Timeless music still in demand

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Nov 2018 Timeless music still in demand

By Martin Hutchinson

BEATLEMANIA lives on, and the tribute band that grew out of the show of the same name con­tinues to delight audiences around the world with their accurate portrayal of The Fab Four.

Originally an American pro­duction, ‘Beatlemania!’ came to London’s West End and toured the country to great acclaim. However, when the show’s tour ended, the four members of the band didn’t know exactly what to do, so they decided to carry on as The Bootleg Beatles and began touring in 1980.

The show grew in size and stature and The Bootleg Beatles are just about the best around at what they do – so good, in fact, that, in 2017, they performed with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at shows celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

It goes without saying that the quartet of musicians has changed since 1980 and the current line-up is: Tyson Kelly as ‘John’, Steve White, who became ‘Paul’ in 2012, Stephen Hill and Gor­don Elsmore who became ‘George’ and ‘Ringo’ in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

At the time of writing, the band is in the middle of an Australian tour. Steve White (pictured) told

me: “With the time difference, it’s six in the morning here in Melbourne and in a couple of hours we’re catching a flight for a show in Brisbane.”

And the show has been proving popular, as Steve explained.

“The tour has been going really really well. We’ve had some lovely audiences – we always have great audiences in Australia, we seem to have our own fan-base.”

Steve, a native of Nottingham, told me how he got the job of portraying the greatest left-handed bassist in the world. And it wasn’t a case of ‘Wanted – bass player – must be left-handed.’

“No, I’d been in a lot of 60s bands, playing rhythm guitar and the band I was in sort-of ‘mor­phed’ into a Beatles tribute band.

I ended up playing ‘John’, but people said I should really have been Paul as I looked more like him.

“The thing is, I’m right-handed. So what I did was learn all the parts on bass right-handed, then I bought a cheap bass and strung it left-handed and it went from there.”

Then the call came from The Bootleg Beatles to stand in for their bassist as he was sick, and this went on for a while, as the problem with the bassist kept re-occurring, and when it was apparent he couldn’t carry on, they asked me to do it full-time. So I didn’t audition, I sort-of did an apprenticeship.”

And ‘John’ is also new.

“Yes, our previous ‘John’ – Adam – was brilliant and uncan­nily like John Lennon. But his wife recently gave birth. He was away from home a lot and he felt that he wanted to be at home more, to be a dad. We all under­stood, but were sad to see him go.”

So the band needed a new ‘John Lennon’.

“We advertised and got appli­cants from far and wide. Then we got a message from Tyson Kelly from Los Angeles of all places – we’ve no idea how he heard we were looking. Anyway, he sent some videos of himself in and he seemed great. He then came over to the UK for an audi­tion and was absolutely superb. We filmed all the auditions so we could look them over and he stuck out a mile.”

So Tyson became ‘John’.

“We offered him the job in August and he fits in great. The public love him and his person­ality is very like John Lennon and he looks the part too.”

The show itself is in four sec­tions. Steve said: “We do it in chronological order. The first half of the show starts with us doing the Mop Tops era, and then Sergeant Pepper, as we introduce more musicians (a small orchestra in fact) so we can do songs like All You Need Is Love.

“After the interval it’s generally the ‘Magical Mystery’ era and then ‘Abbey Road’ and the end of The Beatles’ career.”

And it’s a full-time job keeping on top of the shows.

“The research never ends real­ly,” explained Steve, “There’s always new and better footage coming to light, which we all watch to get all the subtle nuances of their mannerisms. We never feel that we’ve got it com­pletely nailed and that keeps it fresh for us. We never become complacent.”

The recent Ron Howard film ‘Eight Days a Week’ brought us unseen footage of the band when they were touring.

“We saw it in Australia and we thought it was amazing.”

It’s a hard life taking the show around the world, but is very rewarding.

“Yes, the hours are very gruel­ling and the schedules are quite punishing, and we travel the world but never see it, but the connection you have with the audience more than makes up for it.

“We involve the audience as much as we can and when you see the room reacting with peo­ple singing and clapping, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling.”

After celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper, the band is celebrating again.

“This year is the 50th anniver­sary of the ‘White Album’, and quite a chunk of this tour will be dedicated to that album.”

The album includes tracks such as Back In The USSR, Dear Prudence, Ob-La-Di-Ob’La-Da, Blackbird and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

“There’s going to be a lot of songs we’ve never done before and that part of the show has been revamped. I don’t want to spoil the surprise by naming the songs we’ll be doing though.”

But, he did reveal his own per­sonal favourites from the album.

“Well, there’s Dear Prudence, that’s such a great song, Black­bird, which I sometimes do as a solo spot, Rocky Raccoon and Honey Pie too.”

“And,” he added with a smile. “I’m hankering a bit towards Piggies.”

Steve – a lifelong Beatles’ fan –sums up his role: “The music is just timeless and a great pleasure to play.”

And he can’t wait to play the songs at home in Britain.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s always exciting, especially when it’s a ‘new’ show.”

The Bootleg Beatles is touring the UK in December and again next March.