Princess Diana, Barbie and now the Beatles.
All have been subjects of exhibits at the Mall of America, which on Thursday opens a new Midwest Music Museum with the touring show “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles.”
The museum is the first of three phases of a new fourth-floor entertainment complex at the megamall, including a restaurant and a live-music club. No opening dates have been set for those but Denny Laine, formerly of the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney’s Wings, is scheduled to play there Aug. 1.
The museum exhibit is all about Beatlemania and, specifically, when the Fab Four performed in the United States from 1964 to ’66.
“A crowd of about 30,000 people — mostly squirming, writhing, clapping teenagers — screamed and screeched their approval of the Beatles Saturday night at Metropolitan Stadium,” began a front-page story in the Aug. 22, 1965, Minneapolis Tribune, one of many artifacts in the exhibit.
Some treasures might be more exciting to Beatlemaniacs.
There’s McCartney’s jacket from the group’s 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York (though the Wells Fargo agent’s badge on it is a replica).
There are several Beatles vinyl discs, including a 1961 German single of “My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. (They couldn’t use “The Beatles” because that word is phonetically similar to a German vulgarity.)
There is a one-page contract for the British quartet’s 1964 gig at the Hollywood Bowl. The band was guaranteed $25,000; a year later in Atlanta, according to another contract, the guarantee doubled to $50,000.
There is a list of itemized expenses for the Fab Four’s final concert ever — Aug. 29, 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where promoters spent, among other things, $210 on electricity, $145 on toilet paper and $15 on deodorant.
There are handwritten set lists from as far back as 1960, various concert tickets and even a lock of John Lennon’s hair from 1963, with his “Bald” John Lennon autograph to certify its authenticity.
Special Met Stadium photos
A special touch for “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles,” put together by the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, is a collection of about 30 photos taken by Beatles tour manager Bob Bonis at the Met Stadium concert — coincidentally the site where the Mall of America now stands. He was the only photographer to get remotely close to the stage, situated near second base.
Essays and artifacts put the Beatles in historical perspective by acknowledging some of their influences, including James Brown (represented by a rhinestone-studded black suit from 1961), Ray Charles (a colorful sport coat and pink ruffled shirt from 1960), Elvis Presley (a sweet 1942 Martin acoustic guitar) and Buddy Holly (a ’44 Gibson acoustic guitar with hand-tooled leather decorations).
The exhibit also revisits the group’s heyday with re-creations of a New Jersey Beatlemaniac’s bedroom and a Woolworth’s display of Beatles souvenirs.
Kiosks with headphones discuss key moments in Beatles history, including John and Paul telling how they met.
The must-do display is an interactive Ringo Starr drum kit on which you can take a quick lesson from the drummer himself. Sit down on the stool behind the drums, pick up a pair of sticks and touch a video screen for instructions.
Unless there is a long wait at the drum kit, it should take about 45 minutes to see the entire exhibit in the 7,000-square-foot museum.
Joe O’Brien, a partner in the Mall of America entertainment complex, said he reached out to the Grammy Museum in February 2013. Its executive director, Bob Santelli, and board member Jimmy Jam, the Grammy-winning producer/songwriter from Minneapolis, scouted the site a year ago.
“Our hope is the Midwest Music Museum will be an affiliate [of the Grammy Museum], but it’s too premature,” Santelli said in a recent interview. “They have to develop educational programs. And we’ll help them.”
By the by, admission is $7 — or twice what it cost to see the Beatles at the Met.