I heard the news today, Oh Boy: Oasis, the world’s 4th best Beatles cover band, have split up. Words cannot accurately express how totally underwhelmed I am to hear that. The Gallagher brothers will perform no more together on stage or in the studio, with Noel, or is it Liam, citing irreconcilable differences with his brother Liam, or is it Noel? Expect to see fans crying all over Manchester, floral tributes outside their posh London homes (do they still live down here? dunno, don’t care) and the Man City players wearing black armbands in memory of the gruesome twosome. The brothers will presumably continue to support their beloved City from their seats at opposite ends of the ground, presumably so they don’t have to hear each other’s voice as they sing “who’s the bastard in the black?” Personally I’d want to be a lot further away than 150 yards from either of these two once they start warbling. My kids were in the crowd at the recent V Festival when Oasis decided not to show up to headline the gig. My girls were mortified, though if I’d have known they weren’t going to play I’d have bought a ticket myself.
Nearly 100 years ago two miserable bastards, Burke and Hare stole bodies and went on a two-year rampage of murder, selling the corpses of their victims to the medical profession. When they were found out, Hare confessed all and shopped his partner Burke thus escaping the gallows. Since 1991 these mono-browed Mancunian Brothers Grimm have plied their own miserable trade, stealing ideas and murdering songs, selling the corpses to gullible children, teenagers and, worse, adults. Liam may well shop Noel, or vice versa, but let’s hope no amount of clemency is shown for their crimes against my inner ear. If you’re gonna copy another band, at least have the good grace to look like you’re having fun spending our money and have the courage to admit you haven’t an original idea in your head. Even off-stage, walking around with a face like a slapped arse, flashing V-signs and flipping the bird at all and sundry is hardly ground-breaking rock-n-roll behaviour. The charm of a Panzer division, the wit of Margaret Thatcher.
In the next few weeks magazines and newspapers will be full of features and specials on The Beatles as the AppleCorp machine churns out the re-digitalized versions of the Fab Four’s back catalogue. This will be another chance to fork out several of your hard-earned Quids, Bucks, Yuans or Euros on The White Album or Sergeant Pepper. For those of us who have previously bought these on vinyl, cassette (cartridge anyone?) ,and cd (twice, but that’s divorce for you) it’s a tough ask to splash out all over again, but don’t think that this will be the last time you’re asked to make that call. For starters, this latest issue comes in a choice of stereo or ‘original’ mono versions ( a mate at work has already stated he’s gonna buy both), and further down the line they will be uploaded onto itunes. What a staggering franchise it is. I guess it will help Mr McCartney’s keep up with his alimony payments.
The Beatles industry shows no sign of slowing down. There are hundreds of tribute bands making a healthy living out of mimicking the Mop Tops. Most will struggle to reach the heights of Oasis, but at least they’re honest about it. Normally rolled out during the holiday season for Christmas or New Year parties The Bootleg Beatles, The Paperback Beatles and the like have a more-than-decent stab at reliving the great days of the world’s first true pop phenomena. I once to stood at the back of a crowded club where the Bootleg Beatles were playing and watched with some amount of mirth as kids in the audience sang along to Hey Jude and She Loves You. But who am I to judge? I was a year off being born when Please Please Me was released, and only 6 years old when the band finally split up so I hardly own them myself.
Now that John and George are no longer with us, and Ringo (sorry, Mr Dontcallmebymystagename Starkey) has washed his hands of his legacy (apart from the royalties, of course), none of us will ever get the chance to see the real Beatles perform live (let’s be honest- you wouldn’t go and see McCartney perform, would you?) and the tribute bands are the only way to get anywhere close to the experience. But there’s always the Rutles, of course. I know they no-longer perform, but there’s still great fun to be had watching All You Need is Cash as I did again recently.
The story of The Prefab Four- Dirk, Barry, Stig and Nasty still stands-up as a piece of Eric Idle genius, with as good a selection of Neil Innes Beatles parodies as Oasis’ Definitely Maybe ever was. In a prime example of art-imitating-life the film documents the frosty relationship between the band and their manager, Leggy Mountbatten, a domineering, half-mad, nasty bastard with a wooden leg. Remind you of anyone in Paul’s later life?
There are even Rutles tribute bands, one called Ouch! and another The Mountbattens who, apparently are “Tokyo’s top Rutles tribute band”. So we now have tribute bands’ tribute bands. Check out The Mountbattens on Youtube below, they’re bloody awful, but I’d rather sit through a night of them than having to listen to 2 bars of Wonderwall ever, ever again.
Not mad for it.