You’re not impressing anyone by telling them you like The Beatles. You might as well tell people you love bread or that you find water refreshing. Whatever analogy you prefer, The Beatles are music’s most sacred of sacred cows and a cultural touchstone whose appeal and influence knows no bounds.
Though the only thing that’s nearly as redundant as declaring your love for The Beatles is paying homage to them. And, oh, sweet lord, has plenty of homage been paid. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more, right?
With a stacked roster of local talent that includes scene stalwarts like Tapes ‘n Tapes, Red Pens and Cloud Cult, The Minnesota Beatle Project is a local tribute designed to help raise money to support arts and music education in the Twin Cities schools district through Vega Productions.
Vega Productions is a local nonprofit organization focused on improving music and art education in Minnesota schools. Founded in 2005, Vega Productions has engaged communities in everything from instrument drive donations, an annual river boat rally in St. Croix and large-scale concert benefits. The proceeds received from The Minnesota Beatles Project will be directed toward local middle schools and high schools.
“It’s a way we can work with a wide variety of Minnesota musicians to put something out that has both artistic merit and a charitable component to it,” said Vega Executive director Mark Gehring.
The project, which is spearheaded by Gehring, is in its third year and features more than a dozen local musicians covering classic oldies like “Help” and “Here Comes the Sun” as well as deep(er) cuts that include “Rocky Raccoon” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”
The musicians selected the songs themselves, and there was little in the way of musical direction. It was really just up to the artists to decide what they would do.
For Josh Grier, lead singer of Tapes ‘n Tapes, the task seemed a little daunting. But as a longtime Beatles fan, it was an opportunity he knew he couldn’t pass up.
“I was like ‘Well we aren’t going to do better, let’s just try not to screw it up,’” Grier said. “We were driving out west and we had hours and hours — 10 or 15 hour drives — so we just listened to the whole Beatles catalog.
“This song we ended up doing — ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ — was one of the one’s that both me and Eric, separately, wanted to do.”
Nearly half of the interpretations are departures from the original versions, while some, like the Red Pens’ “Helter Skelter” and Motion City Soundtrack’s “Here Comes the Sun,” remain loyal to the Beatles’ blueprint. Either way, whether you’re a local music fan or a longtime Beatle-maniac, there’s plenty here to rejoice over.
“Every year we know that we set the bar a little bit higher, and I think that we’ve done that with this one,” Gehring said. “I think all of the artists work their asses off to keep the originally arranged versions of the songs that are a tribute to the original as well as pushing the limits of what they believe a Beatles song can sound like.”
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