There are bands that people love and then there is The Beatles. Because of the revolution that occurred to pop music during their lifespan, arguablely one that occurred partially because of their mere existence, The Beatles will forever occupy a place in public consciousness that goes beyond their mere music. They were a force that changed how we see music, how it becomes part of our lives, and how we look back at the past. The Beatles also made the most fantastic PR decision they could have by breaking up in 1970, and never reforming (I’m ignoring the Anthology project for the sake of argument). Unlike many other bands who soldiered on until their music went out of fashion, often becoming cartoon or robotic versions of their original mandate, or disappointed their fans with countless reunions, each one more labored and unnecessary than the last, the Beatles are frozen in time, one line-up, and one span of pop perfection on vinyl. Of course, the Beatles themselves stopped touring live in 1966, so the number of people who actually saw the Beatles perform is quite small.
Of course, the Beatles’ story didn’t end in 1966, just as it didn’t end in 1970, just as it didn’t end in 1980, because the Beatles’ are more than their members, they are a collection of songs engrained in our consciousness. The inability to see the Beatles live has only increased their mystique and the demand for… Beatles Tribute bands. Directed by Steve Ison and John Scofield, COME TOGETHER looks at ten of an estimated 8,000 international bands keeping the legacy of The Fab Four alive, as well as the phenomena of Beatlemania.
Each year hundreds of bands, whether they are ‘cover’ or ‘tribute’ acts, descend upon Liverpool and International Beatleweek, playing sets at the rebuilt Cavern Club where the Beatles were originally discovered serving as proof of the influence of the greatest pop band of all time. Some of these bands go to ridiculous lengths to get the sound and look just right, using period instruments or designing performance costumes based on pivotal moments in the Beatles’ career. Other bands embody the spirit of the Beatles, if not attempting a recreation.
There is an all-girls act that knows full well they will never sound exactly like the Beatles, and they embrace this and bring their own life to these songs. Some bands focus on one particular time in the story of the Beatles, like their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and try to give the audience the experience of the first wave of Beatlemania. Other bands will even mix in a solo song or two from an Ex-Beatle, as if to imagine what it could have sounded like with the Beatles. There are bands from all over the world featured in COME TOGETHER, including a Japanese band that learns the lyrics phonetically. What the audience is treated to is a chance to revisit some of their favorite songs and hear what they signify to the next generation of performers. The documentary also looks at what it means to be John, or Paul, or George, or Ringo, by talking to some of the individual tribute band members who take on these personalities nightly.
COME TOGETHER is a fun overview of an untapped musical surprise. The performer’s enthusiasm for the Beatles catalog is contagious, and its hard to watch this film without immediately heading to Google and looking up the Beatles tribute bands in your area. Throughout the film, the producers bring us to classic Beatles pilgrimage stops, like Strawberry Fields, or Ringo’s home, or the place John and Paul first met and played together. Although they help to add to the story, these sequences are not as fully developed as the rest of the film, and seem to be almost an afterthought.
This is not a documentary on the Beatles and their history; this is the story of their legacy. Some attempt has been made to incorporate them into COME TOGETHER, like having a Ringo impersonator knock on the door of Ringo’s old house, but they are not necessarily in the same spirit as the rest of the film. The same can be said of the narration by Julia Baird, John Lennon’s sister. While it is great to hear her memories of the birth of the Beatles, it does not have much to do with the rest of the film. I wish the producers had found some way to incorporate her more into the story of the tribute bands. Still, any true Beatles fan will appreciate her participation in the film, as well as visits to these locations, they just don’t seem to necessarily play into what the primary focus of the film is about. That being said, Come Together is a quick and entertaining ride through the heritage and impact of the Beatles, and a sure fire pick for any Beatles fan.
Come Together is out now on VOD from Devolver Digital via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video HD, PlayStation, Xbox, VUDU, Vimeo on Demand, VHX, Gumroad, Google Play, YouTube Rentals, and others. For additional information, please visit http://www.cometogethermovie.com.