before-seen footage.
With Eight Days a Week now available to stream on Hulu, we're celebrating its release with these eight facts to make anyone an instant Beatles fan. Take a look!
1. The Title Comes From Paul McCartney's Chauffeur
In a recent Q&A session with McCartney, Ringo Starr and Howard, the singer-songwriter recalled how the title to the song and subsequent documentary "Eight Days a Week" came about. According to McCartney, he was being driven to John Lennon's house by a chauffeur (due to having lost his license after being caught speeding), and asked the driver if he'd been working hard, to which the man replied, "Oh, eight days a week!"
2. The Band Pioneered Some Interesting Firsts
Not only did the Beatles' 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" win four Grammy Awards, and become the first rock LP to win Album of the Year, it was also the first time a rock LP had the lyrics to its songs printed on the back cover.
The Beatles were also one of the first bands to display the devil horns hand gesture. On the cover of the 1969 "Yellow Submarine" record, the Lennon cartoon is throwing up the horns above McCartney's head. Some fans took the symbol to mean that Paul was dead, as part of a bizarre ongoing conspiracy theory that McCartney had actually died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike.
3. The Semaphore Message On The Cover Of 'Help!' Spells Something Completely Different
Rather than the semaphore signaling message on the cover of "Help!" actually spelling out that four-letter word, it spells N-U-J-V on the UK release, or N-V-U-J on the US release. However, at the time of release there were rumors that the band were actually spelling out S-H-I-T or F-U-C-K instead.
As it turns out, the reason the band members weren't correctly spelling H-E-L-P was simply because the photographer decided the arrangement of the arms didn't look good, so improvised instead.
4. Ringo's Nickname Comes From His Penchant For Jewelry
Ringo Starr's real name is Richard Starkey, though he earned the nickname Rings due to all the jewelry he used to wear, particularly his rings. The drummer later changed his nickname to Ringo for a more country and western feel, as he seriously considered moving to Texas to become a country musician. Ringo's rings are mentioned in A Hard Day's Night, when the other members of the band jokingly accuse him of winning a game of cards due to his lucky bling.
5. Hitler Almost Appeared On The 'Sgt. Pepper' Album Cover
The cover of the band's 1967 album contains dozens of celebrities and people of note, including Mae West, Edgar Allen Poe, Bob Dylan, Aldous Huxley, HG Wells and Marlon Brando. Lennon also wanted to include Adolf Hitler among the famous figures, but was overruled at the last minute.
Hitler's image was actually present in early montages, where he appeared to the right of artist Larry Bell, but was ultimately removed. Gandhi, Jesus and actor Leo Gorcey were also almost included, while character actor Timothy Carey is technically in the shot, though completely obscured by George Harrison.
6. Soviet Fans Had An Ingenious Way Of Listening To The Records, Which Were Banned In The USSR
The Beatles were one of many Western bands that were banned in the USSR, making it very difficult and expensive for fans to acquire vinyl records on the blackmarket. However, people worked out that music could be imprinted onto used X-ray scans.
The X-rays (which were often lifted out of dumpsters) were cut into 7-inch discs, a hole burned into the center with a cigarette and the grooves cut with specially made machines. The result was a very poor quality version of albums that were then sold on to fans. These copies were called "music on the bones," or "music on ribs," and generally could only be played a handful of times before being rendered useless.
7. The Band Lived In A Cinema During Their Early Days
The Beatles completed two residencies in Hamburg during the early days of the band (pre-Ringo Starr), playing a demanding schedule seven nights a week as a five-piece. They ended up living in the small storeroom of a cinema (the Bambi Kino), in a room next to the toilets. Speaking about the experience, McCartney recalled:
"We lived backstage in the Bambi Kino, next to the toilets, and you could always smell them. The room had been an old storeroom, and there were just concrete walls and nothing else. No heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint; and two sets of bunk beds, with not very much covers—Union Jack flags—we were frozen."
Eventually, Harrison was deported from Germany for being underage, and McCartney and Pete Best (the band's original drummer) were arrested and deported for attempted arson — after they set fire to a condom!
8. Bob Geldof Claims Beatles Concerts Often Smelled Of Urine
We know Beatlemania was intense, but Bob Geldof claims that the band overwhelmed their young female fans to such an extent that girls would frequently pee themselves in excitement! In 2010, Geldof told Q magazine about his experience watching the Beatles live:
"I remember looking down at the cinema floor and seeing these rivulets of piss in the aisles. The girls were literally pissing themselves with excitement. So what I associate most with The Beatles is the smell of girls' urine."
While this could purely be an exaggeration from Geldof, the fact that the Beatles could inspire such a claim surely speaks volumes about what an impact the band has made on pop culture.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years is now streaming on Hulu.
What is your favorite Beatles song?