Photo Courtesy of Berkshire Community College
The Beatlemania Stage Show performs a benefit at Berkshire Community College April 5.
Spring brings a resurgence by bugs of all sorts; ants start poking their heads out of the soil and bees begin buzzing, and just last week Advocate editor-in-chief Tom Vannah reported finding ticks on his family’s new puppy. Much as we adore or despise such familiar harbingers of warm weather, there is another resurgent insect this season in the Pioneer Valley, and it’s one that everybody generally loves: Beatles.
The Fab Four have long been a deeply embedded artery in the collective unconscious, largely due to their sheer awesomeness as musicians, songwriters, humorous personalities, artists, film actors and producers, and agitators of the status quo. Even though the lads from Liverpool have been repackaged and resold more times than Mickey Mouse or The Wizard of Oz, there’s something that remains so darn earnest and genuine about their music and their story that they remain both the headliner on the soundtrack for the West’s short-lived cultural revolution and poster children for some rags-to-riches vision akin to “The American Dream.” They serve, as needed, as a lesson in everything from Marxist politics to mega-marketing to the hazards of fame and fortune, and have also been mutated into deeper metaphors by everyone from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to Charles Manson. For almost anyone working as a successful contemporary pop performer or songwriter. it’s tough to deny being strongly influenced by their music.
Rejoice, then, Beatlemaniacs, for April is awash in all things Beatle-icious in the Pioneer Valley. For starters, there is an ongoing exhibition at the Springfield Museums called The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes, which features photographs by renowned CBS television and Life magazine photographer Bill Eppridge. Eppridge’s photos depict intimate moments during the height of Beatlemania in 1964, including rare peeks at the band backstage at the legendary Ed Sullivan Show taping and inside their suites at the Plaza Hotel, as well as images from their first landing in America at JFK airport and on the road during their first U.S. tour.
Eppridge, who is also lauded for iconic imagery from the 1960s, including coverage of major civil rights events, the Ku Klux Klan and the Bobby Kennedy assassination, gives a talk about his storied career at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts on April 21 at 2 p.m.
In a tribute to the same, more innocent Beatles era wherein the songs reflect the band’s only just having climbed on to the roller coaster that would fling them around for the rest of their lives, The Fab Faux performs A Hard Day’s Night in its entirety at Northampton’s Calvin Theater. The New York-based Beatles tribute act is not known for costumes or wigs, like many before it, but the music is so precisely, impeccably replicated that if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine yourself being at a Beatles concert in 1964 (though you may have to dub the screams of swooning teenage girls into your fantasy).
The Faux, made up of top-notch musicians including longtime members of late-night TV bands such as bassist Will Lee (Late Show with David Letterman) and bandleader/multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Vivino (Conan), have charmed and haunted even the most cynical ears with their almost eerie recreations, including those of Rolling Stone editor David Fricke and shock-jock Howard Stern. A Hard Day’s Night, released in 1964, ultimately served as the soundtrack for director Richard Lester’s classic film of the same name, which Time magazine listed among its 100 all-time great films. (Now if only they could do the live show in black and white).
If you’re more visually minded and need your Beatles to look like, well, the Beatles, you can catch the nationally touring production of the Beatlemania Stage Show. These particular Neo-Beatles have made a serious investment in vestments, clothing themselves in costumery from every era of the group’s existence, from suits to sandals to intricately embroidered Sgt. Pepper’s outfits. The BSS performs this week at Berkshire Community College in a benefit concert for the Pittsfield High School Music Department, so if you’re in the far western part of the state and would like your Beatle dollar to go to a good (and musical) cause, this might be the ticket for you.
For detail-obsessed, musicology-minded Advocate readers—or even just fans of the latter-era Beatles— Amherst Cinema presents a live multimedia lecture by Beatles scholar Scott Freiman titled Looking Through a Glass Onion: Deconstructing The Beatles’ White Album. Freiman, a composer/producer and sound designer/engineer with many film and television credits, taught a course on the Beatles at Yale University during the fall 2012 semester. His lecture includes tracing the evolution of each song from its original demo form to the final, released version, and is augmented by a collection of rare and engaging audio and video segments that show the band at work in the studio.
The White Album (1968), the first album released on The Beatles’ own fledgling Apple Records label (its actual name is The Beatles), was a 30-song double album whose material spanned nearly every style of music from country (“Rocky Raccoon”) to ragtime (“Honey Pie”) to hard rock (“Helter Skelter”) to raw psychedelic soundscaping (“Revolution 9”). The album reveals both a vastly increased depth of songwriting that includes George Harrison’s Orwellian socio-economic analogy “Piggies” and John Lennon’s hardening cynicism about previous beliefs in spiritual gurus like the Maharishi (“Sexy Sadie”).
Many of the songs were written in India, and the timing of its recording and release, concurrent with events like many of the band members quitting and the introduction of Yoko Ono as a major influence on Lennon, has caused many rock historians to point to the period as the beginning of the end of the reign of the world’s most sensational pop group. The album also featured guest musicians including guitarist Eric Clapton, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins (who mainly played with the Rolling Stones) and Canadian jazz fiddler Jack Fallon. There will be two presentations of Frieman’s lecture, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 4.
Lastl, but perhaps most whimsically and pleasing to the imagination, is a piece of art that can’t help but grab the Beatles-lover’s eye. Though titled “Monster from the Deep” and clearly not officially Beatle-related, sculptor Peter Waite’s own yellow submarine is obviously inspired by Peter Max-style psychedelic art and the animated film that turned the lads into cartoons, as close-up inspection reveals (see previous page). Waite, whose other sculptures tend to be constructed using equally cool post-apocalyptic architecture themes, has his work on display this month at Holyoke’s Wistariahurst Museum, as part of the REACH multi-city arts exhibition.•
The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes: Through June 2, $8-15 (covers four-museum admission), D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield Museums Quadrangle, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, (413) 263-6800, www.springfieldmuseums.org.
Photographer Bill Eppridge Talk: April 21, 2 p.m.
Looking Through a Glass Onion: Deconstructing The Beatles’ White Album. April 4, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., $15-20, Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Amherst, (413) 253-2547, www.amherstcinema.org.
The Beatlemania Stage Show: April 5, 7:30 p.m., $25-45, Robert Boland Theater, Berkshire Community College, 1300 West St., Pittsfield, (413) 499-4660, www.purplepass.com.
The Fab Faux performing A Hard Day’s Night, April 6, 8 p.m., $35-85, The Calvin Theater, 19 King St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com.
Peter Waite/Reach Exhibition: April 6-May 20, Wistariahurst Museum, 238 Cabot Street Holyoke, (413) 322-5660, www.wistariahurst.org.