Where Houston Beatlemaniacs Get Their Fix

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Not too long ago, in what may have seemed like a huge prank but was totally real, the Internet all but broke when people on the Internet didn't use the Internet to find out who Paul McCartney was. Yep. You read that right. Instead, they took to Twitter to ignorantly claim that Kanye West was about to make some no-name old guy "a star."

Half a century after the Beatles invaded the U.S. and took the world by storm, people on the Internet didn't know who one of the most iconic men from one of the most famous bands in history was. Kids these days, right?


While a few bad apples will always spoil the bunch, it will take eons before we as a collective whole forget what was arguably the best band in history. Love 'em or hate 'em, no one that will knock the Beatles off their throne any time soon...not even Yeezus himself. And whether you love him or hate him, Kanye is a genius. And that's exactly why he chose the genius Paul McCartney, one of modern music's greatest living songwriters, to work with him.

Here in Houston, we love the Beatles as if they were our own. With a 36-foot-tall sculpture of all four members standing outside David Adickes' Sculpturworx Studios in the Heights, it's safe to say that Houston still has Beatlemania.

So if you're looking to cut a rug with other folks in Houston who dig "Twist and Shout," you have two mid-week opportunities to enjoy live tunes with and from your fellow Fab Four fans. Just head downtown to the Continental Club (3700 Main), or just east of downtown - or, as the kids these days call it, "EaDo" -- to Bohemeo's (708 Telephone Rd.), and you can witness a remarkable revival for yourself.

The best part: they're both free!

Struggling to pick up sales on Wednesday, Lupe Olivarez tried almost anything and everything: jazz bands, you name it...nothing worked. That was, until one day when he had a "light bulb" moment to start a Beatles' open-mike at Bohemeo's about six years ago. By the looks of it, it's still going strong, every Wednesday from 8:30-11pm.

This place feels like the bar from Cheers, because everyone knows each other's name with the exception of me and my friend, the two outlying loners. That's not say that the place is uninviting. Beatles music is already playing, and a projector is screening historic footage of the Fab Four. We're offered tambourines and asked if we want to sign up to sing a tune.

The signup list at the bar fills up quickly. People have brought their own instruments, among them Cameron Belcher. He's tuning up with the house band, a rotating list of musicians that happen to be around and available. Belcher has been coming for three years; the 23-year-old waiter and student was nervous when first set foot onstage. Tonight he works the crowd into a frenzy, and the tambourines come in handy.

Story continues on the next page.

My parents listened to a lot of bands, but rarely the Beatles. I vaguely remember watching the cartoon rebroadcast when I came home from junior high. I started listening to them later in life, but quickly grew to hate them the day I started working at Sound Exchange in the mid-'90s.

Fanatics can ruin anything (think Dallas Cowboys fans), and Beatlemaniacs at the time were the worst. Most of them were looking for ultra-rare records, but only had a maximum budget of $5 to spend on anything they could find: the "Butcher Cover," white-label promo in Mono, or otherwise.

Looking more "last gig on the rooftop of Apple Records" later-period cool than the early clean-cut "mop-top" beginnings, Beetle still keeps it classy in suits. Dubbed "Houston's Best Cover Band" on their Web site, these lads play from 7-10 p.m. at the Continental Club each and every Thursday, and have been for the last 13 years. Make sure to get there early, because the dance floor gets crowded quickly.

"I liked their music better before they started doing drugs," says the guy in front of me at the bar. Half-joking, half-serious, he means the era of Beatle hits he prefers. He's also super-bummed that Beetle's singer (real name Paul) is drinking a Schlitz, to a point that defies logic. He keeps on saying that he's going to buy him a Miller Lite, but never actually does.

It's funny, because I feel the exact opposite way -- about my beer and about the Beatles' songs. I like the later stuff. I want to hear Moog-driven psych-pop harmonies and sitar. I mean, why don't we do it in the road?! I don't mind a little Maharishi Yogi in the mix, not to take away from the jangly numbers like "Love Me Do," and "She Loves You." I lean towards the later stuff, but not the hokey shit. More "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and my personal favorite, "Tomorrow Never Knows," than "I Am the Walrus," "Yellow Submarine," and "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" (a song about LSD, get it?!) Sorry, but those songs are silly...in an arsenal of more than 300, there are bound to be a couple of duds.

I hang out with Amanda from Pasadena ("don't judge"; her words, not mine), a nurse with a kid in college. She grew up listening to the Beatles. She's seen other bands that cover the Beatles, even one from Spain, but she swears that the best one is "right in our own backyard." Later she introduces me to Gerald, a freelance screenwriter for science-fiction films, mainly shorts. Just like at Bohemeo's, these two are regulars here and come practically every Thursday.

"Here's another request sung by our drummer, Mr. Steve Candelari," says Paul before a rousing rendition of "Yellow Submarine." The crowd sings along. What I like about the event is: the band truly seems to be enjoying themselves, which resonates with the crowd. Also, I've been to plenty of shows, and none of those crowds has ever been as nice as this one.

As delightful as both nights were, one question remains: When are Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best finally going to get their just desserts by having someone pay tribute to them on their own night? A night consisting, of course, of heavy drinking and pondering a life of missed opportunities...also known as Saturday.

Beatles Open Mike 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone Rd.

Beetle 7 p.m. Thursdays, Continental Club, 3700 Main

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