Few bands have enjoyed such musical relevance as The Beatles. With four dynamic members, each of which left their own dynasties within the world of pop music, and a sound that still manages to infatuate many, the group left an obvious mark before their breakup in 1970.
And that’s not something lost on Mike Fulop.
“Even once I started really getting into The Beatles and loving all their music, I still didn’t realize that their career was seven or eight years long,” he said. “I assumed they were together for two decades. So when you put all that together, it’s really just mind-blowing. They have hundreds of songs that I like, and they were together for less than a decade.”
Fulop is the guitarist for Beatles tribute band The Return, which is playing Mac Gray Auditorium Saturday as part of Performing Arts Live of Iredell’s 2019-20 concert season. He takes on the role of late Fab Four member George Harrison, and said his fascination with British rockers started after he picked up some vinyl.
“I wasn’t always a Beatles fan,” Fulop said. “The first record I got, I liked every song on it and it kind of blew my mind. (Then) I got another Beatles record and I liked every song on it.”
He admitted that came as a surprise while listening to the music in the 1980s and ‘90s. Fulop said back then he considered it lucky to drop $15 on a record with only four or five good songs on it.
That enthusiasm for the quartet grew in 1995 when Fulop and some friends were asked to play a show of all Beatles songs. He said that he and some friends would get together once a month just to play some of their favorite Beatles tunes, but not with the intent of playing live.
“We decided to get some black suits from a thrift store, comb our hair down and actually try and speak in British accents and actually do a show,” he said. “It was going to be a one-time thing … But after that people saw us and invited us to play at their parties, and at their bars, and at their fraternity events and whatnot. It just kind of snowballed from there.”
Snowballed it has.The Return’s website lists some of their career highlights as headlining the 40th anniversary celebration of The Beatles visit to Tokyo, Japan, and being the 2009 Atlanta Braves Band of the Year.
Fulop said it came with a lot of work, though. That included getting things like costumes and instruments correct for each period of the band, as well as learning individual mannerisms of the band members.
But compared to some concerts put on by industry heavy hitters, Fulop said their shows are a value. He mentioned that tickets for tribute bands typically range anywhere from $25-40.
“You could see Paul McCartney (and) you could spend $200 a ticket,” he said. “A lot of those legendary acts that are still around, we can’t really afford to go see them.”
Although the idea of an experience plays into the show too.
“The Beatles obviously aren’t around anymore,“ Fulop said. “Even if you were to go see Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, you’re really going to see that legend. It’s not like you’re not going to go and see a 1964 Beatles experience; it’s going to be different. I think seeing a tribute act is the closest thing to seeing what it was like back then.”