Exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society Museum, is a visit impressively thorough traveling exhibit about the Fab Four’s early, touring years. The exhibit remains on display through Nov. 12 — featuring rare American tour memorabilia, TV and film clips, audio interviews with Beatles, their professional colleagues and their star-struck fans; there are even a couple of interactive opportunities to sit in for Ringo on drums and vocals.
Museum marketing manager Rachel Randles said music lovers of every age have been pouring through the door. The music and story of The Beatles just never seems to get old, she said.
“They are a powerful, multigenerational force,” Randles said. “We’ve been amazed to see a huge uptick in visitors since this exhibit opened.”
On a weekday afternoon, most exhibit visitors were sufficiently gray on top to cherish their own firsthand memories of Beatlemania, a disease that infected much of the world from 1964 to 1966.
“As they matured, so did I,” said Jill Hibbs, visiting from Oregon City, Ore.“I’m going to have to go back and listen again,” said Joan Smith of Portland, a married mom who couldn’t afford to buy records in those days — but who vividly remembers dancing with her children when The Beatles rocked her radio. “The Beatles are deep in my soul,” she said.
Some of the artifacts in this exhibit are large as life and instantly recognizable. A stage set of the band’s guitars and drums is arranged in proper iconic fashion, with George and John’s electric six-strings pointed this way, left-handed Paul’s violin bass pointed that way, Ringo’s shiny, miniature Ludwig drum kit behind. See the tan jacket (complete with sheriff’s star) that Paul wore at the record-setting Shea Stadium concert as well as at the Portland show, and the black jacket sported by Ringo while ambling across Abbey Road for that famous album cover. (The exhibit provides an Abbey Road backdrop for you to amble across too, while your bandmates snap photos.)
Other artifacts: many autograph cards, newspaper stories, concert programs and gold records are a few song lists that were hand-scrawled by different Beatles and affixed to the edges of their guitars for quick reference. (Also here, in Paul’s hand on Atlantic City hotel stationery, is a draft of lyrics for a real non-hit, “What You’re Doing”)
The exhibit even features a grab bag of artifacts from the Beatles’ own heroes and influences, including a guitar played by blues master B.B. King and, amazingly, the 1959 death certificate for Buddy Holly.
Look carefully for a couple of telling historical details. One concert-tour contract includes this rider: “The artists will not be required to perform in front of a segregated audience.” If you saw Ron Howard’s great Beatles-on-tour film, “Eight Days a Week,” you saw both Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney expressing outrage at the very idea of dividing fans by skin color.