Jewish World Review March 9, 2001 / 14 Adar, 5761
She wouldn't dance with another ... well, yes, she would
ORLANDO | The woman was, by appearances,
in her middle- to late-30s; she was moving to the
music like a teenager. Yet her hand was cupped
to the side of her face, as if she was suffering
from an earache. The hand was moving -- like a
hand working at needlepoint.
This wasn't needlepoint, though -- it was something more mundane. And the
Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Every time I am in central Florida, I try
my best to go see the fake Beatles. The fake Beatles -- they are called the
British Invasion -- play in the Epcot area of Walt Disney World, the part that
is supposed to replicate the Earth itself. Except you can walk from Japan to
Italy to Germany to Canada. ...
Anyway, the fake Beatles play in a courtyard behind the England part of the
fake world. They're real -- they may be fake Beatles, but they're real men,
they're not animatrons, or whatever you call those things in the Pirates of the
Caribbean ride -- and they play four or five times an evening, for only 20
minutes or so per set; some unseen boss is watching the clock.
The fake Beatles change from season to season; if you look closely you can
see there's a turnover from year to year, or even month to month. But --
although it's blasphemy to say it -- they may sound better than the real
Beatles sounded in concert in 1964. The equipment is superior, they don't
have to compete with screams, they can hear each other -- the fake Beatles
are an unremitting delight.
The real Beatles are very much back in the news these days, with their
compilation of No. 1 singles having sold something in excess of 20 million
CDs worldwide. Their photos-and-words book also went to No. 1 at
Christmastime, but the book inadvertently demonstrated something curious
about the Beatles -- actually a couple of things:
First, not much they ever said was particularly interesting. If you're seeking in
their spoken words the secret of their lasting power, it's not there. Paul
McCartney can tell the story of how the working title of "Yesterday" was
"Scrambled Eggs" a million times (and he has), and it's still not illuminating; but
play those first four seconds of "Yesterday" today -- the echo of the acoustic
strings, the chilling timbre of his young voice -- and you know again that what
those four men did required no linear explanation. Everything good --
everything thrilling, everything that can still make you cry or laugh out loud --
was in the songs themselves.
The other thing the book demonstrated is that these guys seemed to have
spent at least half their time posing for pictures. Flailing their arms about,
leaning their heads into each others', jumping, letting their mouths droop sadly
at a photographer's command -- they must have been quite pliant lads. Not
only did they write, in a big hurry, all that great music -- but they were
constantly being interrupted and asked to stand near bus stops or atop
buildings, beaming or leaping for that never-the-last One More Shot.
But back to Walt Disney World, and the fake Beatles. How good were the
real ones? So good that this carbon copy of a carbon copy, which you would
think might be bland beyond bland, silly, vanilla, hopelessly embarrassing,
always manages to be none of those things. The fake Beatles are genuine
singers and genuine guitar players, and their set lists -- "We Can Work It
Out," "Eight Days a Week," "She Loves You," "Day Tripper," "Help!" --
literally stop traffic. Granted, it's unlikely traffic -- foot traffic en route from
fake Norway to fake China -- but the sounds of those chords serve as
invisible electrical shocks. The people halt in their tracks, and even those who
weren't born at the time of the real singers become instantly younger and a
little more alive. They move toward the guitars.
Which brings us back to the woman with the dancing feet and the hand to her
ear. She glanced over toward her husband, standing near the bandstand
where the fake Beatles were playing; she gave him a sheepish look. He was
watching over their children. And her? She was checking her voice mail back
home. That's what her hand was working at -- the cell phone pressed to her
ear. A wife and mother, she was dancing like a kid, because the fake Beatles
were well into "I Saw Her Standing There." Her feet bounced, her face
grinned and glowed, she hit the prompts on the phone and listened to the
real-world messages even as the music sounded. And the way she looked
was way beyond
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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