Beatles fans, young and old, converged Sunday on the State Theatre to be rocked by the carefree beat of an earlier era. The 50th anniversary showing of “A Hard Day’s Night” drew more than 400.
“It’s The Beatles – hello! – best rock band ever, to this day. Fifty years from now, will anyone go back to see Justin Bieber videos – I don’t think so,” said Tina Johnson of Turlock. She dressed her kids in Sgt. Pepper costumes when they were little and said the now 10- and 12-year-olds are still huge fans.
A crowd spanning all ages came in t-shirts decorated with the Fab Four’s faces, their album covers or just sparkly Beatles imprints. They posed with a life-size cutout of Ringo Starr and savored a cake decorated with tie-dyed peace signs, smiley faces and flower-power blooms in neon colors.
Claire Niemann, 15, said she’s a huge fan and can’t wait to see Paul McCartney perform in San Francisco in August. She and her dad have tickets.
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“When she was 10, I told her they were the greatest band ever, of all time. Now she knows more about them than I do,” said Randall Niemann with a grin.
Self-proclaimed ’60s fanatic Rachel Hall came in love beads and a mini-skort. She brought her granddaughters Miqa Davis, 15, and Torey Maravilla, 16. Hall said she’s been a fan since she saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” when she was 14. Her favorite Beatles song, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” is in the “Hard Day’s Night” soundtrack, but her granddaughters’ top tune, “Imagine,” came from John Lennon after the Fab Four broke up.
“They encompass everything. From (the 1963 album) ‘Please, Please Me’ to ‘Abbey Road’ (1969) is quite an evolution,” said Beatles devotee Mark Astorino. He has a collection of 40 well-thumbed books about the group and knows all their nearly 300 songs. His favorite is “Rain” – “the B side of ‘Lady Madonna,’ it’s an obscure little song,” he said.
Lennon wrote the “Hard Day’s Night” title song in a day and it was recorded the next, Astorino said. “Just the stories that go with it,” he said with a nostalgic smile. “I could talk for hours on them.”
“Our entire living room is Beatles. He has the original pins, the action figures,” said wife Dawn Astorino.
Less in love with The Beatles were State Theatre regulars Ray and Faye Thompson, celebrating their 70th year together. Ray Thompson said he watched their Sullivan show debut in 1964 and was not all that impressed.
Neither were the reviewers. The Feb. 24, 1964, issue of Newsweek panned the group. “Visually, they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian/Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically, they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat,” the review began, as quoted on www.edsullivan.com.
The article goes on to complain that the lyrics were “punctuated by nutty shouts of ‘yeah, yeah, yeah!’ ” and it ends predicting the group will fade quickly.
History went the other way, however. The Beatles released the day-in-the-life-of film “A Hard Day’s Night” that same year, which critic Roger Ebert called “one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies.”
The black and white classic was named to Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Movies list in 2010. Compiler Richard Corliss notes the film was composed and shot on the fly. “ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ captures a moment, maybe the last, when rock stars didn’t take themselves seriously and could unaffectedly enjoy the pleasure of being rich (yeah!), famous (yeah!), adored (yeah!),” he wrote.
It was that spirit of fun and freedom that still appeals to everyone, said Mary Hamilton. “I remember dancing around when I was younger, dancing around, acting silly,” she said.
“There’s nobody like them today,” Hamilton said. She loves them ... yeah, yeah, yeah.