Bringing the Fab Four to SJ
By Chuck Darrow

For quite some time, it’s been impossible to swing a Hofner violin-shaped bass guitar without hitting the members of some Beatles tribute act or another. But in that show business subset, few have been as successful as Beatlemania Now.

Led by founder Scott Arch, who performs as John Lennon, Beatlemania Now has performed for audiences from coast-to-coast, as well as in Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Panama. Next month, the group will perform at a fundraiser for the Voorhees Theatre Company at Voorhees Middle School.

As was the case with so many baby boomer musicians – including such giants as Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel – Arch’s life was changed forever the night of February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“I do remember where I was and who I was with,” says Arch, making him one of countless people who, almost a half-century later, remember the details of that historic evening. “That’s what made me want to play the guitar and be a musician – watching The Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ I was absolutely awestruck.”

Unknown-2That telecast, he adds, was all he needed to create his onstage persona. “When we’re doing the show,” he says, “people say, ‘Gee you must have studied a long time, you must have studied all their movements and characteristics.’ But you know what? I didn’t have to study. Just from watching The Beatles that first time,

I sucked up the whole thing. I could do the movements from all four of The Beatles just from watching that show.”

That knowledge obviously worked in Arch’s favor when, in the early 1980s, he became a cast member – portraying Lennon – in the touring version of “Beatlemania” which, in the latter half of the 1970s, had ushered in the era of the rock ’n’ roll tribute musical.

Although Arch’s memory is somewhat hazy when it comes to chronology, he puts his “Beatlemania” debut in the early 1980s. At the end of the decade, he sensed there would be a demand for more than one Fab Four homage and assembled his own Beatles presentation. Originally, he was joined by veterans of “Beatlemania’s” New York run, but after a few years, that was no longer a viable option.

“As the years went on,” he recalls, “a lot of those guys got somewhat out of shape. From there I recruited younger people.” Among those who currently share the stage with Arch is bassist Graham Alexander, a Camden County resident who is right-handed, but learned to play bass left-handed (as does Paul McCartney) for the sake of accuracy.

“Thank goodness I have good genes and I still look young even though I’m not,” laughs Arch. “I’ve been able to keep my weight down. I still look good enough up there onstage. The other three around me are younger guys, and I guess that’s the way it should be.”

Interestingly, Arch, while always a major Beatles fan, was never particularly partial to Lennon. “I wouldn’t say John was my favorite,” he says. “Maybe Paul was my favorite. I don’t know. However, with my hair done properly and the right clothes, I look like John. So naturally, that’s who I am in the group.”

SCOT_-_REUNION_7Arch would find himself doing something else the roughly 200 nights a year he performs with Beatlemania Now if the music he and his band mates so meticulously recreate hadn’t resonated with so many people across the decades.

“I think The Beatles’ music is as close as you can possibly get to pleasing all the people all the time,” he says. “The music has been handed down from generation to generation. I was 9 in 1964. The teenagers of that period were really the group’s core audience, and their parents didn’t really like The Beatles, because they had long hair. They would say, ‘They’ll never last. They’ll never last.’

“But each generation passes it on to the younger generations – younger brothers, sisters, kids. Eventually, our parents got over the long hair, and they liked The Beatles. I know mine did.”

That may explain how The Beatles have transcended time. Arch is, however, at a loss to explain why the music of the lads from Liverpool continues to appeal to people of all ages. As he points out, Beatlemania Now doesn’t just play to the AARP set.

“I have no idea,” he says. “That’s something I have to admit I never considered.

I have always considered that they changed a generation. When you talk about the ’60s, you’re really talking about The Beatles. The Beatles influenced the ’60s in such a great way – their clothing, their political beliefs, getting high, all these kind of things.”

If you plan to check out Beatlemania Now, you are guaranteed to hear a couple dozen or so of the band’s signature songs, from the “Mop Top” era of “She Loves You,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout” to the latter days of The Beatles’ career, which yielded such classics as “Here Comes the Sun,” “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.” What you probably won’t hear are lesser-known tunes. That, explains Arch, is the customers’ choice, not his.

“Unfortunately, on some occasions we tried stuff, some really obscure things, and they didn’t go over well,” he says. “We tried ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ once, and the audience response was, ‘What the heck is this?’

“There are times when we definitely would like to stretch out. We constantly rewrite the show. There are certain songs you just can’t get away from. Not that I’d like to get away from them, it’s just that I’d like to play a whole lot longer and include many more songs. But you know, too much of a good thing is too much. You wouldn’t want to be standing up there for five, six, 10 hours.”

Beatlemania Now performs at 8 pm on January 12 at the Voorhees Middle School. Admission is $42 and $32. For tickets and info, visit Members of Beatlemania Now meticulously recreate the music and stage presence of the Fab Four during hundreds of shows each year.

December 2012
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