John Waters pays homage to the Beatles. The Newcastle Herald. ANITA BEAUMONT. 12 Aug, 2010
THE Beatles broke boundaries and revolutionalised the music industry.
The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney became legendary, and their influence is still felt in popular music today.
English-born, Australia-based singer and actor John Waters explained why he – along with fellow performers Jon Stevens, Doug Parkinson and Jack Jones – considered it such an honour to pay homage to the songs of Lennon and McCartney in Let It Be.
The production lands at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre next weekend.
‘‘They are the iconic songs of perhaps not just a generation, but the whole of the last part of the 20th century,’’ Waters told LIVE. ‘‘I think they signify so much to me and to everybody else who has come afterwards. I was a teenager at the time The Beatles first came out, so I’m very much in that target group – we’re now called baby boomers. But basically the music has been handed on to subsequent generations, because we don’t have much of a generation gap. We basically all like fall-on-the-floor rock and pop music, and although it goes through different scenes, very little has changed since the ’60s in terms of the music we like. But there was a much bigger gap between me and my parents who listened to Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. That was music of a different type, of a different era.’’
Waters, who also received critical acclaim for his portrayal of John Lennon in his one-man-show Looking Through A Glass Onion, doesn’t believe anyone ever gets tired of hearing Beatles songs.
Particularly when they are presented the way they are in Let It Be – with a 10-piece band, The Daytripper Band, complete with brass and string sections.
‘‘When I was a kid I was a bass player and a singer in a band in England before I came out to Australia, and occasionally people would comment that I sounded a bit like John Lennon,’’ he said.
‘‘In fact, in those days it wasn’t deliberate, it was just a natural thing that happened.’’
The very first Beatles song Waters remembers hearing was Love Me Do.
‘‘It had the sound of the black American groups that I’d been listening to through my older brothers’ record collection, and yet it also had an English pop sound to it as well; it was a strange fusion of those things,’’ he said. ‘‘And I actually thought there was a girl in the group, before I realised it was just high harmonies sung by guys, and that also became something of a motif for the music of the era. But their very first record set me off.’’
Waters said these days it was hard to imagine something or someone having the power to change and influence so much.
People started trying to emulate The Beatles, from top to toe. ‘‘It was a sociological revolution,’’ he said. ‘‘I saw a photograph of The Beatles walking down a street, and George Harrison in particular was wearing these extremely high-heeled Cuban boots, so I went out and bought myself a pair,’’ Waters said. ‘‘I’ve only worn cowboy boots from that day to this actually, but those ones with the heels on them – I just thought they looked like the grooviest things of all time,’’ he laughed. ‘‘I still have several pairs.’’
So what made The Beatles so special? Revolutionary?
‘‘They dared to be different,’’ he said. ‘‘Because most of the musicians and pop stars of the day, by nature they’re very ebullient crazy rock’n’roll people, but they were always kept down. All their managers and publicists kept a lid on them, telling them not to say anything too outrageous. It wasn’t new to be out there – I think the rockers of the ’50s were quite wild themselves – but The Beatles weren’t really, particularly early on, guilty of wild and outrageous behaviour. But they had strong political opinions and they voiced them. The management people around them, you could practically see them shrivelling in horror when John Lennon made his political statements. He was at the London Palladium at a royal occasion and it was full of titled people, lords and ladies, and before he started a song he said: ‘For those of you in the cheap seats clap your hands, the rest of you just rattle your jewellery.’ It was a very class-conscious statement for a working class lad on stage, and it shocked some people’’
‘‘It seems kind of tame by comparison today, but it was a big breakthrough for musicians. They were always very witty about it, but they said what they thought.’’
Waters said The Beatles had given the north of England a voice. "England was very London-centric – the rest of the people were perceived as just peasants – and this was a sore point for people in the north for many years. The Beatles made a big breakthrough in that regard. They broke barriers of class and snobbery and they did it very strongly. It was quite something to live through.’’
Waters loves that they were brave enough to record All You Need Is Love – an anthemic song about universal love.
‘‘It was a sentiment that was new to people in the day,’’ he said. ‘‘People were used to hearing songs about romantic love, and boy-girl love, but to talk about the spiritual, universal love – which they do in that song – was quite different altogether. It was very needed in the world at that time, and it’s still needed. A song like that can be sung again and again for me, and it will never lose its power and beauty. For me it’s an extremely beautiful song.’’
In Let It Be, each singer performs a couple of songs, but they’ll come together and harmonise for the more anthemic numbers like Hey Jude, Let It Be, and Come Together.
‘‘I think what we’re doing with this show is finding that place in everybody’s heart and fulfilling the need to hear these songs live,’’ Waters said.
Let It Be is on at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on Sunday, August 22, from 6pm. Ticket prices start at $99 through Ticketek.