Nancy Cook-Monroe for the Rivard Report
"There was a plan to play live somewhere. We were wondering where we could go – 'Oh, the Palladium or the Sahara.' But we would have had to take all the stuff, so we decided, 'Let's get up on the roof.' We had Mal and Neil set the equipment up on the roof, and we did those tracks. I remember it was cold and windy and damp, but all the people looking out from offices were really enjoying it."
– Ringo Starr, “Anthology”
Five rockers climbed circular metal steps to the roof and picked up their instruments: one sat at the drums, another at a keyboard. Into a pure blue sky the repetitive beat of "Get Back" exploded and the lead singer chanted, "Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it wouldn’t last. Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass."
The drums drove the rocking rhythm. Overhead, a drone flitted from one corner of the roof to the other, shooting pictures.
"Who is it?" the lead singer called, pointing up.
"The FBI," a listener proclaimed.
"No, a Beatles fan!" someone else yelled.
As the drone moved closer, several waved their fingers in peace signs.
This obviously wasn’t 1969 London – Jan. 30 to be exact – when the Beatles gave their final live performance on the roof of their recording studio. It was Jan. 29, 2017, on the rooftop of Sanchos Cantina y Cocina in San Antonio's Five Points neighborhood. Other than scanning drones and a few other advances nearly four decades have wrought, the music and excitement of the rooftop concert held similar emotional power.
The Blue Note Ringos, a local Beatles tribute band, re-enacted the Beatles’ performance at Sanchos one year ago at the suggestion of one of Sanchos’ owners, Sam Asvestas. This year's re-enactment was even more crowded with fans who listened, drank beer in the sunshine, and grew increasingly chummy.
Listening front and center from a picnic table was a gent resembling "fifth Beatle" George Martin, the band’s genius producer. This silver-haired fan was Jean Webb of Brownsville, there with daughter Michelle Corbeil.
Like many of the fans, he loved listening to the Beatles in the '60s, when he was in his twenties, and discovered the Blue Note Ringos at The Cove, just a half-block away. This consummate, ageless rocker actually had a career as a banker for 30 years.
"I came up with my daughter, but I usually come up on my motorcycle," he said.
Most of the other fans listened to the Beatles growing up, and probably a third were born after 1969.
"By the time I discovered the Beatles and asked my older brothers to take me to a concert, it was 1970 and they had broken up," Karen Miller said. "I was so disappointed. But 47 years later, I’m finally at a Beatles concert," she said, raising her longneck.
Twelve-year-old Julian Arriaga, wearing a Beatles cartoon shirt, said he used to listen to the Beatles with his mother in the car and liked their music. Taller fans blocked his view, but he could recognize the songs – "Norwegian Wood," "Don’t Let Me Down," "Love Me Do," and "All I Want is You."
Amy Contreras, fresh back from the Women’s March last week in Washington and donning a signature pink hat, sang along to "Let it Be" and "Revolution" alongside her 13-year-old son. She said her boyfriend had played the Beatles’ "Don’t Let Me Down" before she underwent heart surgery recently.
"We got to sing it together today," she said with a smile.
The Blue Note Ringos has played with different members for five years, said lead singer and guitarist Dee Lusk. The current lineup includes Patrick Joseph on Fender Stratocaster, Val Cronk on Gretsch bass (the same kind Paul McCartney plays), drummer Jeff Pringle, and D.G. Lara on keyboard, which Billy Preston played at the original rooftop concert.
Pringle drew a fan club of classmates from the MacArthur High School classes of ’79 through ’82.
"Jeff played snare drums in the marching band," Terry Miller recalled. "Not cool. Not as cool as he is now."
Sandy and Andy Mushinski visited with Scott Weitz, the guy with the drone. When confronted, he rushed to say he’s a friend of the band. So not Big Brother. Groovy.
Cassie and Steve Lewis could have walked from their home in Beacon Hill. "It’s great to have such a cool concert so close to home," Cassie said.
As the diehard crowd cheered for more, the Ringos wrapped up with "Hey Jude." The hypnotic chorus – “nah, nah, nah, NAH-nah-nah-nah” – was almost as authentic as the original version performed in London 38 years ago today, when surrounding streets filled with listeners. No one wanted it to end then, and no one wanted it to end at Sanchos on Saturday.