Friday, April 07, 2006

Band revolutionizes tributes to the Beatles

Four guys who can remember the Beatles' first performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" spend every night of their working lives trying to recreate that feeling. It's a natural thing, said Tim Piper, 49, who will portray John Lennon in the show "Revolution: The Band That Goes Beyond Beatlemania" on Friday at Jackson Community College's Potter Center. Piper said he's taking advantage of his resemblance to Lennon and a lifelong love for the Beatles' music. "We grew up with it, so I think we kind of understand (the music)," he said. "I just took it into my professional life and made a career out of it." He and the other band members -- his brother, Greg Piper, as George Harrison; Jim Neil as Paul McCartney; and Les Perez as Ringo Starr -- have been part of a number of "tribute bands." Tim Piper said the trend got started in the late 1970s, when "Beatlemania" became a hit on Broadway. "That kind of made everyone realize you can go out and make a living doing this," he said. "I thought, I can do that -- maybe even better." Piper put his own version together and began national tours in the late 1980s, he said. It appeals to both older and younger fans, he said. "For older people, it's a way for them to go back in time, relive moments that they experienced firsthand," he said. "Music does that for people ! it's going to put you back in a place in your history. "For younger people, it's a bit of a history lesson -- a physical way of trying to explain what it was like." Piper said it is difficult for younger people to understand how revolutionary the Beatles were, musically and culturally. "Even my own kid, (he has a 13-year-old son), he's fascinated. ! (But) to see this kind of social and musical change all at the same time, you had to be there. ! They're just not going to get what that meant (when) guys wore crewcuts and girls, god forbid they should wear jeans." What they will get, Piper said, is the music. "I think the great thing about the Beatles, compared to lots of other groups, they had so much range and so much depth," he said. The band takes the audience through the evolution of the Beatles' music, from the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" days to "Rubber Soul" to "Sgt. Pepper" and beyond. But, Piper said, the group tries to do more than get the notes and costumes right. "I think the reason we're popular in what we do, I really believe in my heart we put across the spirit of the group," he said.
Piper considers himself a Beatles historian. "I've got every book and every film," he said. He's met Lennon's sons, Julian and Sean, as well as McCartney and Starr. "It's a great gift to be able to have your hobby, something you would do anyway, be your vocation," he said.


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