Beatle Videomania: A Guide to the Knox Co. Library’s Collection of Beatles Videos

In Shelf Life by Chris Barrettleave a COMMENT

A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s stylish and innovative feature-length music video introduced the world to the Beatles’ impending film franchise in 1964. It’s a fluffy lark—mostly John, Paul, George, and Ringo on the run with delirious Beatlemaniacs in hot pursuit, pausing to toss off the occasional lip-synced hit. Nevertheless, it survives as a movie about music just as Duck Soup survives as a movie about war. It cemented a style for a band that would ultimately change the world and documented the baseline to which we’d be able to compare the mantras and mutton chops and bed peace and, one might argue, lesser music from solo efforts that followed.

The Beatles Anthology
The most surprising thing about this television miniseries from 1994 is that it aired on ABC, a major commercial network. The interviews with George, Paul, and Ringo are casual and unhurried; they are permitted to tell long and interesting stories in some fullness. It’s a patient rhythm of editing almost never seen on the networks, and one that is becoming uncommon even on public television. If you have more than a passing interest in the Beatles and the methods by which they created sounds no one had heard previously, you probably know most of what is revealed here. But the reason you know it is most likely that it was revealed here 20 years ago. John Lennon, filmed and recorded in abundance during his lifetime, feels present and participatory. The series manages to avoid that whiff of forensic exhumation in which Ken Burns specializes. Most gratifying are the numerous uninterrupted live performances and the clarifying memories of producer George Martin.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World
George Harrison suffers from the fact that we usually encounter him through his music, which is almost always good but too often not great. This exhaustive biographical treatment by Martin Scorsese demonstrates that Harrison was both more interesting and more wise than his music ever convincingly suggested. Harrison’s dispassionate but knowing perspective of the history of the Beatles and the rest of 20th-century rock ’n’ roll is cause enough to watch this 208-minute doc. But the project and the watching are ultimately justified by Harrison’s lucid meditations on celebrity and creativity and the dubious benefits of affluence.

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash
The full-flowering of a parody skit by Eric Idle and Neil Innes, which migrated from British television to Saturday Night Live before being made into this mockumentary feature, the Rutles are silly but serve a purpose. Dirk, Nasty, Stig, and Barry demonstrate that the music of the Beatles was deceptively simple and basic, even while containing a particular refined genius that could be mocked and analyzed but never captured or reproduced. George Harrison participated in the making of the film (and makes a cameo as a television reporter), and John Lennon is rumored to have liked it. Mick Jagger and Paul Simon are great sports and seem pleased and eager to poke fun at their own legends.

Chris Barrett's Shelf Life alerts readers to new arrivals at the Lawson McGhee Library's stellar Sights and Sounds collection, along with recommendations and reminders of staples worthy of revisiting. He is a former Metro Pulse staff writer who’s now a senior assistant at the Knox County Public Library.

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