“Visually they are a nightmare, tight, dandified Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster, guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments…” Newsweek, Feb. 24, 1964
“Don’t let the Beatles bother you. If you don’t think about them, they will go away, and in a few more years they will probably be bald…” — Boston Globe, Feb. 16, 1964
. . .
During the week of 11th April 1964, the Beatles held fourteen positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. This feat would go on to be unmatched for 51 years until 2015 with Drake. It shouldn’t go unmentioned, however, that John, Paul, George, and Ringo have sold 1.6 billion singles in the United States alone. Drake hasn’t sold a tenth of that.
It’s been said a thousand times by a thousand different people, but I’ll say it one more time here: Beatlemania in 1964 was like nothing before or after. So it makes a certain amount of sense that a group of musicians would take up the mantle of preserving that experience for today’s generations.
Enter 1964 the Tribute. Founded in 1984 by Mark Benson and Gary Grimes under a mission to provide the Beatles experience as it was performed when they first crossed the Atlantic, the group has played such fable venues as Carnegie Hall, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Shea Stadium, and all the way across the water at the Cavern in a little town called Liverpool.
After over three decades, the group has been through a few changes. First and foremost, was the the tragic loss of founding member Gary Grimes, who passed away at the age of 60 in 2010 after a long struggle with cancer. Of course, there’s a few minor differences from the original Beatles. None of the band members are anywhere near the ages of the personas they’re playing. The sound equipment is miles and miles better than anything the 60’s had to offer at the time — you can actually hear these guys playing, a feat that was much more difficult to achieve back in the old days. And this incarnation presents their shows typically in 45 minute sets as opposed to the original half hour long playlists.
The current lineup of the aforementioned Benson, Tom Work, Mac Ruffing and Bobby Potter strive to provide as authentic an experience as possible. And critics have raved. They play mostly songs off the early records with a few occasional later songs thrown in. Their fashion echoes those mop topped lads form Liverpool in an exacting fashion. The result is a fascinating mixture of acting and musicianship that leaves old fans awash in the dusky grip of nostalgia while at the same time introducing some of the most important Rock and Roll ever conceived to an entirely new generation.
It’s something to see, to be sure. As the originals are fading a bit more with each passing year, it’s likely the closest you’ll ever get to hearing the Beatles play again in your lifetime. While the band swears they’ll keep on doing it so long as fans keep coming, none of them are getting any younger. Go and you’ll hear some truly classic songs played exactly as they were intended.
Bring your big crush along! Tell her, “I Want to Hold Your Hand!” Build that special story you tell your future kids “I Saw Her Standing There.” Or maybe you already have a special someone but things aren’t quite right. You can groove together knowing that “We Can Work It Out.”
And if it doesn’t actually work out? You can rue the “Hard Day’s Night.” You can tell your buds, ” I Should Have Known Better.” Scream at the sky, “I’m a Loser!” Spend “Eight Days a Week” mourning your lot in life. Until you meet that next special someone, explaining how bad things were, “Til There Was You.” As everything works out and you bask secure in the knowledge that “She Loves You,” yeah, yeah, yeah!
. . .
I can keep this up all day.
Or you can do yourself a favor. Click that link. Get your “Ticket to Ride.”
Step into that time-warp. Travel back to a simpler time.
And meet the Beatles.
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For the full schedule of Portsmouth Pavilion concerts, click here.