Culled from an extensive archive of interview footage shot during those three years by British news organizations ITN, Reuters and British Pathe, we see a quartet of working class English rockers bemused by the worldwide furor that their music, image, and distinct personalities inspired. From England to America to Western Europe to the Far East to Australia, the Beatles’ albums, singles and tours created a seismic reaction that has never quite been equaled.
The documentary covers all the bases of Beatlemania. By 1963, the Beatles became so popular in England that the prevailing power structure grudgingly paid them respect: they were eventually awarded MBEs (Member of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth, prompting many old school awardees to send theirs back in protest. A chance encounter with Ed Sullivan led to an appearance on his TV show in early 1964, which led to the band dominating America overnight. Two films—A Hard Day’s Night and Help! — were shot and released in the midst of massive world tours. Throughout, the Beatles inspired pandemonium at every turn.
But the rigors of touring (fans screamed so loudly that the band couldn’t hear themselves onstage) and increasing controversy (John Lennon’s statement that the Beatles “were bigger than Jesus,” as well as troubled tours in the Philippines and Japan) effectively ended the band’s public performances. By 1967, Beatlemania as it had been known ended as the band concentrated on studio albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, as well as the diverging interests that led to the band’s demise in 1970.
From Liverpool to San Francisco includes interviews with each member attempting to deal with the enormous pressure with wit, charm and nonchalance. Also included is Beatles Across America, an illuminating 1966 documentary that examines the effects of Lennon’s alleged anti-Christian comments on America’s Bible Belt, specifically the communities of Birmingham, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee.