THE BEATELS formed in Sydney Australia in 1996, and since that time, the quality of their performances has made them one of the best Beatle tributes in the world. They have dedicated 20 years to mastering the nuances of the performances of each character in The Beatles, from the way they play the music, to the way they talk. They have collected authentic Beatles instruments so they can reproduce the sound by using the right instruments for each song. They have appeared in theatres, clubs and special events throughout Australia and internationally. They have appeared on television, radio and appeared in newspapers around the world. A personal highlight for the group was performing in Liverpool England at The Cavern Club, though in a long and illustrious career, there have been many highlights - maybe too many to fit on this page!

Their numerous themed performances have set the benchmark in Australia for so many of the Beatle tribute groups that have formed in their wake, with some acknowledging that it was seeing THE BEATELS that made them want to play Beatles music too - the ultimate compliment.

Over the 20 years that THE BEATELS have been performing, they have understandably had some changes in personnel, which is only natural. Not many acts in Australia have been able to maintain this level of quality over their entire career, which makes the acheivements of THE BEATELS even more impressive. In this short biography of the band, we will try to describe the various phases of the group, from how they came to meet and form, as well as the changes in personnel over the years, and some of the more memorable things that happened during that time.

Even before THE BEATELS formed in 1996, the founding members were already Australia's most acclaimed Beatles impersonators. The founding members of THE BEATELS were Bruce Coble (John), Steven Shipley (Paul), David Wood (George) & John Taylor (Ringo). They all met when they joined one of Australia's first tribute groups, The Beatnix, and they had already spent over 5 years impersonating The Beatles in that group. The Beatnix was a band that had been formed by the manager of that group, Tony Dean, in 1980. Tony's brother Peter Dean was also a well respected WA musician with his own band, The Jets. The Beatnix had organically gone from being a basic cover band over the course of a number of years, to being a band where the musicians dressed up like The Beatles & used Beatles instruments. It had many different members in it's first 10 years, and at the time played mostly in pubs around Australia. Steven Shipley, David Wood & John Taylor joined The Beatnix in the late 1980's, and Bruce Coble completed that line-up by joining in May 1990.

The coming together of this particular line-up of the group coincided with a unique moment in Australia's musical history, when tribute bands first began gaining a much higher profile than ever before. The Beatnix was among the earliest tribute groups to gain notoriety in Australia, but by 1990, others were starting up, including one of the more famous Australian tribute acts to emerge from this era, Bjorn Again. It was at this time that Neil Rankin - future Ringo for THE BEATELS was making a name for himself internationally in the hugely successful act The Australian Doors Show. So in Australia, the early 1990's was a seminal moment for the tribute genre. Besides the obvious musical talent of the group, The Beatnix were certainly helped by the fact that Bruce Coble bore an uncanny resemblance to John Lennon. Beginning with an appearance on a telethon for Channel 7 in Sydney in 1990, The Beatnix began to appear live on national television in Australia on a regular basis. Appearances on the hugely popular daytime programme The Midday Show with Ray Martin became so frequent that by 1993 & 1994, The Beatnix appeared in the opening credits of the daily show, wedged between John Farnham and Tom Jones in the pantheon of artists that had appeared on it previously.

One of the early highlights for that group of musicians was an opportunity to appear in Andrew Denton's seminal television show in the early 1990's, The Money Or The Gun. At that stage of their career with The Beatnix, they were asked by the show's producers to contribute a "Beatle" version of the iconic Led Zeppelin tune "A Stairway To Heaven". Their version of the song became a cult hit on ABC TV's Rage in the early 1990's.

At the same time, Neil Rankin, who would join THE BEATELS in 2002, was performing in The Australian Doors Show, who also recorded their own "Doors" version of the Led Zeppelin classic.

In 1992, David Wood left the group for a period to focus on running a music shop in Brookvale, & he was replaced as George in the group by Marcus Phelan. Prior to joining The Beatnix, Marcus Phelan had played in many well know original bands in Sydney, including The Numbers, Spy vs Spy and Jeremy Oxley's The Chinless Elite. Marcus Phelan toured with The Beatnix in it's first overseas shows, playing extensively throughout Malaysia (where the group performed before Chief Ministers & Sultans) & New Zealand, which included a Beatlemania segment specially recorded for TV1 in Auckland.

In late 1993, Marcus Phelan left, unimpressed by the way the act was being run, and went on to perform & record with (amongst others) well-known Sydney ska group The Allniters. He would later rejoin THE BEATELS as their George six years later.

After Marcus left, The Beatnix toured Hong Kong & Bangkok for Xmas & NYE in 1993 at the Hong Kong Hilton with Kevin Utley as George. They also played with The Platters at the Hong Kong Regent. David Wood chose to return to The Beatnix in 1994, keen to perform again. This coincided with some historic moments, including - in 1994 - a series of shows celebrating the 30th Anniversary of The Beatles Australian tour in 1964. Highlights of that period included performing at Festival Hall in Melbourne 30 years to the day since The Beatles did (with most of the same support acts as well), a performance on the popular show Hey Hey It's Saturday. In that same year, they also recorded an album for Glenn A Baker's label Raven Records titled It's Four You, which was an album of the 19 songs written by Lennon/McCartney that had not been officially released by The Beatles (though many tracks would come out on the Anthology series The Beatles would later release).

1995 would prove to be a difficult year for Bruce, Steven, David & John in The Beatnix, as they were in seemingly endless negotiations with management over pay rates, which were very low. This was a critical moment in the life of The Beatnix. At that time, other leading acts like Bjorn Again were relocating internationally and setting themselves up to become some of Australia's highest paid entertainers. Meanwhile, for the musicians in The Beatnix, it was becoming clear that management had neither the will to negotiate a decent improvement in conditions for it's musicians, or the vision to be able to achieve international expansion. Finally on NYE 1995, Bruce Coble left The Beatnix, with the other other 3 leaving shortly after. But even though they had left The Beatnix, the four musicians felt that they still wanted to perfom together in a group, and that there was still a lot more that they wanted to do when it came to performing the music of The Beatles live on stage. Just because they had left The Beatnix, didn't mean that they wanted to stop playing The Beatles.

And so, in April 1996, Bruce Coble, Steven Shipley, David Wood & John Taylor decided to form a new Beatles tribute group - THE BEATELS. This was of course a very difficult time. With limited resources, they had to scrape together enough cash to purchase vintage instruments & and Beatles costumes (thanks Shayne Taylor!). They did a good job of getting themselves out into the local Sydney music scene, but the irony was that in many cases, venues wanted to book "that band we had last year - they were great!" - so quite often they were competing against the reputation of the shows that they themselves had performed when they were in The Beatnix.

In an ironic tribute to The Beatles however, legal troubles were soon afoot. After an industry magazine "Club News" wrote an article titled "Beatnix Renamed - Beatels Reign", management for The Beatnix, understandably upset by the ambiguous headline, launched a Supreme Court injunction, even though the article had not been written by THE BEATELS - it was the journalist's "artistic touch". They asked the court to prevent THE BEATELS from performing, on the basis of a claim of passing off. The injunction was thrown out of court, but a possibly very costly damages case hung over the heads of the group.

But in mid-1996 THE BEATELS got the break they were looking for, when they were booked to be the support act for an extensive tour with the high-profile 60's act Herman's Hermits. The tour included live television peformances on The Bert Newton Show and The Midday Show, & put them in some of the biggest of the venues on the east coast of Australia. Very soon, word got out that there was a new Beatles tribute act in Australia, which was gaining a reputation for being a classy & polished act in it's own right. However the tour very nearly did not go ahead, as The Beatnix launched another Supreme Court injunction requesting the court to order THE BEATELS to stop all performances until a claim for damages could be heard, again on the basis of "passing off". The injunction hearing was heard at the very same time that THE BEATELS were performing live on The Bert Newton Show, adding a whole new meaning to the term "stage fright". Finally though, that request was dismissed by the court, and the tour was allowed to continue, which it did very successfully.

The stress of court cases and legal action took it's toll on the group, and eventually John Taylor decided that he wanted leave THE BEATELS to write & perform original music with a group "Blue World", which he did in late-1997. John was a Sydney Conservatorium trained musician, & he wanted to do more musically than just play Ringo. To this day, he is one the most sought after drummers on cruise liners around the world, & music continues to be his passion!

In 1997, THE BEATELS got themselves a new Ringo in Simon Merlo. THE BEATELS auditioned a number of drummers for the part and after a thorough search, found Simon, a young player with plenty of spirit and the drive to fill the big shoes left by John Taylor. Simon took up the challenge with great enthusiasm, and THE BEATELS continued wowing crowds around Australia and internationally. During this time, THE BEATELS performed at some very high profile shows, such as the NYE 1998 @ Bangkok Shangri-La Hotel celebrations. They broke the bar-takings record when they performed at Jupiters Casino over 4 consecutive nights & performed pre-match entertainment for NRL matches for the Canberra Raiders & the Nth Qld Cowboys in Townsville!

Also in 1999, THE BEATELS undertook a celebration of 35 years since The Beatles 1964 Australian Tour, by performing in a number of the venues that The Beatles played in on their historic tour. They played in Festival Hall in Melbourne & Festival Hall in Brisbane, as well as a number of larger venues on the East Coast, such as The Metro in Sydney and Seagulls on the Gold Coast. They also played the 1999 The Desperate And Dateless Ball @ The Sydney Entertainment Centre

After many years of playing "George" to perfection, David Wood decided in late 1999 that it was time for him to put away his Beatle boots and concentrate on family.

In 1999, THE BEATELS found a familiar face in Marcus Phelan as their new "George", and one of the first shows he performed in was the launch of the re-mastered Beatles animation Yellow Submarine @ The State Theatre in Sydney. Besides a range of fantastic club and pub shows, Marcus helped THE BEATELS launch the New VW, as well as the first of many high profile shows in Singapore - this first one in 1999 to 60,000 people at an Ikea store in the city centre - & helping see in the new millennium at Wrest Point Casino on NYE 1999!

In late 2002, after 5 years, Simon Merlo decided it was time for him to hang up his "Ringo" suit, as he felt that it was time for him to try his hand at other musical endeavours.

In 2002, THE BEATELS got themselves a new Ringo in Neil Rankin who had already been drummer in another of Australia's most successful tribute groups in the 1990's, The Australian Doors Show. This became the line-up of THE BEATELS that has had the greatest longevity & has had the greatest list of achievements to date. This line-up toured the world, performing in The Cavern Club in Liverpool in 2004, and sharing the bill with Pete Best - the original drummer for The Beatles - that same year in Her Majesties Theatre in Melbourne, and playing with Olivia Newton-John in 2005, as well as tours of Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, PNG, Bali with The Umbilical Brothers & more. This is also the line-up that formed 2 original music projects - Post in 2002 & The Druid Dudes in 2011.

During this time, THE BEATELS made quite a name for themselves by performing special shows featuring entire Beatle albums, 40 years since their release:

  • Unreeled - Hard Days Night AND Let It Be Naked
  • 1965 Special
  • Blue Album Special
  • John Lennon Memorial Concert
  • Beatles By Request
  • Peppered By Requests
  • Beatles By Request
  • 40th Anniversary of Revolver
  • Psychedelic Spring Happening
  • George Harrison Tribute
  • Beatles By Request Dec 30 2006
  • White Album Live
  • Classic Beatles Album Tracks
  • 1969 and Beyond
  • Let It Be 40th Anniversary
  • John Lennon 70th Birthday

In 2013, founding member Steven Shipley became too ill to continue to perform. He performed with the group at Smithfield RSL on 27th July 2013, and was able to sing for that show. On 10th August 2013, Steven played his last show with the group, and though for much of that show he was unable to sing. It was at that point that he suggested that we find someone to fill in for him onstage, so he could take time out to focus on fighting the illness.

At that difficult time, THE BEATELS were fortunate enough to find Glenn Wheatcroft to become our new "Paul". A left-hander just like McCartney, and a talented instrumentalist with a great vocal range, Glenn has fitted in perfectly to THE BEATELS ethic of quality showmanship. In a short time, Glenn proved himself adept at mastering the broad range of songs performed in the show, whether it be for classy clubs or high-profile corporate entertainment. Fans of THE BEATELS loved what Glenn was able to bring to Australia's internationally acclaimed tribute to The Beatles.

Sadly for THE BEATELS, Glenn decided in 2017 that he wanted to take a break from live performance & focus on original composition and recording. Glenn spent four years with the group, & in that time, he put in some great shows, including our Macca-intensive Sgt Peppers 50th birthday shows. Shortly after, Richard Bevins joined the group and he remains our McCartney to this day.

In January 2014, founding member Steven Shipley was taken away from us by the cancer that he had fought so valiently to overcome. Even though we knew it was a strong possibility, it still came as a terrible blow, as he certainly was a remarkable person with such an abundance of talent who had such a huge effect on all who knew him. His passing has obviously left a huge hole in all of our lives. He will never be forgotten by those who knew him, but continuing to play music does help us to move on from that loss. Vale friend!