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Collector celebrates Beatles milestone

Chris Mc Innes inside his ‘Beatle Museum,’ a room filled with memorabilia from the British band that brought its music here 50 years ago.  - Matthew Hoekstra
Chris Mc Innes inside his ‘Beatle Museum,’ a room filled with memorabilia from the British band that brought its music here 50 years ago.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra

Chris Mc Innes was on the roof of his family’s Blundell neighbourhood home scanning the sky for stars Richmond had never seen before.

It was Aug. 22, 1964 and Mc Innes was just 11 years old—too young to be in the stands at Empire Stadium for perhaps the most anticipated concert ever in Vancouver. The Beatles were coming, and before their gig were scheduled to arrive at the Sea Island airport. Armed with a transistor radio to help track the British band’s airplane, Mc Innes caught a clear glimpse overhead.

“The Beatles’ plane flew overtop of our house, and I remember waving to it,” said Mc Innes, who watched a broadcast of the concert on a tiny black-and-white TV the next day. “It was great. I remember the hair standing on the back of my head.”

Today—on the eve of the Fab Four’s 50th anniversary of arriving in North America—the 60-year-old painter is still a big fan. He’s dedicated a room in his Richmond home to the band, a room he calls the Beatles Museum.

Records, ticket stubs, books, dolls, buttons—Mc Innes has amassed hundreds of pieces of memorabilia worth several thousand dollars since he started collecting nearly four decades ago. Other prized items include a board game, rare 45 records, model kits, a Beatles hairbrush, a bed sheet used by John Lennon and even a retail package of “real” hair from the band.

“Of course it’s not real,” he laughed. “It is hair, somebody’s hair, from a barber shop.”

He’s most proud of his framed copy of the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today album with the “Butcher” cover. Released in 1966, the rare cover—featuring band members in butcher smocks draped in bloody meat and plastic baby parts—was quickly recalled by the record label following negative reaction, making it a sought-after collectable today.

His museum’s walls—and even ceiling—are covered in Beatles artwork and posters.

“I was told when I got these posters never to put pinholes in them and never put them up. Of course they’ve been pinned up everywhere I’ve lived. I enjoy them.”

The collection started innocently enough. Mc Innes met a collector in 1975, liked his stuff and soon became a full-fledged collector himself.

His attraction to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr began with their trend-setting ways that transcended music. Mc Innes remembers the Beatles’ legendary Feb. 9, 1964 debut on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show—watched by 74 million viewers in the U.S. and millions more in Canada—and how boys and girls quickly began sporting bangs to mimic the singers’ hairstyles.

“The very next day, people went Beatle crazy,” he said. “My dad was a barber, and I had what he called the Ivy League look. So I didn’t have the Beatle haircut. But I had the Beatle wig, and the Ringo cap.”

It was Beatlemania, the beginning of the British Invasion. And this year, with the buzz surrounding the 50th anniversary of that history-making TV event—and the band’s North American arrival two days earlier—suggests the swooning fans of the ‘60s haven’t gone away.

“This is an important anniversary because if you go another 50 years, I don’t think the enthusiasm is going to be there,” said Mc Innes. “The generation that experienced the Beatles when they first came is still alive today. So this is our last shot.”

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