To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the film “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964), Alec Baldwin interviewed Don Was (President of Blue Note Records) at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood last weekend. Don has worked with Ringo Star and the Rolling Stones, and the two discussed what’s made The Beatles magic to the masses for decades. To take you there, enjoy our quotes, photos and VIDEO http://youtu.be/2zWfv8q5KlQ.
Alec Baldwin opened this pre-film discussion, “I wanted to do this with someone from the music industry…I couldn’t think of anybody else who would be better to talk about the impact and the reason why The Beatles remain what they are today.”
The film captured “a day in the life of teen heartthrobs in high style” in classic black and white. When Alec asked Don about the magnetism of the film, Don reflected, “If you watch ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, one of the things that I think is so brilliant about it is that they don’t play the characters really broad….Ringo is this lovable guy who’s been bullied by the guys in the band and by the stagehands. George is the quiet, kind of funny one. John is the cheeky one. Paul’s the cute one. They stick to who they are. And they happen to be archetypes that everyone can relate too.”
When discussing The Beatles overall music success over the decades, it was fascinating to hear Don Was’ POV.
Alec: “Why do you think the Beatles have a single place in our lives?”
Don: “I think it’s a convergence of many different things. To me, it starts with the songs. They were just the best songs….I’ll tell you this. I was the Music Director for the CBS Tribute to ‘The Beatles’ that was on right after the GRAMMYS. At the rehearsal, it was a big room but maybe 70 people,…Paul’s up there rehearsing the set, and Ringo joins him to play drums, and they go into ‘Hey Jude’….The first two notes, everybody stops, room gets quiet, 15 seconds in, grown people are sobbing, and I’m not exaggerating….I was really overwhelmed by it. Now what kind of song triggers that?”
Alec: “You said backstage, it even goes back to what was going on in the country in the 50s?”
Don: “It was set up for decades with this post war prosperity where young people were suddenly going to college and had time on their hands to think about philosophical issues. You had the predominance of global TV, satellite TV for the first time connecting the world. And we’re aware of what’s going on and see the results of war, and suddenly there’s a kinda distrust of authority and an educated youth group. The Baby Boomers are the largest demographic group at the time, and it was prime for a youth revolt against the conservative complacency of the 50s.”
Alec: “What do you think about George Martin?”
Don: “He was a brilliant producer at the time, but he couldn’t have done it without the songs, and without the charisma, it’s charisma just in the voices, first of all, the blend of the two voices when John and Paul are singing together, I don’t know what’s going on,…the job of the artist is to put the audience in touch with their own feelings right, and feel something, and they are masters of it. They still are…It touches you deep inside.”
Towards the end, Alec introduced Producer Martin Lewis, who helped produce the first DVD of the “A Hard Day’s Night” film for the 40th Anniversary. When asked about what made the movie so special, Martin added, “In the late 1960s era, pop films tended to be a little cheesy, and The Beatles were being approached in 1963, and Brian Epstein (Manager) said no we will not do a typical cheesy pop movie. Our movie needs to be as good in film as George Martin records are, it has to be fresh.”
It was then magical to watch “A Hard Day’s Night” on the big screen in black and white at the TCL Chinese Theatre. And it’s no surprise that The Beatles have sold more than 177 million albums in the US alone, according to the Record Industry Association of America. Many thanks to Turner Classic Movies, Alec Baldwin, Don Was and Martin Lewis for your historic views during this celebration of The Beatles.