- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust, said the late Joe Strummer, but you can see the real thing on Sunday when 1964: The Tribute plays the Birchmere.
It may seem odd to see four Yanks billed as "The No. 1 Beatles Show in the World," but they've been obsessive about details since they started in 1984. "We contacted their original tailor initially," says Mark "John" Benson from home in Akron, Ohio.
The attention to detail is the hallmark of their live show, which includes songs from 1962 to 1966 and has won applause from the likes of Dick Clark and former Apple Records chief Alistair Taylor.
The other would-be moptops take it seriously too. Jimmy Pou toured the world as "George" with "Beatlemania." Gary "Paul" Grimes learned to play bass and play it left-handed. Greg George is a natural lefty like Ringo Starr (he also seems to have Mr. Starr's face), but had to switch, since Ringo plays drums right-handed.
The best songs on their 2000 live CD, "All You NeedIs Live" such as "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy" sound like demos or outtakes from the real Fab Four. And "She Loves You" sounds like the real deal.
Because the vocals don't quite match up to the originals, such solos as "Michelle" are the weakest songs and the John/Paul harmonies like "Day Tripper" the strongest. But the guitars almost always sound great, and that's what the crowd seems to react to (and the tailored suits, of course).
1964 played the German reunification party in 1990 and were surprised to see the East Germans singing along. "There doesn't seem to be any place on the planet that doesn't embrace this music," says Mr. Benson.
Nor is the audience just nostalgic middle-agers, he says, noting that the recent "Beatles 1" album went to number one.
"That's not baby boomers buying that, that's everybody buying that."

"I wanted to do something that rocked but was not cliched, and sounded like where I'm from," says Johnny Marr from his home in Manchester, England. He brings his latest band, the Healers, to the Black Cat on Monday night.
Mr. Marr is best known for co-founding the Smiths in 1982 at age 18. With a cult following in Britain and the United States, the Smiths were England's most influential band in the '80s, and Mr. Marr is an icon to Britpop guitar bands like Oasis, Radiohead, and Blur.
After the Smiths, Mr. Marr found success in Electronic with New Order's Bernard Sumner, and Matt Johnson in The The. He frequently writes with other artists, his most notable collaboration being Kirsty MacColl's 1991 top-10 hit "Walking Down Madison."
The other star (make that Starr) in the Healers is drummer Zak Starkey, recent Who drummer and son of Ringo. They met in a New York hotel elevator in 1997, though Mr. Marr didn't recognize him. "Thirty seconds after playing" together, Mr. Marr says, he realized they had chemistry, and set about recruiting other Healers.
Mr. Marr says he has no plans to work with estranged Smith-mate Morrissey, or to play Smiths songs onstage. He sometimes plays Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" live, and hints that the lyrics are a "fairly fitting" description of his opinions.
This band marks Mr. Marr's first time out as a singer. "I was never too enamored with [touring], although of course I love playing guitar at loud volume in front of people. It always took the singer to drag me out of the studio kicking and screaming," he says.
The debut CD, "Boomslang," which will be released next month, definitely sounds like where Mr. Marr's from. The opener "The Last Ride" has an intro riff like the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" but segues into the "Manchester sound" with Britpop distorted vocals and trippy drums. The closer, "Bangin' On," is even more danceable.
"Need It" has an Ennio Morricone-western opening and distant moaning vocals, though its descent into a closing jam like that of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" should be the real crowd-pleaser.
The Delta blues touches on "Need It" and "Caught Up" stem from Mr. Marr's love of Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. "Some of the best of that music is truly sophisticatedand it's just generally sexy," he says.
"Long Gone" has bizarre lyrics about climbing over seaweed to keep your clothes dry. After Mr. Marr went to an after-concert rooftop party in Los Angeles, some people took him for a drive. "I ended up in the ocean at Venice Beach at 5:30 in the morning," he says. "It was all very 'Twin Peaks.'
"It's a shame those things don't happen too often," he says, then dryly admits that "I prefer walking in the desert in Sedona; it's easier on the dry cleaning bills."


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