One day I heard a Beatles song and thought "That would make a great contra dance!" And then, "I wonder if you could dance a whole evening of contras to Beatles songs?"
I took out my metronome and listened to all the songs, writing down the tempos to see which ones would work for a contra dance. There were plenty, including great ones like "Help!", "Get Back", and "Please Mr Postman".
But pulling it off with style would mean finding musicians who could really play rock and roll. And fiddle tunes.
A couple years went by.
Then while visiting John Pranio and Toki Oshima after calling in North Whitefield, Maine, I mentioned the Beatles Contra idea and John got excited—he's been playing Beatles songs for years with friends and family! And he's a fine contra musician.
Here's John and son Jamie playing Beatles songs in their living room.
In the following months John pitched the idea to some great Maine musicians while I went through the Beatles songs again, rejecting ones that were too obscure or whose phrasing was just too bizarre.
We had a couple practices and started getting excited!
So we picked a date—May 23, 2008— and Toki made a great flyer.
The band had a bunch more practices as we refined the medleys. But we kept hitting problems—"Oh no! We need to add 8 more beats between the bridge and the third verse. How will we possibly remember?"
But after many go-rounds we finally put together enough solid medleys for a whole dance.
A trip to the thrift store and an afternoon making ties out of duct tape produced costumes! We were ready to go.
Here's the band in the basement "green room" before the dance.
Back row—Rick Mohr, Glen Loper, Paul D'Alessio, Tony Simmons
Front row—Jamie Oshima, Toki Oshima, John Pranio, Alan Foss
How 'bout them duct tape ties?
Sean Oshima (not in pic) returned from his class trip to Philadelphia in time to sing lead on Obladi Oblada. Jamie pointed out that we were really the Fab Nine.
Thanks to some good buzz from Toki's publicity the North Whitefield parish hall was full of psyched dancers.
We started each dance like a regular contra, with me calling the figures and the band playing fiddle tunes.
Then when the dance was going well we'd crank into a Beatles song!
Paul and John lock it in. Just like, well, Paul and John.
Jamie played all Ringo's licks and then some.
I got to play some fiddle tunes and sing a lot.
John wallops a C chord (note "John" glasses).
Toki sings harmony.
"She's got a ticket to Ri-i-ide"
Tony rocks out on bass while Jamie sings a high harmony.
Eric Johnson was awesome on sound, using all 16 channels.
Paul and Tony wail.
Father (barefoot) and son.
Ringo always had a platform so he could be seen sitting down while everyone else was standing. We built one for Jamie using a couple tables from the daycare center downstairs.
"Oh yeah, wait a minute Mr Postman!"
The dancers loved it! Everybody sang along, and screamed appropriately.
When do we take it on the road?