It's been a little more than a year since your erstwhile Fake Beatleologist has filed a missive, it must be said from the start. After retiring this series, i knew it would take an extraordinary event to get me to create a new entry — and that is exactly what brings me back into the realm of the Mocktops for this one-off post. For i have located, after more than 25 years, a particularly elusive and preposterously rare Fake Beatles tune that has been my musical holy grail for all this time.
The reason i never imagined finding the song in question is that i first heard it performed by street musicians who never committed it to record, to my knowledge. The song is called "Falling in Love," and the group was known, appropriately for buskers armed with a repertoire of Beatles songs, as Street the Beat — and their story is as uncanny as their grasp of the Fab Four's musical vernacular.
For while there are dozens of quartets faking the Fab, i venture to guess that only one contained former gang members of Puerto Rican heritage from the mean streets of the South Bronx. Consisting of brothers Benjy, Robert and Victor Melendez, and supplemented by friend Manny Cortez, Street the Beat's instrumental lineup consisted of three acoustic guitars and a "drum kit" made up of cardboard boxes (shades of Michael Clark in the more blatantly Beatley pre-Columbian Byrds). They sang — and spoke — with Liverpool accents, when, suffice to say, they likely never had even ventured as far as Liverpool Street in Queens!
As founding members of the Ghetto Brothers street gang in the late '60s and early '70s, the Melendezes cut a badass swath through their neighborhood, but they showed a more tender side when they trotted out their sweet Latin soul harmonies on the very same street corners they defended in turf wars just hours earlier. They soon tired of the gang life but not of their love of music, and the reformed street punks took to the sidewalks of New York for more tuneful endeavors.
Plying their musical trade for chump change in Manhattan is where this writer encountered them in the early 1980s — and not only performing dead-on renditions of both Beatles classics and choice album cuts. I recall three original songs: The harmony-rich rock en Español of "Baila"; "Crazy Boy," the "Moulty"-ish autobiographical tale of Victor, the man bashing the corrugated kit, sung by the subject himself; and the song that qualifies as a coalescence of everything that makes for a boffo bogus Beatles bonanza.
I had heard "Falling in Love" performed a total of about two-and-a-half times during this short span, once at a rare Street the Beat club gig at Folk City in Greenwich Village (booked by the young man who years later would be known worldwide as WFMU DJ Todd-o-phonic Todd), with the half performance being a televised appearance on a local public-affairs show called Hispanic Horizons that i just happen to have caught while channel surfing one Sunday morning. Nonetheless, i took in every hook, every harmony, and if i had actual singing and instrumental talent i could have re-created it all from memory. That was because i knew each time i heard it could be my final chance ever to take in this wondrous achievement of Beatlesque songcraft at its finest.
Twenty-first-century technology had a different plan in store for me, however. Not long after my discovery of search engines in the 1990s, i would occasionally type in the terms "street the beat" and "falling in love" hoping for a "hit," only to be greeted with inevitable disappointment. Until a couple of months ago, that is, when the televised performance mentioned earlier showed up on YouTube! Suffice to say that i played the song so many times in succession that if you recently experienced a YouTube slowdown, i may very well be to blame. Yes, after 26 years, it sounded just as remarkable as i remembered!
This feeling of accomplishment and closure i now possess may mark the final chapter in my Fake Beatles coverage, but there's no predicting what amazing morsel of Phony Fab i might uncover in future days. Because if i've learned anything from the experience laid out above regarding the Nuyorican Beatles, it's never say never!