Now first of all let me say my feelings towards tribute bands are somewhat….err confused.
I don’t have a problem with bands playing other people’s stuff, it’s obviously a huge part of the industry especially in its lower reaches and indeed I myself do corporate stuff with a soul band called the Impossible Groovers.
Also having been a jobbing muso for many years I appreciate the fact that you have to take the work where you can get it. Listen, I once recorded the vocal for “I’m Henry the Crab” for ten quid! (for a time I was very big with the under 3’s) so on that basis I’m in no position to judge anyone.
Also given the crazy ticket prices some of the old guard demand means that ordinary folks just can’t afford to see the real thing anymore. On a brief shimmy around the weboinfratinternet thingy I came across an article on Forbes.com that reported the average price of a ticket on the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary tour was $624!!! You’d have to put a kidney on eBay or something.
So into this void and that left by those departed and bands that are no more have stepped various acts to bring these glories of the past to the populace. I think it’s just the whole dressing up thing I struggle with…
So having recently been booked to play at a venue I hadn’t played at before, The Black Barn, Forty Hall, myself and my erstwhile colleagues, The Midnight Tinklers thought we’d go and check it out a couple of Saturdays back. In fairness as venues go it is what it says on the tin; it is a black barn and it’s in Forty Hall and I have to say is pretty cool.
But that night it was absolutely rammed as they had a Beatles tribute band on called “The Fab Beatles” and they were the real deal. “Paul” was left-handed and played a Hofner bass, “John” was playing a short scale Rickenbacker and “Ringo” was playing the original kit that the real Ringo toured the US with in 1964. So these guys were really on it, Liverpool accents, the suits, everything.
Finding myself at the front, a disconcertingly long way from the bar, the re-creation of the early Beatles sound was amazing and I found myself unable to stop smiling as I was carried away by the classic brilliance of their early material. Then I gradually became aware of another strange phenomena…I knew all the words.
Given that I was 4 when they first crashed onto the scene and having only ever owned one of their albums this could be quite unnerving…had I been locked in a chamber and been force-fed the whole Beatle canon? Had someone shoved a USB stick in my ear and downloaded it directly to my brain? Or is just a British thing they give as a child, Typhoid jab, Polio sugar lump, and a small yellow submarine shaped tablet???
I was,however, reminded of a previous occasion when the current Mrs. Pritchard and myself had gone to Bruges in Belgium to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It just so happened that our visit coincided with the “Tours de Flanders” a cycle race in those parts and the organizers had arranged a free concert in the main square by the Bootleg Beatles. Never being one to miss a free anything we, along with thousands of others, packed the square that evening and it soon became obvious that this is not just a British phenomenon. Surrounded by people from all over Europe with a sprinkling of Japanese and American tourists thrown in it became clear that everybody knew all the words. So the first truly international language was err…Beatle.
When faced with global domination, the perfection of the middle eight in I Feel Fine, and “John’s” dodgy wig I took the only recourse open to me and headed to the bar for a pint.
Gazing into my luke warm pint of Punters’ it occurred to me that isn’t it really just the same as what classical musicians do? Try to sound as close to the original as possible but without all the airs and graces?
It’s just the whole dressing up thing…