If you’re old enough to remember the JFK assassination, you can certainly remember the first arrival of the Beatles in the United States. They were like nothing ever seen here before and their appearance was one of the first signs of the sea change in American culture we think of as the Sixties.
Though we had seen rock ‘n’ roll sensations before, not even Elvis provoked the excitement and controversy ignited by the Beatles.
They bewildered older adults, annoyed (for awhile) some teen-age boys and generated screaming frenzy in audiences of mostly teenage girls, many of whom were carried away to the point of obsession. The Beatles’ dark-suited, mop-headed look, their catchy romantic songs with tight harmonies and lively beats, and their cleverly humorous remarks to the press gave off an aura of cool that no American band had ever achieved.
Though they were only the first wave of the British invasion, they provided the boomer generation with their most indelible musical memories. Their music became the main soundtrack of adolescence in the Sixties, and as we matured, so did the Beatles––their music growing more broadly themed, sophisticated and darker. And as the calendar flipped over into the Seventies, the group finally, and in many minds tragically, unraveled into four quite disparate careers.
But the boomers held onto their fondness, reverence almost, for the Beatles and passed their affection on to their children and grandchildren. It’s hard to think of any band or individual singer that has maintained such a broad base of listeners or influenced so many other musicians.
In 2003, a drummer, Alan Wagner realized that an audience existed for a truly authentic tribute band and so founded the Cavern Beat, named for the Cavern Club, the basement nightclub in Liverpool, England, from which the Beatles emerged onto the world stage and the important piece of the original band name.
To learn about the group and its story, I first looked at their website and videos. Performances of songs such as “If I Fell,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Love Me Do,” and “All My Loving,” seemed convincing recreations of the Beatles sound and look.
Then I called Armando Regalado, one of the group’s early members, a co-manager, and the one who takes the Paul McCartney part in singing and playing. I asked first how they had found the people to be the band members.
“We were very fortunate that those people came to us,” Regalado said. “It was a gift.” Other members are Jim Irizarry, taking the John Lennon part, and Doug Coutere plays in the George Harrison role. The one who does the drumming only wants to be known as “Eric” since Ringo was mostly just “Ringo,” Regalado told me. Wagner left the group in 2005, but the current members have all been together since then. Phil Gawthrop, the other co-manager, is an “authentic Brit,” and has helped them with the accents.
Regalado said they play all the same period instruments as the Beatles. They use the same designs and materials for the clothing, including the black Chesterfield suits worn in the early days.
When I wondered how they developed a stage presence that so closely echoes the Beatles, Regalado said that he’s asked that a lot. “ Some people study and analyze the movements of the performers. I feel the music and it moves me. We stand on the stage and let the music move us…we look at the old film [of the Beatles], watch it, but we don’t study it closely.” As far as stage positioning: “The Beatles set the standard for the four-piece rock band.”
While the groups origins and Regalado’s preferences are in the early “roots” Beatles work, they can do later songs too, depending on what the client wants, out to Abbey Road. Such songs include “Here Comes the Sun,” “Get Back,” and “Hey Jude,” but their repertoire lists many more. They have the uniforms shown on the cover of the Sargent Pepper album, but Regalado cautions that they cannot duplicate the orchestration and sound effects that color many of the songs on that album.
Performance of the middle and later period Beatles songs comes with the appropriate changes of costume. In available videos of those songs, Jim Irizarry manages an almost-spooky resemblance to John Lennon with long hair and glasses.
The biggest demand is for the early Beatles, and he thinks that’s what they will be doing the most of in Waupun.
As to his background and interest, Regalado said, “I was a child of the Seventies and I grew up listening to the Beatles and doing air guitar. I didn’t imagine that someday I’d be doing those songs on stage for real.”
Cavern Beat is based in northeast Illinois, with two members living in Chicago and the other two farther out. Regalado lives in rural DeKalb County and has a day job teaching history, philosophy and theology at a Catholic high school in Aurora, Illinois. “Your students think it’s pretty cool when they find out you’re a musician.”
The group plays many dates around the Midwest, but they have played all over the United States and in a number of foreign countries, particularly Britain. According to the website, they have played three gigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles themselves played more times than anywhere else in the world. The website (cavernbeat.com) has a number of videos showing the group onstage doing Beatles songs from different points in their career. More are on YouTube. If you have even a whiff of nostalgia for the Beatles, I suggest a look. If you have more than a whiff––or simply like authentically done Sixties music––I suggest being at Celebrate Waupun on July 3.