November 10, 2009
by Rick Rogers
Tune in to a radio station that spotlights music of the 1960s and
'70s, and you'll probably hear an occasional Beatles tune. Devote an
entire evening to the Fab Four, as the Oklahoma City Philharmonic did
on its recent collaboration with Beatles tribute band Classical
Mystery Tour, and you begin to understand the profound influence the
Beatles had on the baby boomers' generation.
Classical Mystery Tour's song list spanned 10 years, from 1963's "I
Saw Her Standing There" to 1973's "Live and Let Die." Remarkably, 18
of the spotlighted hits dated from just four years: 1966 to 1969.
Hearing this music in one sitting also illustrated how musically
sophisticated many of the Beatles' songs were.
In "All You Need Is Love," John Lennon and Paul McCartney alternated
between 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, relatively common in classical
music but highly innovative in pop. George Harrison took a similar
approach in "Here Comes the Sun," mixing common time with measures of
3/8 and 5/8. Each song featured a distinct rhythmic hook that captured the ear.
Then there are the Beatles' clever orchestrational touches, from the
use of a string quartet in "Yesterday" to a string octet in "Eleanor
Rigby" and a piccolo trumpet in "Penny Lane." Or the dramatic upward
spiral figure featured in "A Day in the Life." This was clearly no
formulaic approach to songwriting.
Magical Mystery Tour's band members Tony Kishman (McCartney), Jim
Owen (Lennon), John Brosnan (Harrison) and Chris Camilleri (Ringo
Starr) also proved adept at comedy. When Camilleri asked for the
starting note to "Yellow Submarine," Brosnan played the opening
phrase to "Dueling Banjos" instead.
Or when one of McCartney's most famous songs was introduced, Kishman
began singing "Feelings" before switching to "Yesterday." A band
member later asked how many in the audience remembered the decade of
the sixties. "If you remember the '60s, then you're probably in your
'60s," he said disarmingly.
One could witness the passage of time by the outfits worn by Mystery
Tour band members. Starting out in black suits, they later reappeared
in the neon-hued costumes featured on the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band" album. And when Owen returned to the stage to sing
"Something," he sported Lennon's long hair and classic white suit.
Perhaps what sets Classical Mystery Tour apart from other Beatles
tribute bands is their unflagging devotion to musical accuracy.
Vocally, the quartet was solid throughout. Conductor Martin Herman
created most of the orchestral charts, each crafted to showcase the
tribute band's musical stylings while simultaneously creating a rich
The audience roared its approval with a lengthy ovation that prompted
two encores: the classic "Hey Jude," for which band members invited
the audience to sing along during the repeated refrain, and the
lively "Twist and Shout," a 1963 work whose title audience and
orchestra alike took as an invitation to participate.
Each generation has a body of music with which it most strongly
identifies. Baby boomers can lay claim to such classics as "Imagine,"
"Something," "Yesterday" and "The Long and Winding Road." These songs
have reached beyond the terms "popular" and "classic" to become
iconic. Has any generation before or since been quite so lucky?