McCartney Times

Beatles fans ‘come together’ at annual Beatlefest

Beatles fans ‘come together’ at annual Beatlefest

Beatles fans ‘come together’ at annual Beatlefest
April 01
11:16 2019

JERSEY CITY — Now in its 45th year, the area’s preeminent convention for Beatles fans commanded the Hyatt Regency hotel on Jersey City’s waterfront for a fab weekend of guest speakers, music and a marketplace full of modern and vintage collectibles, or, as one might say, Beatles for sale.

“It’s more about being social now,” said Gary Glaser of East Windsor, explaining his reasons for attending after many decades. Glaser has attended Beatlefest every year since 1980. “You see friends you haven’t seen since last year.”

Glaser, draped in a handmade leather tallit with the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo stenciled up and down both sides, had just left a presentation on the making of the Beatles’ albums “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be,” a crisscrossing tale of a nearly abandoned record and a soon-to-be-abandoned band.

“Abbey Road,” the final Beatles album to be recorded, became their second to last to be released due. This year, Beatlefest paid honor to its 50th anniversary.

The festival ran all weekend, beginning Friday and ending Sunday evening. Talks and panels, like the one Glaser had just left, are a source of “stories you can’t even read in books,” he said. That particularly described Saturday’s panel featuring Beatles contemporaries the Zombies, creators of hits like “Time of the Season” and “Leave Me Be,” he added.

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Upstairs, attendees could shop at the festival marketplace, displaying the rarest of the rare in 45-rpm records, archival prints, posters and even a ticket to a Beatles concert at the Atlantic City Convention Center in August 1964, now priced at $200. The face value of the ticket when it was first sold: $3.90.

How did fans get there from the festival’s main presence on the hotel’s first floor? By going to “Level 9, Level 9, Level 9, Level 9,” a sign near the elevators explained, in a reference to the sound collage that finishes the Beatles’ “White Album.”

Wayne Johnson of Rockaway Records in Los Angeles flies to the festival every year, whether it be in Chicago, Philadelphia, Jersey City or the Meadowlands.

This year, the rarest record he sold was a test pressing of “Let it Be” for $1,000. But that was a pittance compared with the $7,500 that could afford shoppers a promotional copy of the Beatles’ interview album, “The Beatles Tell All.”

“There are only 10 in existence,” Johnson said of the record and its steep price. For the thrifty fanatic, though, first-pressing copies sell online for an average of $30.

Some knickknacks carried their fair share of irony, such as a reproduction button reading “To HELL with the Beatles,” a remnant of the public blow-back after John Lennon said his group’s influence on youth was bigger than that of Jesus.

One of those younger souls, enraptured by the gospel according to John, Paul, George and Ringo was Victoria Carter, 17. She has made the trip from Boston with her father each year since 2017.

While her father had long tried to impress upon her the importance of what many have called the greatest band that ever was, pop music of the day such as Justin Bieber was a powerful antidote to the young Carter.

But however unlikely, it was a trip to Chuck E. Cheese when she was 12 that sealed the deal.

“I heard [a Chuck E. Cheese version] of ‘And I Love Her,’ ” Carter said. When she arrived home, she quickly looked up the original version, and that one song became her first step down the long and winding road of Beatles fandom.

The festival has its roots in Bergen County. It was founded in 1974 by Mark Lapidos of Montvale. While 1974 may inspire a vision of America far away from the late-’60s psychedelic culture that the Beatles helped inspire, is it not equally hard to imagine a band labeled worthy of its own massive fan convention only four years after its demise?

But clearly others agreed, since four decades later, it’s still here, there and everywhere year after year, and for Lapidos it has become a family affair.

His daughter, Michelle Joni, said she’s been helping with the festival “since I was born,” and she is more than pleased to carry that weight.

Now she’s a co-producer of the event and has organized a new addition, the FABoratory, a room set off from the rest of the convention adorned in beads and white draping, with cushy ottomans and rugs, not unlike photographs of Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s many “bed-ins.”

The room played host to guided transcendental meditations, yoga and live experimental arrangements of the band’s music.

She called it “the Beatles experiential zone.”

“A lot of the show is about nostalgia,” she said on the final day of the festival. “This room is about where it’s going.”

Asked what Beatles culture meant to her, she said, “It’s a participatory culture.”

Gary Glaser agrees.

“You’re like one big family inside” the festival, he said.

Email: katzban@northjersey.com

Source: Beatles fans ‘come together’ at annual Beatlefest

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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