Rockers who thankfully, as far as I know, didn’t run in the videos for their running related songs: Christopher Cross (“Run Like the Wind”), Bob Seger (“Running Against the Wind”), Jefferson Starship (“Runaway”)…
While you ponder the implications of bands on the run, how do you rate the running of The Beatles in the opening clip?
In the Comments for this post, Alexmagic analyzed key running scenes by The Beatles from A Hard Day’s Night. The relevant clips follow. The Magic Man’s comments have been added to this Main Stage post. Take it away, Alex!
Doing my part for the efforts here, I’ve gone back this morning and reviewed the pertinent running sections of A Hard Day’s Night. There are two scenes worth noting: the intro and the Can’t By Me Love interlude/track meet.
During the intro, we see that John has terrible form, running with his arms flailing about wildly. George has an arguably more unorthodox form than John: he runs with his left hand either in his coat pocket, or hovering just outside his coat pocket. I believe, in running circles, they call this a Half Napoleon. Maybe he had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and was afraid they’d fall out. Famously, George trips and takes a header in the intro, wiping out Ringo behind him. Later evidence may suggest that Ringo is lagging by choice here. When we see the three of them making their final run for the train in the intro, Ringo displays a more natural runner’s form, while John continues to flail about. Note here that Ringo passes the other two and gets into the train first.
Paul sits out the first heat but shows up during the “Can’t Buy Me Love” events. Early note: a shot of Ringo barely jumping for comedic effect comes later, but when the Beatles all vault over the pile of junk at the bottom of the fire escape, Ringo displays a natural, almost animalistic pounce.
As they take the field, Paul is down for business, quickly shedding his jacket. Does he feel he has something to prove here, having been forced to miss the first round? In the same moment, John tries to throw off his hat and falls hard on his ass. Paul looks back for a second, spying weakness. Lennon immediately tries to compensate; he takes off for a long run away from the rest and sprints back, his hat now blowing off. About three quarters of the way down, he appears to get winded like Weller would find himself years later. As he runs back, his arms windmill, and he almost does a header face first into the concrete. McCartney strikes back, running at double Lennon’s speed, likely making fun of him as he windmills and does an intentional tumble to the ground. Is this the moment Paul took over as the leader of the band?
Next, the four of them line up for a relay. George and John are in traditional starting stances in the middle, while Paul and Ringo stand at the outsides, probably exchanging smirks. Paul doesn’t run, instead pretending to kill the others with an imaginary starter’s pistol. Ringo outruns the other two, even in fake death.
When we next see them, capering in pairs in the concrete square, Paul and Ringo have paired off again, while John and George are partnered once more. I think we’re seeing evidence of the Varsity and JV Beatles squads.
After they box for a bit, we see a full race. Paul disappoints here, sort of leaping in the back. He’s not going all out, perhaps afraid to lose face to Ringo. John is running at full steam in the lead, but his bad form costs him again, as he tumbles and Ringo is wiped out for a second time. George, having fallen earlier, easily navigates this Beatle bunch-up and sprints ahead for the win.
Next is the jumping competition. Ringo does his hop, having nothing to prove. George and John show considerably better form than Paul during their jumps, as Paul isn’t taking this thing very seriously. It’s a bit disheartening, as he makes a joke of the whole thing by bounding around quite a bit.
My take on the Beatles as runners, based on available evidence: Ringo is by far the best runner, with the surest mix of form and athletic skill, but a questionable drafting strategy. John may be the fastest, but terrible form and surprising clumsiness cost him greatly in the field. George seems to be the worst athlete early on. Evidence on Paul is inconclusive: he shows signs of speed and acrobatic skill, but he’s dogging it intentionally throughout. Conclusion? Paul and Ringo need to race each other in 2009, to determine once and for all which Beatle was the best runner.
The Comments from this post have generated other important analyses, such as Rick Buckler’s use of a hammer in smashing the clock in “Absolute Beginners.” This does change a lot as I re-read my initial analyses.
Regarding my regret over the dearth of videos displaying the running style of Mick Jagger, Shawnkilroy sent in the following clip for review: