If, after catching up on Beatles history with "Good Ol' Freda," fans want a chance to come together and see The Beatles, they will have the next best opportunity at the Beatwater tribute band performance June 27 and June 28.
Adding verisimilitude to the June 27 performance will be the presence on stage of Johnny Dark, who emceed The Beatles' only Baltimore performances in 1964. In addition to emceeing the concert, Dark will share some stories of his time with the band. Dark said even though it's been 50 years, the memories are still as fresh today as they were then.
"The music business has always been ripe with hype. When they came along you figured, son-of-a-gun, they'll have three or four hits and then disappear. That obviously didn't happen," said Dark, a disc jockey at Westminster radio station WTTR.
"Back then, the only thing you could take a picture with was a camera with a flashbulb, and when the house lights came down and I went on stage, it was just like the lights had been turned on, and the screaming continued to the point where it was difficult to hear the band."
Beatwater, based in Maryland, aims to match the look and sound of The Beatles in their early years, recreating their presence as it existed up through 1966's "Revolver." Pete Cage, who plays guitar as George Harrison, said if they were to try and tackle their more experimental later albums, it would require a larger outfit.
"Even The Beatles didn't perform live as much after that," Cage said. "With just four guys, we'd have to add keyboards and a whole 'nother level of complexity."
Together with John Banner as John Lennon, Jim Miller as Paul McCartney and A.J. DeFeo as Ringo Starr, Cage works to recreate the experience of seeing the band live as much as possible. DeFeo said catching The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" changed his life.
"I remember distinctly watching that when I was in kindergarten," DeFeo said. "I came to school the next day with my hair in bangs. They sent me home. I've been a rabid fan ever since."
The group takes its mission seriously. Cage said the group studies old concert footage and bootlegs to dissect the sound of each individual part, as well as to accurately capture the looks and movement of the group. In order to emulate Paul McCartney, Miller had to teach himself to play guitar left-handed, and DeFeo said he has been working on capturing the way Ringo shakes his head while performing.
Cage said the biggest challenge is living up to people's expectations of what many consider to be the greatest rock band of all time.
"There's a huge pressure. Everybody knows all of these songs. That's a catalog that stands the test of time. Every piece, somebody out there knows exactly how it ought to go," Cage said. "After years of playing, I'll still put an album on the stereo and catch something I've never heard before."
Though he said he loves all of The Beatles' band members, Cage said performing as George has created an added appreciation for the guitarist.
"He doesn't do anything that's formulaic. He really did craft the parts and solos and things for the songs," Cage said. "He was very tasteful for what he created. The other tough thing about being George is that Lennon and McCartney would create this two-part harmony that's locked in, and they would give George the third part — the weird part — that added some spice to it."
One of the most exciting parts of performing, DeFeo said, was seeing the way multiple generations respond to the music.
"You do a show, and you see people who were originally there and you see kids who are 5 and 6 and they're all enjoying the music together," DeFeo said. "Seeing this music transcend generations is something special."
Cage said the reason he believes the band has survived for so many years relates solely to the quality of the music.
"It's really, really well-written," Cage said. "Lennon and McCartney and Harrison will go down in history as one of the greatest teams. I remember hearing an interview with McCartney, and he said one of the things he was most proud of was that the message of the music was always love and peace. He said they could have used their music to say a lot of things, but he felt good about that because it's such an enduring positive message."