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Fab faux - 'Beatlemania' rocks on

February 01, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When 73 million television viewers tuned in to "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964 to watch the American television debut of a British band called The Beatles, the worldwide phenomenon of Beatlemania was launched.

Forty years later, Beatlemania lives on in several tribute groups that look and sound like the Fab Four.

One of those tribute bands played Saturday night at J. Frank Faust Junior High School in Chambersburg. Beatlemania Now, a Philadelphia-area group, first played together on a cruise ship in South America three years ago. Band members had worked with other Beatles tribute groups, but when they found this combination, they stayed together.

Jon Perry as George Harrison, Ricky Vacca as Paul McCartney, Eric Smith as Ringo Starr and Scot Arch as John Lennon make up Beatlemania Now.

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Their concerts attract all ages of fans, Arch said. "Beatles music is cross-generational," Arch said, and the crowd at Faust Saturday night bore that out.

Almost all 800 seats in the auditorium were filled with teenagers, young families and older couples.

Arch said he has performed all kinds of music, including soul, rhythm and blues and heavy rock.

"When I was doing Beatles music, people said, 'Gee, you sound like John,'" Arch said. "I said, 'Let's do a set.' We got dressed that way, and I combed my hair that way and I realized I could look like him."

And he does, right down to the cheekbones and the way he stands at the microphone with his head back.

Dressing up in narrow-legged dark suits and ties and having silky brown hair with heavy bangs is one thing, but capturing the energy, harmony and mannerisms of the Beatles is quite another.

In their opening numbers, the band members evoked the stiff formality and innocent look of that first Ed Sullivan appearance. They sang, "She Loves You," "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "From Me to You," in which Arch played the harmonica.

Perry said that impersonating a Beatle is "a specialty, vocally and looks-wise. It's a refinement process. You study it. There's always stuff to pick up on. We've watched 'A Hard Day's Night' more times than I can count. We've watched videos and looked at photos."

While band members declined to give their ages, Perry said, "Three of us were not born 'til after the debut, and one of us watched them on TV."

Adding to the authenticity is Vacca's left-handed guitar playing.

While waiting for the concert to begin, Woody Kadel, of Chambersburg, said that he "grew up in that time frame. I remember the girls screaming." His wife, Holly Kadel, said she was a little younger, and she wondered what all the screaming was about.

While the crowd at Faust didn't do much screaming, they clapped to "I Feel Fine," and sang along with "Yellow Submarine."

Kim Anderson, vice-president of the Chambersburg Area Band Promotion Association, said the concert benefits the Chambersburg Area High School and J. Frank Faust Junior High School bands and the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

"I think they're sensational," Bonnie Brown of Shippensburg, Pa., said at intermission. "Just like the Beatles."

Beatlemania Now is scheduled to perform at North Hagerstown High School on March 26.

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