Wednesday, June 20, 2012

36 Songs, 36 Days (2012 Edition), Day Nineteen: The Ballad of John and Yoko by The Rabeats

"We are bettah than Ze Beatles...for we are FRENCH!!!"
Well I guess that eventually I'd be writing about a tribute band.

The Rabeats is a French Beatles tribute band--and to be fair, you can detect the Gaelic accent buried amidst the faux Liverpudlian voice the vocalist puts on. It's a decent recreation for what it is.

I've sometimes wondered about tribute bands like this. New York City being one of the seats of the music industry, you can pretty much find tribute bands playing every single night here. They're especially common in the outer boroughs, where you can find failed session musicians paying tribute not only to the usual suspects (Elvis! The Beatles! Springsteen! The Stones! The Doors!), but such peculiar choices as The Stone Temple Pilots, Neal Diamond and Billy Joel. Hell, Queens--the borough of the city I live in--sports two Billy Joel tribute bands, Big Shot and Captain Jack.

It's a weird phenomenon, if an understandable one. As the hipsters of today age and become the parents and old folks of tomorrow, there's always that pang to recreate the world you used to live in...and I think Tribute Bands allow us to convince ourselves on some level that yes, this is what it was like to catch Bruce at one of his small concerts at the Bottom Live in the 70's, or see the Beatles at Shea Stadium (apparently the Rabeats are France's equivalent of Beatlemania!, the notorious Beatles Tribute Band that sold out Broadway theaters in the 80's). Yeah, eventually reality will sink in and we'll realize we were just watching session musicians playing 'Let's Pretend', but for that moment...that moment....

I have to assume that the people who populate these bands start out with aspirations of making music of their own. I sometimes look at these cheap flyers in the windows of bars and pubs in my environs and wonder what makes these folks give up being their own artist to become echoes of the greatness that might have inspired them. I'm sure some of it is money--it's gotta be easier to get gigs and demand a larger payday when you're Faux John Lennon and not John Wilson, let's say--but I also wonder if there are deeper motivations in play. Do some of these people feel that the ritualistic recreations of these songs will give them insight into songwriting, enabling them to write songs as brilliant on their own? Do they feel that becoming their heroes will bring them closer to those heroes? Do they convince themselves that the applause and whooping and hollering they get after they perform 'Born To Run' or 'Light My Fire' is for them and not for the iconic performer they're doing a weird karaoke version of?

But then, I probably shouldn't be too hard on these people. After all, we've got evidence of established musicians retreating into assumed personas to become cover bands--there's the infamous case of The Click Five gigging as The Lowe Beats, a Nick Lowe tribute band, for example. And here in NYC, there was a nightclub who ran an annual fundraiser that invited established musicians to pose as their heroes for a night. So maybe that desire to become your idols doesn't go away when you yourself become big...maybe it stays with you, only coming out to play when you decide to do a cover song or play dress up for charity.

This is becoming a disjointed, rambling post, so let me leave you with this one thought...if the people playing in these tribute bands got the chance to talk to their inspirations, would those iconic figures consider it a more fitting tribute if these people did their own music, or if they continued their career of imitation?

No video for the song specifically...but here's one of The Rabeats performing a Beatles medley...

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