Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All together now: Imagine the Beatles

All together now: Duck! Because All Together Now, the long-running Beatles tribute band, is gonna throw everything they’ve got at you, all at once, when they turn up at the Firehouse this month. The band, which has been doing the Fab Four thing longer than those lovable, adorable Mop Tops did, will play its usual set of 40 tunes, each one paired with an original ATN video playing on the 12-by-18-foot screen in back of them. The quartet will also come at you with a five-camera shoot to document the show for a possible concert DVD in the future, as well as provide band and crowd shots for the big screen during the performance and, of course, the raw digital material for future videos. They’ll also be promoting “Hang in There,” a new album of original music that is soaked in the sound and sensibility of that fabled period, the Beatlemania era, although they won’t play anything from the album. That’s because people come out for the real thing or, yeah yeah yeah, in this case a close-your-mind-and-imagine recreation of the real thing, although you probably won’t want to look away because of the multimedia aspects of the show, like the vids and old-school commercials — Nancy Sinatra getting her boots walking for RC Cola, The Munsters shilling for Bit-O-Honey. Even, more on point, older Ringo and the Fab Four lite. That would be the Monkees doing a Pizza Hut ad. Besides, the album won’t be ready for the May 21 show. The full order is in transit and should be ready soon after the Port performance. But, for hardcore fans, they’ll have a special limited-edition, autographed version of the album, about 100 in all. Can anyone say collectible? The Firehouse show will also include a special guest appearance of Melissa Moore, wife of Tommy Moore. No, no. Not Tommy Moore, the 1960s Silver Beetles drummer (and if you know that little bit of trivia, then you’re too wrapped up in the whole Beatles business for your own good), but the bass player and founding member of All Together Now. She’s also the daughter of Les Harris Sr. and sister of Les Harris Jr., two of the most influential musicians to come out of the city, and the voice of the Newburyport Bank. If you’ve heard the commercials, or called the bank, you’ve heard her. She’s no Yoko. Or Linda, for that matter. Now, a collective sigh of relief from all you folks who remember “Don’t Worry Kyoko” from the Live Peace In Toronto album. There will be no Moptop missus caterwauling, but there will be a bit of the adventurous spirit Ono represented, with Moore singing backup as well as playing a couple, well, unusual instruments — more on that later — making her “our ace in the hole, our secret weapon,” says Moore.

The band has been around, in one form or another, with one name or another, for more than two decades. The history is almost as complicated as that whole Apple Records mess: First Les Harris Jr. and Bobby Squires form Merseyside, a Beatles tribute band, with two colleagues from Phillips Exeter — Eric Sinclair and Andrew Inzenga. Get Back! morphs out of Merseyside, when Harris and Squires hook up with Moore and Jeff Landrock in 1993. Yes, Moore was virtually Harris’ brother-in-law at the time, so there was a kind of nepotism going on, but Moore was also a Grammy nominee, getting the nomination in 1985 with his band Northern Star (they were up against Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others, and got crushed) and a complete Beatles freak, as was Landrock, one of Moore’s old friends. Squire left to form Beatlejuice, another Beatles cover band, this one with ex-Boston singer Brad Delp as frontman, in early 1995. They brought in Lauren Passarelli. One year later, Harris left the band. A former member of The Ritz, the jazz vocal group and the Tommy Gallant All-Stars, Harris played drums with the Paul Broadnax Quintet, and was a first-call session player and fill-in for guys like Herb Pomeroy, Donna Byrne, Gray Sargent and Rebecca Parris and Marshall Wood, among others. So, obviously, he was stretched pretty thin. “We all realized we needed to find a fulltime Ringo,” says Moore. They brought in Ace Bailey to keep time. Then came the name change, from Get Back! to all Together Now in 2003. They brought on Bruce Hilton in 2008, singer/guitarist for The Digbees, a rootsy/Americana band that recorded two Beatles spoofs — “Beat the Meetles: The Stinky Blackwater Tapes” and “Rubber Revolver: The Stinky Blackwater Tapes Vol. II,” to replace Passarelli. The name change came about because there was already a band named Get Back, a pretty established band, with two members of Beatlemania. They sent along a message from their lawyer saying that they’d appreciate it if Moore and company would get back to where they once belonged, if you get the drift. So, years into their existence, with an established fan base, they changed the name of the band to All Together Now, from one of the Fab’s less famous songs, from “Yellow Submarine.” Which, Moore says, was fine. It makes more sense. “We like to get everyone involved,” says Moore. “It’s not just about us on the stage. It’s about all of us, on the stage, in the audience, all together now, on the stage. It’s about having some fun together.” At gigs he still runs into people who tell him the band reminds them of this Beatles tribute band from back in the day, a band called Get Back.
They don’t especially look like them, but they do sound like them — at least as far as the music goes. They don’t bother with those irritating Liverpudlian accents. And they don’t play “fixed” roles. Moore, for example, sings John but plays Paul. Landrock, who owns Landrock Recording in Berwick, Maine, plays John’s guitar parts (and “Paulish” piano) and sings McCartney vocals. Hilton plays guitar, harmonica and sitar, and usually sings George, although he “plays” John sometimes. And Bailey? Well, you’re stuck behind the drum kit, what are you going to do but singo Ringo and get by with a little help from your friends? And the musical influences vary, too. Moore, for example, started playing bass after hearing Paul’s on “Sgt. Pepper,” but his playing is also informed by the more aggressive sound of the Who’s John Entwhistle. And Bailey was drawn into this world by Ringo, but is also drawn to monsters like John Bonham and Neil Peart. The reason the band has endured isn’t that they ape the sound, but because they are able to recreate the look and feel of the period, tapping into the collective consciousness of a generation. The band has about 80 songs, each with its own unique video, in its play list. Every year they add up to five new tunes to the repertoire. This year they’re thinking about “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “Golden Slumbers.” Maybe even “A Day in the Life,” complete with orchestra swells, which would be a natural closer. At the Firehouse, expect two sets, about 40 songs in all. They’ll hit all eras, playing everything from “Twist and Shout” to “Let It Be.” Expect a run of songs grouped around the Rickenbacher 12-string guitar: “A Hard Days Night,” “Should Have Known Better,” “I Call Your Name,” and “Eight Days a Week.” Expect “Norwegian Wood,” a rarity in tribute band shows — and a song almost never done with the original sitar parts. Melissa Moore, a board member of the Society for the Development of the Arts and Humanities, the non-profit organization that manages the Firehouse, and a performer who will be in “Forbidden Newburyport,” a satirical musical revue all about our town in June, will join the band for the second set. In addition to singing backup, she will also play the tambourine, bongos and oddball “instruments” like the Slinky, to recreate the swooshy sounds on “Strawberry Fields Forever (and, yes, we’re talking about the Beatles-era toy that can “walk” downstairs) and the glass-of-water-and-a-straw to make bubbly sounds for “Octopus’s Garden.”
And the new album? Gonna have to hang in there just a little bit longer because “Hang In There,” the album, is still under wraps. They didn’t even realize what they had — a concept album, of sorts, until a couple of weeks ago when, while choosing the song order, they realized the songs told the story about life. It’s about growing up, it’s about relationships. And, like “The Gray Album,” ATN’s first album of original music, which was released in 1999, it is soaked in the period and swimming in Beatles references, musically and lyrically.
Something to consider if you’re planning on going to the concert and are interested in the album: the Firehouse seats just under 200 people, and the band will have just about half that number of CDs.
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: All Together Now, the long-running Beatles tribute band, performs at 8 p.m. May 21 at the Firehouse Center as part of its 10-for-20 music series. Tickets are $16, or $14 for members of the Society for the Development of the Arts and Humanities, the non-profit organization that manages the Market Square venue. For more information, log onto www.firehouse.org or alltogethernow.us.

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