Back When the Beatles Were a Fivesome

The raucous, music-filled "Backbeat" tells of the Fab Four's early days

The funny twist to being super-mega-eternally famous is that you can get a bit locked into certain moments in time or a certain photograph or a certain song in the minds of fans.

For instance? Think of The Beatles. What did you just picture? The guys running in "A Hard Day's Night"? The album cover of "Let It Be"? Did you hear "For No One"?

We probably all have our go-to Fab Four image or instance. But the guys existed as a musical entity before they gained acclaimed, and that existence is documented in "Backbeat." 

The show, which is in previews at The Ahmanson with an official opening night of Wednesday, Jan. 30, remembers the raucous, leaner days when the lads went to Germany to stir up some music and maybe a little fodder for later songs, too.

It's a time famously cited for one thing: the fifth Beatle. The Fab Four was indeed a quintet at one time, and Ringo Starr wasn't yet officially in the picture. In the picture? You know the names: Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe.

The story of "Backbeat" follows the Liverpudlians into the clubs of Hamburg and into their minds, friendships, occasional enemyships, and song-writing. This is where a lot of that classic Beatles sound was born. This is where the boys became men, one might say, and where they took the leap from loving American-style '50s rock 'n roll to creating that classic and quintessential early Fab Four vibe, head-rocking harmonies and all.

Nope, no one was the walrus yet. Eleanor Rigby wasn't on the scene. And Jude and octopi and Mean Mr. Mustard were years down the road, so you won't hear those songs in this show. But you will get a portrait of The Beatles as they appeared early on. It's a refreshing thing, and a shake-up, since so many of us do have the iconic images and feelings we summon time and again.

"Backbeat" hits a chord at The Ahmanson through March 1, 2013.

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