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Behind the Whirlwind Rise of Beatlemania In Eight Days a Week

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When the Beatles came to America in 1964, the band and its entourage took over an entire wing on the 12th floor of New York City’s Plaza Hotel, surrounded by screaming fans outside and inundated by reporters and showbiz VIPs inside. Yet even with all that space, the Liverpool lads couldn’t find a place to relax. “We had a floor full of people who wanted a piece of us–a phone call or a signature or this or that,” Ringo Starr tells TIME. “And we ended up in one of the bathrooms–the four of us! That was one of those incredible moments in my life, that we ended up laughing in the toilets just to get a break from the constant [demands] sucking us dry.”

The mania that compelled the rock stars to take such drastic measures is captured in a new Hulu documentary directed by Ron Howard, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week–The Touring Years, which debuts Sept. 17 on the streaming service. Packed with nearly two hours of rarely seen footage and photos–some crowdsourced from fans–the film seeks to answer a critical question: How did four wildly talented young men survive five years in the eye of an unparalleled pop-culture hurricane, and where did they find the wisdom to say it had to stop?

On Aug. 29, 1966, the Fab Four played their last proper concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. When they left the stage after performing Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” they were whisked away in an armored car. Locked in the back with his bandmates, Paul McCartney recalls “quite a little mountain of miserable moments” crystallizing. “God knows whose idea it was,” McCartney says. “The inside was chrome and stainless steel with nothing in it, and so we were sliding around. As we turned the corners, we were going, ‘Oh, goddamn it, what’s going on?’ It was so symbolic.”

“You couldn’t write that,” Howard interjects. “If you put that in a movie, it’d be too much.”

“That was the final straw,” McCartney adds. “Before that one of us or two of us might have been complaining, but it wasn’t all of us. On that moment in the back of that van, it was unanimous.”

–Isaac Guzmán and David Walkama

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