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The Beatles Appreciation Society: Beatle Mania Hits Harvard (Again)

By Justin C. Danilewitz, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour: a ticket to ride with the Beatles Appreciation Society at Harvard (BASH).

Four fans of the Liverpudlian quartet formed the club last October.

While two of the club's original four officers have since graduated, its current president and treasurer remain.

The current Fab Four of BASH are President Chris H. Kwak '98, Vice President T.J. Kelleher '99, Treasurer (and founding President) Justin E. Jones '98 and Secretary Carmen J. Iglesias '99.

Since the club was founded and began an Internet site (, the club has received membership inquiries from as far as Europe and from other colleges in the United States. The officers, however, hesitate to claim credit for starting a trend.

For one thing there are few active members, even though the College boasts many Beatles fans and even a member of the Class of 2001, Christian P. Quilici, who happens to be a nephew of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

One of the club's main goals is to get the three surviving Beatles-Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Starr-to visit Harvard.

"We have written letters to the three surviving Beatles to bestow upon us all their wit and greatness" says Jones, who wrote letters to the three musicians in the past summer. "That remains the ultimate, as-yet unfulfilled goal of the club members. That's our ultimate dream."

Jones also sent a letter to long-time Beatles producer George Martin, but he said members have been reluctant to invite Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow.

Although the BASH officers were too young to remember Lennon's death in 1980 or the band's final concert tour, they said their interest stems from what Jones calls the four friends' "profound love for the Beatles."

"Between us, we had pretty much all the CD's," he says. "Many nights we'd stay up late just listening to them and talking about them."

Jones says that they would also share trivia from books that they had read, a favorite pastime of Beatles enthusiasts.

Assisting the club in getting the group off the ground was a $250 grant from the Undergraduate Council last year. Much of the money was allocated for a party hosted by BASH, as well as CDs that were purchased and are now part of the club's new library. (Jones proudly adds that maintaining the collection is one of the treasurer's perks.)

BASH allows members to borrow CDs from the club's collection (which includes what Jones calls the "canon" of the Beatles work), and sends members first notice about club activities, as well as seating for the as-yet unscheduled McCartney visit.

When asked what it is about the Beatles that has given the band its timeless appeal, the officers diverged.

"They have become symbols of a whole era," Iglesias says. "When one thinks of the '60s, one thinks of the Beatles."

Their music, she adds, "communicates more in the span of a two-minute pop song than I believed was possible."

Kwak says the Beatles' universality is at the core of their appeal. Their music, he says, "seems universal and timeless. The Beatles are as close to truth in modern musical terms as is possible.

"How could it be nostalgic?" Kelleher asks. "I wasn't there. I listen because their music is great, often moving, often funny, often thought-provoking. I listen because they are great, and always will be."

The BASH officers frown at intimations that their group resembles a cultish can of die-hard fans. "We're not out to incite revolution, all we're saying is happiness is a warm gun, that's all," Kwak says, in reference to one of his "White Album" favorites.

"We just want to have a good time, and listen to music that we love," Kelleher adds. "If you want a cult, you need to look elsewhere."

Inspired by a desire to "bring Beatles people together," BASH will host its first "Battle of the Bands" on Nov. 8. The only condition to perform: playing at least one Beatles song.

Only Harvard bands and solo musicians have been invited to perform and song titles will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also in the works are dance parties with Beatles motifs (the best Beatles look-alike will be allowed in free of charge) as well as a "Beatles Day" with music and free drinks in the Mac Quad.

The officers marvel at the youth of the Beatles, noting that their youngest member, lead guitarist Harrison, was 26 when the group disbanded.

"It makes being here at Harvard feel like small potatoes," Kelleher says.

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