I just watched a Beatles tribute show by a band called The Beatles Experience. It’s hard to judge how good a tribute band is when they are playing such music. Even the worst karaoke performer can get the everyone joining in with Hey Jude, and it takes really bad audience not to at least shake it up a little when they hear the a band knock out twist and shout. I don’t want to compare The Beatles Experience to a karaoke set, they were way better than that, but there’s no doubt that it’s the material that is the real strength, and the real attraction.
So that made me think: what would be the “greatest” tribute band be like? Would dressing and looking exactly like the Beatles do the job? How about playing every song note for note, perfectly?
Here’s my outline for the ultimate Beatle’s tribute experiment. I’ll call them the Real Time Beatles.
- Get four guys, all about the right age.
- Make sure they don’t know too much about the Beatles, but immerse them in popular music from the 50’s.
- Make them play together in a club in Germany for years, but only other people’s music.
- After enough time, let them learn and play only the very first Beatles songs.
- We know when the Beatles wrote each song, and when they performed them for the first time. Only let the Real Time Beatles learn those songs after the correct time has passed since the previous song.
- Over the years, they learn and perform only the songs that the Beatles knew and played at the same point in the band’s career.
- I’m sure we have the set lists from many of their concerts, so the Real Time Beatles can play those same sets on the correct dates.
- They have to change their hair and clothes to fit with photos of the band at the time.
One of the main reasons the Beatles stopped doing live shows was that they became too popular. The screaming fans would scream so loud they couldn’t hear the music, and the band on stage couldn’t hear the music either. But the Real Time Beatles won’t have that same problem! They can keep doing live shows, but incorporate the material from the Beatles albums that was never performed live.
And then, at the moment that the Real Time Beatles reach the point where the Beatles split up, keep the band together. At this point they will be some of the most knowledgable authorities on the Beatles music, having learned every song in order, and progressed as musicians to fit the mould these songs have provided. We can then feed in music from the solo careers of the Beatles.
At this point they can start writing and performing their own music.
Will the music be any good? No idea. The experiment is one of nurture over nature, with four random musicians who live the same musical lives as the most popular band of the century. It would be a fake continuation of a band who played the same music, but without the fame and accolades. At least the music would be interesting. Right?
Mainly I like the idea of the commercial interest in the Real Time Beatles. If you book them in the first year, the set list would be limited. “Can you do this and this and this?” “No, sorry, we’ve not released Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band yet.”
And if you want to book them for a certain date, they would turn up with a pre-selected set list and outfits. “Yeah, sorry, I know you want us to do these other songs, but this is the date of our Mets stadium show.”
“Look, we’d love to a gig next weekend, but we’ll have to do it without George. He’s going to be unconscious in a drugs haze.”
“If you want us to perform Long and Winding Road, you’re going to have to book us again in three years.”
“The Frog Song? Are you high?”
It would be cool to set up some famous photo shoots too. A recreation of Sargent Pepper’s album cover, but with different famous people as cardboard cutouts. Abbey Road zebra crossing walk. That would be fun.
Or maybe all this is only interesting in my head. Such things normally are.
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