Four Really Bad Beatles Tributes on TV and Why the Stars Shouldn’t Do Them

sgtpeppepIf you were to check YouTube right now, you would find plenty of videos of  Beatles cover bands. That’s all well and good, totally understood. It probably gets you easy paying gigs at parties and local concerts if you’re a struggling musician.

However, if you’re already a star, covering the Beatles–under certain circumstances–is probably not a good idea, even if you’ve had hit remakes of them. It’s probably a zero-sum gain for the well-known. I’ve culled up four examples of “tributes” that end up being anything but, along with the reasons why they’re misguided.

1. You’ll always be reminded you’re not the Beatles nor will you be close.

At the 46th Grammys show, the Fab Four was “honored” by the talents of Sting, Dave Matthews, Vince Gill and Pharrell Williams. Never mind the flubbed title line by Matthews (“I saw her dancing there”) and never mind the fact that they do a decent job covering it. The problem is trying to recreate the ambiance of the Beatles’ debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. It’s bad enough to position the performers almost exactly how they would have appeared back then (making those guys look like the touring cast of Beatlemani), but adding the pictures and constant running videos of the real Beatles as wallpaper is a reminder of the ultimate unattainable goal.

2. It’s easy to be lazy and uninspired staging a Beatles tribute.

The following is a clip from what some have written is the worst Beatles tribute ever. (I have my own choice I’m saving for last) Watching it gave me the distinct feeling the makers of the TV special “Beatles Forever” cared more about having the audience sitting around in the world’s largest living room (a few bongs scattered about would have been a nice touch).  It starts out nicely with Ray Charles, but then quickly takes the steep drop as Tony Randall, Paul Williams, Mel Tillis, Diahann Carroll, Anthony Newley and Bernadette Peters take their shots. All sitting down? Really? Hey, folks will pay attention, they’re Beatles tunes.The most somnambulistic Beatles medley ever.

3.  Staging the productions can be left to people who have no idea what The Beatles were about

On Cher’s variety show, Tina Turner (a Beatles remake hit maker) and Kate Smith joined her for a medley of the Mersey boys’ beats. Not really a bad idea, although Smith looks a little lost during some of it. What really sinks this is the garishness  of it all: Bob Mackie gowns, tinsels, rainbows, Sgt. Pepper’s outfits. The Beatles reflected the consciousness of a generation, but here the songs become fodder for a show coming to Las Vegas. Thank goodness Tim Conway pops in a couple of times to parody the production.

4. The production can be handed to someone who tries to be as experimental as The Fab Four and fails miserably

Dear readers, what follows is the rock bottom worst Beatles tribute ever shown on television. It was presented by Rolling Stone Magazine, which I assume never gave a shit about the group to produce this outrage. Ted Neely (Jesus from “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and Patti LaBelle (who sounds awful here) are part of a crew stuck in what looks like a combination of bad TV variety, very cheap and asinine Off-Off-Broadway experimental theater and self- parody. This is especially true when singers show up in a White House setting dressed in Nixon and Kissinger costumes (!). The great Richie Havens and Yvonne Elliman provide some much needed sanity, but they can’t stop the eventual onslaught, some of which has a (I think, unintentional) Rocky Horror feel to it. You won’t believe your eyes and ears.

All I am saying is –give it a rest.


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