On stage with an orchestra/Courtesy photo


I said, That’s what I want to do – play Beatles’ songs — Jim Owen


Jim Owen’s musical life has come full circle.

Growing up in California, his father always had classical music playing.

“An aunt came out to visit, and put her stuff on — Everly Bros, Chubby Checker — and then she put on ‘Meet the Beatles,’” he recalled. “It was 1973, and they were already broken up by then.

“I started taking piano lessons when I was 6; at that age, I wanted to be a pianist or classical composer.”

He still plays the piano, as well as guitar, but who can out-compose The Beatles?

Jim Owen/Courtesy photo

So for the past quarter-century, he and some buddies have merged the greatest rock ‘n roll band’s music with a symphony.

No, this Jim Owen isn’t the longtime Rio Rancho city councilor.

This Jim Owen portrays the late John Lennon, and he and his buddies — appearing with him on stage as George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — are combining their musical talents with those of the New Mexico Philharmonic on Saturday, April 16, at 8 p.m. in Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus.

It should be a night to remember, because who doesn’t like music by The Beatles?

Honestly, probably that demographic attuned to hip-hop, rap and maybe those who thrive on country music.

If you do like The Beatles, you know “the walrus was Paul” and John Lennon was murdered outside his residence in December 1980, and two (McCartney and Starr) survive. So for those who enjoyed that “Fab Four” from across the pond 60-plus years ago, here’s your chance to take a trip back in time.

“Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to The Beatles” features original members of the Broadway sensation “Beatlemania” with almost two hours of Beatles hits — all performed exactly – “note for note,” says Owen — as they were originally recorded.

This Beatles reincarnation has taken Owen and his bandmates through the past quarter-century to Japan, Korea, China, Canada, Mexico and much of South America – with three or four previous appearances at Popejoy Hall, he added.

The Los Angeles Times claims it’s “…more than just an incredible simulation.”

Owen and his bandmates look and sound just like The Beatles, but this is more than just a rock concert, featuring more than two-dozen Beatles tunes sung, played and performed exactly as they were written.

That was important for Owen, who said his love for The Beatles “is a culmination of studying classical piano and learning to play Beatles songs by ear on guitar – I never took guitar lessons – and being very lucky to attend Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts as a kid, part of the Long Beach Symphony Pops series.”

“All this stuff just came together, and then the ‘Beatlemania’ (production) came out on Broadway in 1977-78 in L.A. when I became aware of it.

“I said, ‘That’s what I want to do – play Beatles songs.’ It was a great idea: Make a simulation of doing a Beatles concert.”

He’d played in ‘garage’ bands, “but it was in the living room. I only wanted to get into Beatles, kept looking for guys who wanted to do Beatles tributes.”

He eventually found them, and although there have been some lineup changes, he’s remained as John.

Beatles fans will get that “Eleanor Rigby,” “A Day in the Life” and “Penny Lane” are most conducive to orchestral aid, and those in the audience that night will hear “Penny Lane” with a live trumpet section, experience the beauty of “Yesterday” with an acoustic guitar and string quartet; and enjoy the rock/classical blend on the hard-edged “I Am the Walrus.” (Owen said that number typically gets the best reaction from the audience.)

“One of the best, my favorite in the show,” said Owen, “is the end of ‘Abbey Road/Golden Slumbers.’ (Plus), we have a new overture … not a melody, just ‘In My Life’ on its own.”

Tickets range from $28 to $80 and may be purchased at unmtickets.com, in person at the UNM Bookstore (Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.), or at the ticket window at Popejoy Hall, 90 minutes prior to the performance. They can also be purchased by phone at 505-925-5626 (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.).

To learn more about upcoming performances or to become a volunteer, visit nmphil.org.