“Backbeat” Explores the Birth of the Beatles

With the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, audiences have once again discovered the magic of the rock biopic. But you may not have realized that there is a motion picture that chronicles the early days of the greatest musical act of all time, The Beatles,. Set during the band’s nascent days in Hamburg, Germany, Backbeat is an underrated gem from 1994 that focuses on the friendship between John Lennon (Ian Hart) and aspiring artist and original Beatles bass player Stu Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), and chronicles as Sutcliffe’s relationship with German photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). It’s unclear exactly why this film — directed by Iain Softley, whose follow-up, Hackers, is also great fun — didn;t find a larger audience during its initial release. But I’m willing to bet that the fact that it focused on the Lennon/Sutcliffe friendship as opposed to showcasing a larger story about The Beatles left some viewers feeling shortcharged. Yet Backbeat has as much to say about art as it does relationships, and gives some interesting context into the formation of a band that would change the world.

A just-released special edition of the film from Shout Factory will introduce the film to viewers who may have missed it the first time around. The extra features include:
– A Conversation With Astrid Kirchherr
– Deleted Scenes
– Interview With Director Iain Softley And Actor Ian Hart
– Iain Softley Interview For The Sundance Channel
– Audio Commentary With Iain Softley, Ian Hart, And Stephen Dorff
– TV Featurette
– Casting Session

Also worth mentioning is the film’s soundtrack LP. Produced by Don Was, the album won the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. The band featured on the album included members of then-popular grunge and rock outfits including Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Don Fleming (Gumball), Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters). Continuing with it’s soundtrack reissue campaign, UMe reissue this title back on standard weight black vinyl for the first time in years.

Backbeat is a hugely entertaining effort filled with music and joy and drama. Don’t miss it again.