PARIS - Wednesday, September
14, 2005: Yoko Takamaki urged me to go to the 'Beatles Story' in Montparnasse last spring but it was cold out so I didn't
go and, when she asked why not, I said I had to have breakfast with an aunt visiting from Arizona. It's my all-purpose excuse
and it doesn't fit some circumstances.
Last week Yoko gave me a DVD of the 'Beatles Story' while telling me they would
be at the Petit Journal Montparnasse Wednesday, which is tonight. And the TV-weather news said it s going to be 26 degrees
tomorrow, so it must be warm tonight, and to hell with the aunt. Besides, I don't have a DVD player.
The Petit Journal
Montparnasse is beside the train station, down the Avenue du Maine, a little more than a five-minute walk away. It isn't a
place that looks like anything more than a café on the street beneath a modern building. I went in there and when I doorguy
showed up to take the money I said I had been invited by Yoko Ono. He said, d'accord, turn right and up the stairs.
waved. I went to the booth, blew on her cheeks, and took a seat. It was in a big, low room, in a booth a bit above the main
floor. The lower area, the major part, was filled with booths surrounding tables and they were all full. Waitresses pranced
around delivering drinks and food, while folks looked at the blue lights on their phones. A few looked like firemen in town
for a convention but most looked like the neighbors, if they happened live in the 6th or more likely, the 15th arrondissement.
The booth behind had party-looking girls. They were joined by guys with ponytails. Jacques was sitting with them and
then joined me and Yoko. He said he'd written six books about the Beatles, and he's writing the seventh. He said he used to
be an agent, but gave it up when TV began using amateurs. We were joined by a guy who used to be the producer of the 'Beatles
They go off, telling us to save their seats. Yoko orders an orange juice for me and when it comes it's got a bent
straw and melting ice cubes. The replica Beatles come on stage and without much ado launch into a couple of hours of replica
Takes me back. To 'Hard Day's Night' playing in the tiny cinema on Occamstra?e in Schwabing in
1964. The word on the street was that the Beatles were finished but I thought the film was fine. Sissy's, across the street,
had their stuff on the jukebox, along with the Stones' 'Brown Sugar.' Opened at five and closed at eight; all you could drink
in three hours. Beer in bottles and schnapps by the shot. Beyond Sissy's, about 50 other handy joints, from the big gastatten
on Leopoldstraße to cellar dives like the Schabinger 7 or jazz in the Domicil. It was before the Drugstore was on the little
Wedekindplatz, before it was ruined.
'Beatles Story' is run by Renaud Siry. He's the drummer so I guess he is Ringo.
Hell, I know he is Ringo because he's a Café Metropole Club member. He must be Ringo because he's got a château up north.
There's Paul, George and John on guitars, and another joker with keyboards. The first set sounds a bit listless. It's the
first time I've heard the Beatles live - who knows what they're supposed to sound like? I don't think they're going to do
'Brown Sugar.' Orange juice doesn't remind me of Sissy's anyway.
They take a short pause and some of the audience
light cigarettes, but not that many. Yoko goes off to put on her wig, and Jacques hasn't come back, so I sit and twiddle my
They must have got pepped up in the back room because they come back plugged in and forceful. They just
- they play the songs - they don't add frills or inventions. They are loud. The sound system seems built to handle it. They
play what everybody knows, a good deal of it older than many in the room. A calculation tells me, 42 years ago, they were
has-beens. The good-time girls in the booth behind sing along, but the mass clapping never takes hold.
onstage and says her seven lines. I saw them, written in pencil, but it was too dark to read. Folks clap for Yoko. Renaud
and his crew do all the Beatles' songs everybody knows. Everybody is happy. Without overdoing it they close down and then
come back and do their finale, and get a good hand.
It's not like an audience on a cruise ship. This is Montparnasse,
in an up place that mostly features alive jazz names, like Manu Dibango, on a street that looks like a business park in Hartford.
This Beatles stuff is just for fun. The guys work hard at it and give it a good hit. Putting in Yoko is showing that they
care to add something extra. I'm glad Yoko is in it. She puts on a wig but doesn't sing. It's not that Beatles Story.
Petit Journal Montparnasse
Photos: What you expect
with 1.4 Megapix, no light, across a smoky room?