The latest TikTok craze is a series of goofy homemade Beatles videos all created by one person in their Brooklyn apartment.
Maris Jones — a Beatles diehard since the age of four — specializes in the evolution of each member of the group. She’ll depict a suited John Lennon in black and white singing “Twist and Shout” from the band’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, followed by a clip of “A Hard Day’s Night” with “SORRY GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED!” across the screen. “A lot of kids on TikTok kids are like, ‘That’s from That Thing You Do!'” she says. “And I’m like, ‘That’s actually from the Beatles.'”
Jones brilliantly nails every period of each band member. See her as Lennon in a fur coat, performing “Don’t Let Me Down” from the frigid rooftop session in January 1970. She dons a puffy blazer as Ringo Starr and lip synchs his 1973 solo hit “Photograph.” As George Harrison, she sits with a sitar and nods her head to the dreamy, psychedelic “Within You Without You” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
For Paul McCartney, Jones’ favorite Beatle, she sports a red leather jacket and sings “Hey Jude.” “I just feel like he was born to entertain,” Jone tells Rolling Stone. “I think one of the things that’s overlooked about him is that his bass playing is innovative. And I wanted to play bass as a little kid instead of playing guitar because of that.”
Jones tries to showcase one Beatles song for each of their 10 years (1960-1970) and one of their solo songs. “They didn’t have that long of a time span,” she says. “I try to do the most iconic things, because I also want it to be a very loose history lesson for people. I try to keep it to the hits just for people who wouldn’t know otherwise.”
Jones, 27, began posting videos of herself impersonating each Beatle on Vine in 2015 — until the site shut down two years later. “People never saw them again, [they] thought I’d stopped making videos,” she says. “Vine just disappeared.” She began uploading clips onto her Instagram, which gained a steady following. When she joined TikTok a month ago, her videos began to go viral. “I feel like people are kind of like uncovering me again,” she says. “It’s definitely a different world.”
She shoots all of the videos by herself on a DSLR out of an extra room she made into a studio in her Williamsburg apartment. In order to achieve the vintage quality — from the sepia-toned Seventies colors to the hazy pastel of the Eighties — she edits them on Final Cut. Occasionally, she’ll add animation as well, like the psychedelic flowers that surround Harrison and the sitar.
Jones does commercial and branded work full time, but she tries to make a video at least once a week. “I have so many other projects and just jobs and stuff that time gets in the way,” she says. “I’m also a photographer, so if I can’t make a video I try to at least take photos.”
Most of the videos take a full day to produce. Before shooting, she’ll study YouTube videos, but she normally already has an idea in her head of every concept. “I subconsciously pick up on facial cues pretty well,” she says. “So I feel like it just comes naturally to me, but I definitely do research just to re-jog my brain.”
Jones was born in Philadelphia to artist parents. Her dad also works in the antique business, which instilled a love for the past into her at an early age. “They implemented all the things that they loved,” she says. “When I was really little, I thought record players were the thing that everybody was listening to, because they gave me one and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a modern thing. I have always been really fascinated with how pop culture is changing all the time and everything is always new, but also the same. I think a lot of my work reflects that.”
Growing up with antiques around the house, Jones has collected many props over the years — from rotary telephones to television sets. “At this point now, everybody just gives me stuff,” she says. “I’ve just had people come to me and say, ‘Do you want this box of wigs I have?'” She often cuts the wigs to fit, and will draw on the beards. Some of the props, like George Harrison’s Rickenbacker, she constructed out of cardboard.
Jones has a strong passion for every decade, but especially the Eighties. “I love the ridiculousness of the Eighties and the sense of the absurd commercialism that comes with it,” she says. She has plans to film the evolution of other rock stars; lately, she’s been getting a lot of requests for Elton John and Queen. “It’s hard because I know that a lot of people on the Internet won’t know a lot of [these bands],” she says. “So I have to try to like keep it in a certain area, because otherwise it’s just going to totally go over people’s heads. But I also like to try to throw in a little deep cut here and there.”
More than anything, though, Jones is just excited the Beatles videos are taking off. “I’m really happy people enjoy it, because I work hard on them,” she says. “People always have critiques, [but] that’s what the Internet is. I’m not trying to be perfect, but I’m just really happy that people are getting something out of it. And I love the Beatles.”