The hyperbole surrounding the opening of the Golden 1 Center will reach a climax on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Paul McCartney, arguably the world’s biggest rock star (Mr. Springsteen, you’ll stand down for this moment, won’t you?) will christen the state-of-art venue with two highly anticipated sold-out concerts.
McCartney, 74, needs little introduction; calling his catalog of achievements “imposing” barely approaches his significance. Much of his gravitas comes from being a member of the Beatles and co-composer and co-lead voice of their genre-defining songbook.
To gently refresh your memory, the Beatles are the best-selling music artists in the United States, having sold 178 million certified units. With McCartney, co-composer and vocalist John Lennon, guitarist and songwriter George Harrison, and drummer Ringo Starr, the Beatles were active between 1960 and 1970 and recorded 12 original studio albums from 1963 to 1970. The band had more No. 1 albums on the British charts and sold more singles in Britain than any other act. It owns a record 20 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s all-time Hot 100 chart. The Beatles account for three of the top five albums in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of all time: 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (No. 1); 1966’s “Revolver” (No. 3) and 1965’s “Rubber Soul” (No. 5).
McCartney’s Beatles song “Yesterday” has been recorded more than 2,200 times. His post-Beatles band Wings released “Mull of Kintyre,” one of the all-time best-selling singles in Britain. A 21-time Grammy Award winner, McCartney wrote or co-wrote 32 songs that reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Those are just numbers, though.
The Beatles’ global cultural impact may never be exceeded simply because of how much they dominated worldwide consciousness when they were a performing band. Beyond era-defining music, the Beatles with their clothes, movies and cheeky engaging public personas changed the world.
McCartney has remarkably forged a Hall of Fame career beyond the Fab Four, and his live performances justly celebrate that legacy and the considerable body of work he has created since.
McCartney’s Wings, formed with his late wife, Linda Eastman, and guitarist Denny Laine, also lasted a decade, and McCartney has had a solo career lasting twice as long as either band.
McCartney has been a road warrior most of his professional life. While touring is now incredibly different from the early Hamburg residency days or even the Beatles stadium tours, the road is the road, and he doesn’t have to do it.
There was time when he distanced himself from the Beatles legacy, but the band’s music makes up over half of the expansive set list on his current One On One Tour.
When the Beatles stopped touring, they had logged 166 concerts in 15 countries and 90 cities. Their final concert took place Aug. 29, 1966, in San Francisco at Candlestick Park. That performance came as the pressures of constant touring, recording and simply being Beatles had exhausted the four members of the band. The band gave one more performance, on Jan. 30, 1969, with keyboardist Billy Preston, on the roof of their Apple Corps offices at 3 Savile Row. For 42 minutes they played nine versions of five songs, which appear on their second-to-last album, “Let It Be.”
That giddy last performance works as an oddly bright coda to Ron Howard’s just-released documentary film called “8 Days A Week: The Touring Years.” The film focuses on the early Beatle years – 1962 through 1966 – and features new interviews with McCartney and Starr, along with archival news conferences and interviews with Lennon and Harrison. There is also newly released material from Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison.
Released in theaters for a day and available on the streaming service Hulu, the film serves as both fascinating cultural anthropology and functional primer for McCartney’s upcoming concerts, which will unwrap Golden 1.
Made for both longtime and newbie Beatles fans, the film offers fascinating details about the group, to which public access was astonishingly available:
They played a lot of music before they ever recorded an album. They gigged hard and long. The tough, tight-knit live band they eventually became evolved from slogging through endless nights at the Cavern Club in Liverpool and the marathon residency sessions in Hamburg. All that paid off at the end of their live-performance careers.
When playing stadiums through rustic equipment, often a hundred yards from the 20,000 screaming fans, they couldn’t really hear a thing. Still, for the most part, when they bounded onto the haven of the performing stage, they could do what they’d been doing all along – play some rock ’n’ roll songs.
They trusted and relied on each other. They made group decisions, and everyone had to be on board with whatever it might be before they went forward. Unanimously they insisted on not playing segregated venues, and had that written into their contracts.
Beatlemania was a real thing, and we have never seen anything close to it since. The phenomenon was worldwide. The weight became unbearable, but in beginning, they bore it with wit and equanimity, often in the face of a disapproving press, which vocally wondered how they’d react when the bubble inevitably burst.
Manager Brian Epstein was in many ways the fifth Beatle. He launched them to next level and then the level beyond that. Epstein turned them from rockers in leather jackets and pompadours into pop stars with suits and smiles. His death in 1967 was the beginning of the end for the band. along with everything else that was happening to them.
McCartney was always very proud of the songs. They evolved from teenage concerns to appropriately adult ideas, and obviously the body of work endures.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 4-5
Where: Golden 1 Center, 547 L St., Sacramento
Cost: The concerts are sold out