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Meet the St. Louis Beatles Fan Club


She loves them, yeah, yeah, yeah. "She" being Sharon A. Solomon, a co-founding member and current vice president of the St. Louis Beatles Fan Club. "Them" being John, Paul, George and Ringo, split up now for nearly 30 years but still with us in nearly every corner of the culture.

"The Beatles, I like to say, never went away," Solomon says. "Are they together or touring? No. But is music still being produced and marketed? Yes. An example of that is the Anthologies, I, II and III that were released a few years ago. And other things are happening as well, like the re-release this year of the movies Yellow Submarine and A Hard Day's Night.

"But my most current observation on how the Beatles are still with us is something I never thought I'd purchase, but it relates to the Beatles. There's a Beanie Baby they just released called Paul. It's a walrus. When I see that, I have to chuckle, because on the one hand, there should be a limit — I don't like seeing the Beatles marketed in a way that cheapens the quality of who they are and what they represent. On the other hand, something like this is cross-cultural; it's cross- generational. My point is, see, there's not a dimension out there that the Beatles don't cross over into."

Thinking globally and acting locally, the St. Louis Beatles Fan Club is holding its sixth annual picnic in Creve Coeur Park from noon-7 p.m. Aug. 22. Activities include a Beatles trivia contest, raffles and door prizes for memorabilia, and a performance by Ticket to the Beatles, a Fab Faux that only performs music written by the Beatles (as opposed to, say, Chuck Berry songs the Beatles once covered). Proceeds from the admission fees ($3 for members, $5 for nonmembers) will benefit the island of Montserrat, hit in recent years by hurricanes and a devastating volcanic eruption.

Solomon helped found the club six years ago. The idea began to blossom in 1992, when she took a continuing-education course on the band taught by Joe Davis, who at the time had a KSD-FM radio show called Meet the Beatles. "I noticed there was a need for a localized Beatles club, and the second week of the class I presented him with the idea — that we should have a localized logo, that there should be a newsletter and that the group should be philanthropic in nature," she says.

Davis broached the idea to his listeners and sent out questionnaires to prospective members. In 1993, the club co-founders met to select officers, set up the quarterly newsletter and incorporate as a nonprofit organization. According to Solomon, the club currently boasts 150 members, though that number waxes and wanes. Many of the members are not necessarily those caught up in the first wave of Beatles hysteria but latter-day fans who first found the music in their older siblings' record collections. "The majority of us that are now involved in working in the club were what I call born in the year of the Beatles, which is 1964," says Solomon. "See, we're second-generation fans, though we have some first-generation fans in the club as well. In some cases, their children are involved, too."

The main thing that stands out about the group, she says, is its ability to bridge all manner of social and economic strata — after all, who doesn't like the Beatles? "There is no other group — social group, business group, etc. — that you're going to find that has such diversity outside of the core interest. There are people within the Beatle world from every walk of life. There are people, had it not been for the Beatles, I would never be around, I would never associate with, I would never have a connection to. Our lives are way different, for good or bad. But this group reflects how much the Beatles' range is everywhere — it's all-inclusive, through their music, through their message, the different style and changes they went through, which affected many worlds — politically, in terms of fashion — and still continues to influence today's artists."

The level of the club members' devotion to the group and its legacy also varies widely. "Some of them are strictly into the music," Solomon says. "If there is a certain recording of, say, "Strawberry Fields Forever' — you heard one originally in '67, but with re-releases and bootlegs and imports, there might be 10 different versions, some of them with one note different — and there are some in the club that are so avid they're gonna want every one of those.

"Most of us dabble in a little bit of everything. It might be memorabilia or some of the publications that are out. It's like, "Hey, did you get last week's People? There's a picture of or an article on (one of the Beatles).' Some of us — I don't know if you can call this collecting — but we collect experiences, I suppose, going to any Beatle-related event that is out there. Last month I went within seven days and saw Julian Lennon in Chicago and then to Columbia to see Sean Lennon performing with Cibo Matto. So that's like two Lennons in seven days. Many of us just got back from the Beatlefest convention in Chicago, and our core group of founding members are going to see Julian again in Nashville on Aug. 28."

One former member of the group went so far as to move to England to satisfy her fandom. More often, though, remaining a faithful Beatle fan involves less extreme measures, though Solomon says she has managed to work up something of a correspondence with Yoko Ono. Asked about the woman some still blame for the breakup of the Beatles, Solomon quickly springs to Yoko's defense: "I'm not gonna get on my soapbox here, but just so you know, those people that automatically, when they see a picture of Yoko, hiss or boo or whatever are going back to nothing more than ignorance to think that this person is the person or the reason why the Beatles broke up. They haven't read the rest of the pages of the book. Step back, look at the big picture. This is the woman, this is the partner that John Lennon chose to spend his life with. He wouldn't have chosen a lightweight. I don't think people ever bring it down to a human level. They're people just like everybody else."

So there.

For more information about the club or the picnic, call 303-2586.

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