Do you copy or be a realone-off?

9th September 2005 at 01:00
This, I am confident, is my penultimate summer holiday story of the year. It is 10pm, Spanish time, and the sun has set over the concrete blandness of our hotel.

The Steele family sits around a small table on the large patio, awaiting the night's entertainment. It is a humid evening. Condensed water drips from the side of my diet cola glass on to the legs of the trousers I ripped in a fall. No alcohol. It doesn't go well with the painkillers I have taken to numb a throbbing left arm that I do not yet know is broken. At least, I think the instructions with the Ibuprofen said not to drink. My Spanish is limited and the thrust of the consumer information label may actually have been that "if pain persists, try getting ratted".

On comes the turn. For once, it isn't a display of acrobatics. It is a Beatles tribute band. In mop-top wigs and Sergeant Pepper suits, they certainly look the part. They are obviously Mediterranean in complexion, but who's to say that John, Paul, George and Ringo wouldn't have looked like that had they been lucky enough to spend sufficient time on the Costa Dorado?

The tune-up sounds promising. Paul gives a trilingual greeting and they launch into the vibrant first bars of the opening number. Then it all goes just a little wrong. "Come hon, baybee... tweest han shout!" The singing is heavily accented. We move on to "Hey Jude". "Reememba to let her honda you skeen... then you beegeen to make it better..."

And so it goes on. It would be very wrong for the person who, the previous day, had asked for an iced-lolly sandwich (I wanted chicken but pronounced pollo as "polo" rather than "pohyo") to make fun of other peoples' attempts at foreign languages. That's not the point. As singers, musicians and even linguists, the band were fine. As copies of the Beatles, they fooled no one.

I suspect that most of us start teaching as semi-shambolic tributes. Let's have a big hand for Mr Don't Smile 'Til Christmas. Put them together for Mrs Snappy Put-down. I, for one, didn't convince anyone (especially not as Mrs Snappy Put-down, but that's another story). Eventually, we find our own voices, albeit with discernable influences. Occasionally you come across a true original, the teaching equivalent of Elvis, John Lennon or Johnny Rotten. I'd like to have heard the Spanish Beatles do some of their own stuff, or even to cover songs by different artists. It would have added to the evening's fun, and I suspect they would have been anything but sheet.

Gregor Steele would have found it all too much if the John Lennon wannabe had launched into "Give Peace a Chance".

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