Fifty Years After The Beatles Invaded America, Meet Kansas City's The Conquerors

Oct 18, 2016

The Conquerors
Wyld Time (High Dive Records)

A remastered version of the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl was recently released in conjunction with Ron Howard’s new documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. While the reissue of will satisfy avid fans of the Fab Four, Wyld Time, by Kansas City’s The Conquerors, is a more arresting demonstration of the Beatles’ enduring legacy.

A captivating throwback to the height of Beatlemania, Wyld Time reveals that the local sextet has become one of the most vital garage-rock revivalist acts in the Midwest. Wyld Time possesses the same sort of charming fortitude and giddy fun exuded by the bands of the British Invasion more than fifty years ago.

With a sound based on songs like “Please Please Me,” the Conquerors’ allegiance to the Beatles is confined to the more innocent era that concluded in 1965 – before the period Howard chronicles in Eight Days a Week, when the suffocating adulation of screaming fans and controversies such as the one that ensued after John Lennon quipped that his band was “bigger than Jesus” led the Beatles to hole up in studios for the remainder of their career to craft landmarks like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Wyld Time contains 10 rugged pop nuggets that wouldn’t sound out of place on albums like Beatles For Sale. The Conquerors weren’t always so adept, trafficking instead in anonymous psychedelic rock. While the Conquerors could still use a brilliant producer like George Martin to polish the band's rough edges, Wyld Time is an unexpected marvel.

“Can’t You See?” encapsulates the Conquerors’ newfound excellence, with its invigorating guitar jangle, hip-shaking drumming and rapturous vocals by bandleader Rory Cameron. When he croons “I wish I could only get to know you,” it comes close to matching the high standards established by John, Paul, George and Ringo.

For “Guess I Was Wrong,” the Conquerors evoke the central guitar riff of “Ticket To Ride,” making it similarly captivating. Logging in at 3:01, “Guess I Was Wrong” is the lengthiest song on this succinct, 24-minute project, and Wyld Time would have benefited from another couple minutes of brevity: Shaky vocals and cheerless tempo on “I’ll Get You Someday” mar the nearly impeccable project.

Earlier this month, the Conquerors played for about three dozen fans at the Record bar. Although Cameron’s haircut and head-bobbles mimicked Paul McCartney’s bearing when the Beatles performed for more than 20,000 admirers at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium in 1964, the influence of more recent rock acts like Big Star and the Strokes diminished the impact of Wyld Time's superlative songs.

Live, the sextet has yet to entirely shed its shambolic past. But the stellar Wyld Time suggests the Conquerors should fully embrace their Beatles-loving selves.

Bill Brownlee’s writing appears weekly in The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine. He blogs about Kansas City’s jazz scene at Plastic Sax.