By Daedalus Howell
Sir Paul McCartney turned 80. To the non-Beatles fan, the preceding factoid may require some unpacking. On its surface, the notion of a beknighted, fourscore popstar might not make one want to twist and shout, but this particular beknighted, fourscore popstar has made a career out of it.
Part of that storied career is the subject of San Anselmo’s “Beatles In The Park,” a once-annual celebration of the Fab Four’s oeuvre that’s making its return after a two-year Covid-inspired hiatus, which (as the event’s press materials pithily put it) “made it hard to, well, come together.”
Beatles’ punnery aside, a question looming in some readers’ minds might be why? Is this nostalgia-fest merely part of the cultural hangover that’s frequently delivered upon Marin County by its graying Boomers? Or is it something else entirely, something endemic to the experience of four lads from Liverpool whose musical odyssey since the early ’60s—from Hamburg to the Hollywood Bowl and likely every country between—has had an outsized influence on popular culture?
“The Beatles are a band like no other. They created massive pop hits, while later stretching the boundaries of what music was all about, all while remaining four charming lads from Liverpool,” observed Nish Nadaraja, one of the newest board members of the San Anselmo Arts Commission, which organizes the concerts as part of its fundraising activities. “Paul McCartney turned 80 this year, and he still has the enthusiasm of a teenager.”
Naturally, the Beatles themselves, or at least the remaining two members, will not be “in the park.” Rather, local producer and musician Joe Bagale will lead a 13-piece band of Bay Area and Los Angeles-based musicians through a survey of the band’s hits as its musical director.
“Expect everything from the early Beatles albums to the later more complex recordings from Sgt. Peppers and Abbey Road, plus some choice Beatles covers made popular by Motown and Stax recording artists sprinkled in the mix there as well,” said Bagale.
And why? One need look no further than the eighth track on Abbey Road for an answer—”Because.”
Because all the funds raised from the Saturday, July 23 concert go towards the arts commission’s annual youth artist scholarships that award high school students in the theater, dance, music and visual arts.
Because additional funds raised will go towards the Utility Paintbox series and other public art projects throughout Ross Valley.
Because people LOVE the Beatles (this reporter included) and because, in proper doses, nostalgia can be good for us.
“That’s the magic of the Beatles. I’m 50 and feel both young and old when I am singing along to their songs with my own kid. There is a nostalgia there, but their music feels very current and timeless. Even their sad songs make you smile,” said Nadaraja. “San Anselmo’s Creek Park is the perfect locale for this magical mystery tour, with sunshine, grass and good times all around.”
Moreover, one would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a favorite Beatles album or at least song, let alone a favorite Beatle.
“My favorite album isthe White Album, but I would say ‘Hey Jude’ is my favorite song. Paul wrote it to comfort John’s son, Julian, when John was moving in with Yoko, but you do not have to know that to enjoy that infectious na-na-na-na refrain that lasts for over four minutes,” says Nadaraja, who adds, regarding his favorite Beatle, “Both my kid and I stand by our man Ringo.”
Elizabeth Grasso, longtime San Anselmo resident and a San Anselmo art commissioner, reminds that live, outdoor music is part of what defines San Anselmo’s summertime experience.
“We missed the live music and hanging out with our neighbors! Dancing on the grass on a cool summer night, that’s what the San Anselmo vibe is like.”
Barbara Shands, co-chair of the all-volunteer art commission, concurs.
“Whether you’re two or eighty-two, people love singing and dancing to the Beatles,” says Shands, completely forgoing the opportunity to reference “When I’m Sixty-Four.” “We are very excited to ‘get back’ to it!”
‘Beatles in the Park’ is on from 6pm to 9pm, Saturday, July 23, in Creek Park, 249 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Tickets are $35 for adults and $12 for youths 12 years old and below (2 and under are free). To purchase tickets, go to sananselmoarts.org/beatles-in-the-park-1.