Written by Andres Chavez, Sun Contributing Writer
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
The Beatles, arguably the greatest Rock band ever, broke up in 1970.
But their music, and the their fans love for it, has never
diminished. In fact, the Beatles have been rediscovered by the
current crop of high and middle school students who are urging their
parents to put away those, what'ya call them, LPs, and buy the
digitally re-mastered, 21st century CDs so they can have their own
collection. While it's no longer possible to see a live Beatles's
performance, you can come close with a good Tribute Band. One of the
most successful Beatles Tribute bands is Imagine the Beatles Tribute
Band, as anyone who attended the Flower Power Spring time performance
Saturday at Descanso Gardens in La Cresenta can attest.
Organized in 1989 by Neil Burg, who plays Ringo, Imagine the Beatles
Tribute Band successful run is attributable to the care Burg took in
putting the band together. He spent a year and half, interviewing 40
musicians, including some former members of Beatlemania, before he
picked the other members. Burg also took the extra step in creating
the sound. He searched through many small music stores looking for
instruments from the sixties. "It took me a long time to find them,
but I found them that's how particular I was in trying to get the
music to come across as good as it does."
Sporting Beatle's wigs, costumes and a long repertoire of endless
hits, Imagine, the short name Burg uses when referring to the band,
began touring in 1991 and has been a going concern ever since.
Imagine has played all over the United States, in Europe, in the
Caribbean, on cruise ships, for the USO on board the USS Abraham
Lincoln and at an impressive list of private parties including Tom
Hanks, who plugged them on the Tonight Show, Irwin Winkler, the
producer of the Rocky movies, and Goldie Hawn. But they don't play
just for the rich and famous.
They're available for holiday parties, Anniversaries, Bachelor and
Bachelorette Parties, Banquets, BarMitzvahs, BatMitzvahs, basically
anywhere a Beatles Tribute band would fit in. As Burg puts it, "Every
performance is important."
Through the past 18 years the musicians playing John, Paul and George
have changed. Burg is the driving force behind the band. On stage, he
is Ringo. Backstage, he's the agent, the manager, the guy who signs
all the contracts, occasionally even the roadie.
"There are times when I'm so mentally and physically exhausted, it's
hard to catch up."
Currently, in addition to Burg, Imagine is comprised of Alan Berkoff
, who plays John; David Brighton or David Kaufman as George; and Jeff
Pocczynski or Dan Carson as Paul. At Saturday's Descanso Gardens
performance it was David Kaufman and Dan Carson who played. What
struck many who were seeing Imagine for the first time was that they
were not too much younger than the actual surviving Beatles are
today. They are physically older than what one might expect of a
Beatles Tribute band. Burg has no qualms about it. "We're late
forties, early fifties guys who love the music and have a passion to
do it and that's why the show comes off the way it does. We love what
we do and we like to make people happy and we enjoy doing it at the
same time." During the outdoor concert at Descanso Gardens, Burg
joked, "If we play all the hits, we'll be finished sometime tomorrow.'
Burg's love of the Beatles began February 9, 1964 when they appeared
on the Ed Sullivan Show. The next day, there was only one topic of
discussion at his grammar school. "I remember that day in school,
this was in Long Island in New York, and none of the teachers could
keep the kids under control. All we kept talking about was the
Beatles all day. It was a nonstop discussion all day," Burg said.
Burg listened to all of the Beatles music and taught himself the
drums by listening to Ringo and to Mickey Jones, who played drum on
Dylan's albums, the Band, and, Kenny Rogers and First Edition and
especially Jones's work with Trini Lopez.
But Burg's father was in the carpet installation business and he
learned the trade from his father and by working for other companies.
He moved to California and established a successful carpet company.
The work damaged his knee and the doctor said he had to give up
installing carpets, but he could still play the drums.
Burg makes a comfortable living in the Beatle tribute business but
that's not what really drives him. "I feel very privileged to have
the chance in my lifetime to be able to do what I love to do.
Very few people have a chance or opportunity in their lifetime to do
that and I feel blessed that I've had the opportunity to do it this way."
What makes a Beatle Tribute band different from a band simply playing
Beatle tunes is that the Tribute band will recreate the look and
sound of the Beatles.
That means being able to play the simple tunes and their versions of
rock standards from the early period to the more complex songs of
their later period. It also means two to three costume changes,
reflecting the Beatles evolution during the sixties. "We do an hour
and a half show. What we do is not very easy to do. The guys have to
know which harmony to do, who takes what part; they really have to
know what they're doing," Burg said.
Some people look down their noses at Tribute bands, putting them down
as cheap imitations.
To the people who were at Descanso Gardens on Saturday, there was
nothing cheap about the performance by Imagine the Beatles Tribute.
Young children were dancing in front of the stage. Many of the people
were smiling and singing along with the band. Some of the older folks
who were swaying and dancing in the grass field were clearly reliving
the Love-ins of their youth. Burg, as Ringo, was taking it all in. "I
can sit there, play and enjoy looking at the people and watch them
have a good time. The money helps but the feel of it all for me is to
see everyone's smiling faces and seeing them have a good time, that's
the bottom line for me."
You can check out Imagine on line at www.imaginingthebeatles.com