One band that has taken the Beatles' sound to heart is Abbey Road Live!, hailing from Athens, Ga. As its name implies, the group performs the Beatles' “Abbey Road” album in its entirety. But that's not all—the band also performs many other Beatles classics, especially from the late 1960s, when the Fab Four had stopped touring and focused on the recording studio.
The lineup of Abbey Road Live! includes Tim Conley (guitar, vocals), Dave Domizi (bass, vocals), Andrew Hanmer (drums, vocals) and Michael Wegner (keyboards, guitar, clarinet, vocals). Earlier this week, Wegner talked with Soundoff about the upcoming show.
Q: When was the first time you heard the Beatles?
Michael Wegner: When I was growing up, I had three older brothers who were into all kinds of music, and Beatles music was playing all the time in our house. It was sort of passed down to me. By the time I was 8, I knew almost every Beatles song.
Q: Do you have a favorite Beatles song or album?
MW: That's an impossible question. Too many favorite songs, I wouldn't know where to start. As far as albums are concerned, I have to say I am fond of “Abbey Road,” the album that we built this band around. There's something conceptual about it that is just perfectly executed. It's like a symphony. I also like the “White Album” a lot, because it covers so much ground with the different song styles.
Q: Why do you like the Beatles so much? Why do you think they've remained popular after all these years?
MW: It's a perfect balance. Beatles music rocks just enough, it's also melodic, they sang great harmonies... They were equally comfortable playing catchy pop music or bizarre psychedelia.... And the songwriting is just transcendent. They appeal to so many different types of music fans. We can play for college kids just as easily as for a middle-aged crowd.
Q: What spurred you to put this band together? Was the original concept just to cover “Abbey Road”? How have things changed since its inception?
MW: Back in the 1990s, we had an original music band called Fuzzy Sprouts. We liked to experiment with different kinds of shows, and try to give our fans something different. So we decided one year to learn the “Abbey Road” album start-to-finish. Well, it turned out to be a big hit, and a lot of fun for us, so we wound up doing it again. And again. We started to get offers to do the Abbey Road show, so we thought, why not? Eventually we started learning more Beatles material, and other complete albums as well. Currently the band's repertoire includes more than 100 songs, and we've done three complete albums (“Abbey Road,” “Sgt Pepper,” and “Magical Mystery Tour”).
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges in covering later-60s Beatles material?
MW: A lot of their later material included extra instrumentation and orchestration. For most of our shows, we have just four guys. So it is always a challenge to get the right sounds to blend together. Also, the vocal harmonies can be really hard to work out. Some times they would put 12 tracks of vocal harmonies on a recording, and we only have four voices to work with at our live shows. They did a lot of tricks in the studio that are not easily recreated on a stage. So we try to capture the feel as best we can.
Q: What kind of liberties do you take to translate some of the more complex studio versions to a live setting?
MW: Sometimes we have to “interprete” the music, to make it work live. This band is less about recreating every last audio nuance as we are about bringing the music to life. I mean, what would the Beatles have done if they had toured in 1969? (Their last public performance was in 1966, and most of their later material was never performed live). Would they have re-created their albums exactly or would they have adapted the music for a live setting? Something tells me they would have gotten creative.
Q: Any actual Beatles ever see your show?
MW: Not yet. But we almost played a show with Pete Best once.
To learn more about the band, visit www.abbeyroadlive.com.