Beatlemania Again tribute band — based in New Jersey — will dive through the deep catalog of The Beatles’ splashy tunes in their yellow submarine at the Everett Theatre on Saturday.
Rich Morello, 45, who founded Beatlemania Again 18 years ago, and who plays as Ringo Starr in the band, discuses why his group is distinct from the other Beatles tribute bands, and more.
Q What do you think was Ringo’s greatest strength?
A His timing was incredible. Back then when The Beatles were performing live, they didn’t have the pleasure of having monitors or huge PA systems. They really couldn’t hear themselves sing. Ringo literally had to be pounding them drums and keeping the vibes of the band to do an amazing live performance. His timekeeping was incredible, and he was very innovative, too, with a lot of his drum fills. Especially in the earlier years with “Drive My Car,” there’s some really complex drum fills from his snare drum to the right tom. He did a lot with a four-piece kit and it’s neat to listen to the stuff.
Q With there being countless Beatles tribute bands, how does Beatlemania Again differ from the rest?
A Our show basically chronologically traces The Beatles’ career from “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, then springs straight through to The Beatles’ breakup in 1970. A lot of the shows out there just cover the early years of The Beatles, their touring years. But we actually cover their whole musical career from start to finish with costume changes throughout the show. It’s definitely challenging, because we’re performing songs that The Beatles themselves never performed live.
Q What are some of the songs you’ll be performing that The Beatles never played live?
A The Beatles stopped touring in 1966. So starting with the Sergeant Pepper era — the Sergeant Pepper album — The Beatles recorded that in the studio but they never performed it live. Some of the songs that we perform live from that record are “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” and songs from that era and beyond like “The White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be.” Those were all studio albums that The Beatles never performed live in concert. Some of those other songs [they never played live] are “Get Back” and “Hey Jude.”
Q Since songs like “Lucy” were created when The Beatles were in their experimental phase, how difficult is it to play those trippy tunes?
A I’m going to be honest with you, it’s challenging doing any of their material. The earlier years were straightforward songs, but they’re very complicated to do live. Now touching base on “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and the other studio songs [from the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album], it’s very difficult.
Page 2 of 2 - Q What makes a song like “Lucy” so difficult to perform?
A The harmonies are very complex, and the musical arrangements are very, very difficult. Back then their studio engineer was actually doing a lot of their keyboard material, George Martin was doing a lot of their piano work; there was four or five guys actually doing recordings. With us everything’s live — there’s no offstage musicians or anything like that. But the vocals are always the challenging thing, because The Beatles were a vocal group, and they had complex harmonies. Especially when you’re singing them live, you want to make sure everything is there because people are just waiting for you to make a mistake, Andre [laughs]. Literally, you’ll have people in the front row just saying, “Okay, go ahead. Do it.” We’re human, you know. But we do our best to capture all the authenticity, all the idiosyncrasies, and make it as realistic as possible.
Q Name a few things you’ve learned about The Beatles that you didn’t know since you founded Beatlemania Again.
A When you keep listening to the records — and I call them CDs now [laughs] — you can go back and still pick out something that was maybe overdubbed that you wouldn’t have heard for years — and you can learn something else. But truthfully with technology today, Ringo was so far back in the mix when The Beatles recorded their albums in the ‘60s. And with today’s new technology, and iTunes, the different speaker systems, and the new revamped way songs are being released, you can even hear The Beatles whispering in some of the recording sessions, because the technology is so great. Back when I was learning the character years ago, you wouldn’t hear that on a record; you’d basically have a basic diamond needle and you listened to the vinyl. But it’s amazing what has been captured and how technology has enhanced their listening pleasure.