Beatlemania is back again, thanks to Ron Howard’s acclaimed doc about the Fab Four’s touring years, “Eight Days a Week,” and the chart-topping “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” 50th anniversary remix. In both cases, Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, served as music producer, supplying the 5.1 mix for “Eight Days a Week.”
There’s Emmy consideration for the vital sound work of Cameron Frankley (supervising sound editor ) and Jon Michaels (co-supervising sound editor). They were tasked with making all of the archival and fan-sourced footage sound good — but not too good.
Recreating the ’60s Soundscapes
“Eight Days a Week” not only documents the surreal hysteria of Beatlemania during the touring years of 1962-1966, but also how much John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr enjoyed playing together. That is, until Beatlemania drowned out the music and burst their bubble. Touring just wasn’t fun anymore
But the challenge was keeping the soundscapes as natural to the period as possible. “When we were in the environment of the early 1960s, the key to it was making the sounds of the cars going by and everything else appropriately good,” said Michaels. “So we would often take contemporary recordings of old cars, and then degraded them so that they sounded like they were recorded in the ’60s.
Although director Howard didn’t provide a lot of notes about sound, he usually asked to turn up the volume on the occasional song. “He was more concerned that you hear the thing,” Michaels said.
The Screaming Girls Dilemma
But when it came to legendary concert footage, which was recorded in mono (from the Hollywood Bowl to Shea Stadium), Martin developed a technique of digitally separating the instruments and vocals and remixing them in 5.1 stereo. This included separating the sounds of screaming girls.
“The initial thought was to cut the screaming girls and replace the track with less piercing crowd noise,” Michaels said. “But that wasn’t what a Beatles concert sounded like. But because we had it extracted, we were able to find that balance between the actual song, remixed in 5.1, a bit of the 5.1 version of screaming girls, and then just a natural concert crowd that we built ourselves to give it depth and make it feel not quite as harsh.”
The Shock of Spotting Sigourney Weaver
The biggest shock for Michaels and others was spotting footage of “Alien” star Sigourney Weaver, who attended the Hollywood Bowl concert as a teen in the mid-’60s. “There was that moment where they got the talking heads saying what the Beatles meant to them, and there’s Sigourney Weaver as a teen getting ready to see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl,” said Michaels.
The Weaver footage was part of a treasure trove of fan-sourced material accessed by editor Paul Crowder. Weaver was also glimpsed outside a hotel where the Beatles were staying. “When Paul went through all this footage, he mentioned [spotting] a handful of [famous] people, and everyone denied it except for Sigourney Weaver,” said Michaels.