1966 was the last year The Beatles would tour - and now Hollywood director Ron Howard has made a film about itThe look on their faces tells it all – Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr grin in delight as they leave the stage at New York’s Shea Stadium in August 1966.
They had every reason to be pleased, for the biggest band the world has ever known had the world at their feet that year.
It was the pinnacle of that electrifying phenomenon known as Beatlemania.
But poignantly, 1966 was the last year Liverpudlians Paul, Ringo, John Lennon and George Harrison would tour.
Now one of their biggest fans, legendary film director Ron Howard , has scoured the world for footage and pictures capturing the rise of the legendary Fab Four.
The result– much of it previously unseen – makes up a new documentary called The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.
It shows them as a working band in their early days, gigging at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, making it big in the UK, cracking America – and finally that final tour in 1966.
One shot sums up the madness of those days: The band are being interviewed by phone in a room at the Park Plaza Hotel in New York in 1964.
And, even with a finger in one ear and the receiver to the other, Ringo can barely hear what is being said above the screams of young girls camped outside in the street.
For surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo, who were interviewed for the movie, reliving moments like that was magical.
Paul, 74, said: “We were a great little band. So to see us performing was great, because without that, we couldn’t have made the records.
"That was the foundation of everything we recorded.”
Ringo, 76, remembered the comradeship of being in a band. He said: “I’m an only child and suddenly I have three brothers.
“We were these four guys going through the Beatles life together, we had each other all the time.
"You’ll see a lot of that in this film. We were just this band of rockers who loved to do what we did.”
The Beatles formed in Liverpool in the late 1950s, with Ringo joining on drums in 1962, the year they had their first hit single, Love Me Do.
Beatlemania – a word coined in November 1963 – swept Britain and reached America the following February .
That month more than 73 million people watched the group play on Ed Sullivan’s TV show.
One of those viewers was a 14-year-old aspiring actress called Sigourney Weaver.
Sigourney, who later starred in Alien, appears in Howard’s documentary. She can be seen in the audience for The Beatles’ sold-out concert at The Hollywood Bowl in August 1964.
Larry Kane, a journalist who accompanied the band on their 1964 and 1965 US tours, remembers that show well.
He said: “The sun was setting in the west and every member of the audience, especially the young girls, felt The Beatles were singing to them personally.”
Director Howard, 62, who made Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code, recalled: “I first saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, like most of America.
“For my 10th birthday I asked my parents for a Beatle wig and Beatle boots. They couldn’t find the boots but I got a wig that I proudly wore at my party.”
The film, released in cinemas this Thursday, tells how The Beatles refused to play to a racially-segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida, in August, 1964.
Paul remembered: “The idea that we might play to an audience where there were black people on one side and white people on the other was a joke to us. We put it in our contract – we will not play to a segregated audience.”
Larry, now 73, was a Florida radio reporter at the time and he tipped off the Beatles about segregation during a press conference.
"They were furious. He recalled: “They all stood up in anger – some of the language was pretty heavy.”
The band forced the authorities to reverse their decision and the gig at the Gator Bowl went ahead in the aftermath of a hurricane, with the wind so strong that Ringo’s drums had to be nailed to the stage.
Larry then asked for a lengthier interview. Instead they invited him to join them on the tour of 25 cities.
He said: “I didn’t want to but I’m thrilled that I did – I was part of one of the biggest cultural shifts in the history of mankind.”
Recalling his first meeting with the band in 1964, he went on: “George was just lovely, chatting about how nervous they were performing in front of the crowds.
"Ringo was extremely intellectually curious and Paul was Mr Charm personified.
“As for John, he looked me up and down and asked, ‘Who are you? You look like a nerd from the 1940s’.
“I replied that he looked quite slovenly. Afterwards he apologised.
"I think they liked me because I didn’t ask patronising questions other reporters did, like what they’d had for breakfast.
“They were all for each other and took care of each other.”
Larry remembered John and Paul helping him cope with the death of his mother in 1964.
He said: “We were on a flight and they called me to the back of the plane and told me about how their mothers had passed away as well. I was so touched.”
The documentary also includes recently discovered amateur film of the show at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on August 29, 1966.
It was to be the band’s last-ever public concert.
The Beatles gave up touring due to the stress of life on the road and anti-Beatle protests after Lennon joked that they were “bigger than Jesus”.
They did not play live again until January 1969 – just a rooftop concert for family and friends in London.
But the intervening years spent in the studio had produced a string of iconic albums.
Ron Howard said of his film: “I hope it offers a reminder of who they were before Beatlemania, what they became during the course of it and how they grew artistically and personally.”
- The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years (Cert 12A) is released in cinemas on Thursday, September15.