“It was twenty years ago today, Sgt Pepper taught the band to play.”
One of the saving graces of long haul driving in America is the “just in time” appearance on the radio dial of National Public Radio stations. Thanks to the wonderfully American practice of public pork for all, just about every swath of the country is covered by a federally funded Public Radio Station (in some areas 2, 3 or more). As I was coming into Hannibal last Friday, one of the afternoon shows was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the American release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…arguably the greatest music “album” ever produced. This paticular feature covered the “covers” of songs from the album included Joe Cocker’s classic rendition of “With a Little Help” and gratefully excluded anything done by the Brothers Gibb.
Last night these songs, and many from the earlier releases of the Fab Four (plus 1 or 2 or 3 folks as needed) came back to me at a charming evening of 60’s TV entertainment a la the Ed Sullivan Show. My sister, the other socially conscious member of the family, has been active with Indy Civic Theatre as a stage door Mom, a volunteer, and, last night, as the Event Chairman for the Theatre’s “Really Big Shooooow Two” fund raiser. Tickets were appropriately pricey so…I sat at the sponsor’s table! I’m a veteran of many a fund raising fete (for HIV/AIDS, Hearts, Livers, Housing…) and this one was high end and top notch. The local talent was, for sure, a mix of skills and professionalism but the impersonation of the Supremes, Tommy Dorsey, and Patsy Cline were stand up quality. And the magical transformation of a well-meaning but intentially inept wizard named Faustino and fur-wrapped Liberace into a history challenging vesion of Elton John doing “Crocodile Rock” would have sufficed for a great show well worth the ticket. But the organizers, my sister of course included at the top of the list, would only be statisfied with something akin to raising the dead…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, please welcome back…The Beatles!!!” (I’ll figure how to insert .wav files one of these days so just add your own screams.)
Liverpool Legends, now a main stage act on Branson MO, did three sets throughout the show as the Lads from Liverpool. One of the best “tribute bands,” the Legends had the clothes (both early sixties black suits, skinny ties, and bobbed hair to Peter Max inspired color explosions of the later part of the psychy decade of drugs, sex, more drugs, and…music as only the Beatles could conceive of it.).
The boys are seasoned impesonators and performers. All were excellent musicians in their own right (no lip synching here. They even had they’re own extra musicians to cover for Billie Preston and Eric Clapton for the selections from post-Pepper albums). From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the finale of “Hey Jude,” the lads stayed in character while still inviting all of their fellow Sulivan era performers to join in Paul’s tribute to John’s first son, Julian.
Paul, along with the other Beatles, stayed for the aftershow desert fest and mingled with the crowd. From just a few minutes with him after the show, and a genuine handshake, it was evident that the group truly enjoyed what they were doing but seemed to have a real sense that they were the luckies 4 guys in the world. While they didn’t write the songs or made them hits, they have gotten to perform them for new audiences that were denied the Beatles by fame, age, the economics of the music business, and, sadly, psychotic fans. How much would the Boys have given for one last night at the Cavern or a Hamburg club?
I, however, was just thrilled to have one short evening with their dopplegangers. My sister’s car will probably get a wash out of this 😉