The White Album Concert
JON STEVENS JOHN WATERS JACK JONES
38 years ago, one of the most diverse and compelling albums of all time was released. On January 5 and 6 the songs from the WHITE ALBUM will be performed by an eclectic trio of Australia’s most stunning and respected rock performers – JON STEVENS, JACK JONES, and JOHN WATERS with a 12-piece band of the country’s finest musicians and supporting artists in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
Recorded in the months of 1968 after the Beatles returned disillusioned from India, their manager dead, their break-up in sight, and wracked with internal tensions, the double WHITE ALBUM was immediately hailed as one of the greatest, most powerful albums ever made. Jam packed with rock’n’roll, soul, blues, country, folk, vaudeville and reggae, and inspired by spiritual growth, politics, civil rights, sex, whimsy, love, psychedelic drugs, the I Ching, The Beach Boys, Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney’s sheepdog, this major work bursts with variety, creativity, experimentation, and the genius of The Beatles during one of their most intense, fertile, periods. It is a timeless album, yet very much of its time.
The WHITE ALBUM CONCERT is being performed by an especially assembled creative team for this first Opera House Concert of 2007. Besides the vocal power and musical intelligence of Jon Stevens, John Waters and Jack Jones it includes Stewart D’Arrietta (musical director of Tom Waits for no man, and co-creator of John Waters’ Looking Through A Glass Onion), the rock virtuosity of guitarists Rex Goh and Paul Berton, bass player Tony Mitchell (Sherbet), drummer Greg Henson, horn leader James Greening, strings Leader Stephanie Zarka, and support vocals and vocal arrangements Lindsay Field.
The WHITE ALBUM contains some of The Beatles most enduring and provocative hits. From Lennon’s timeless anti-violence anthems Revolution and Happiness Is A Warm Gun, to Harrison’s quirky Piggies and McCartney’s Honey Pie. From the exquisite ballads Julia, Dear Prudence, and Blackbird, to classic pop stuffed with sexy hooks of Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?, Ob La Di, Ob La Da, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. There’s the shiny brilliance of the metal/rock masterpiece Helter Skelter, which McCartney wrote to challenge The Who, the mock country fun of Rocky Raccoon and Don’t Pass Me By, and the Chuck Berry/Beach Boys pastiche Back In The USSR. Even Ringo wrote a song.
This is a profoundly brilliant, influential piece of work and these two concerts are an un-paralleled opportunity to experience this music performed live. Don’t miss it.
Presenter: Tim Woods and Phil Bathols
Venue: Concert Hall
SEASON Friday 5 and Saturday 6 January 2007 at 8pm
A Reserve: $99
B Reserve: $89
Sydney Morning Herald. The White Album Concert. By Steve Meacham December 18, 2006
John Waters has good reason to remember the first time he heard the Beatles' White Album.
John Waters has good reason to remember the first time he heard the Beatles' White Album. It was 1968, he was newly arrived in Sydney as a "£10 Pom" and he'd just landed a cushy job - chauffeuring a bunch of British and American movie stars who were shooting a long-forgotten film on the South Coast.
One was Beau Bridges, son of Lloyd and brother of Jeff. "Beau was a really nice guy and we became good buddies," Waters recalls. "We hung around after work and smoked a few joints together. Then, one night he said: 'I've got something to show you, John.' "
The White Album, still to be released in Australia, had just come out in the US, and the teenage Jeff had sent his elder brother a tape he'd recorded of the double album - all 30 songs - with his own commentary between each track. "He'd say, 'This song is so amazing, man ...,' " Waters says. "It was a young man's perspective."
At first, Waters found the gushing commentary irritating, wishing he could listen to the songs as they sounded on vinyl. "Then I realised that this was the power of the Beatles' music. It had taken this young kid, just a few years younger than me, to a place he'd never been before."
Fast forward 38 years and Waters hopes that weird kaleidoscope of 30 songs has the same ability to inspire an audience when he joins fellow rockers Jon Stevens and Jack Jones on stage at the Opera House. The trio will sing the entire White Album in sequence - as far as anyone can tell, the first time there's been a concert performance of arguably the strangest and greatest of the Beatles' albums.
"At the time, I thought it way surpassed Sgt Peppers," says Waters, who has become a Beatles trivia nut since Looking Through A Glass Onion, his critically acclaimed one-man show based on the life of John Lennon, which made it to London's West End in the early 1990s. "I still think it is their best album, though I love Abbey Road. But the White Album is the apex of their creativity - and of their rivalry.
"People say, 'But they didn't record together. It's all bits and pieces. Very patchy.' And that's all true. But it is still brilliant."
In retrospect, the Beatles, then at the height of their popularity, were divorcing. Their manager, Brian Epstein, had died. They had been seduced - and then disgusted - by their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had invited them to India for a transcendental meditation masterclass (where they wrote many of the songs on the White Album). Yoko Ono's presence in the recording studio - witness Revolution 9 - had driven a wedge between Lennon and the other Beatles. The mild-tempered Ringo Starr had quit the band temporarily. Even their producer George Martin, the "fifth Beatle", had become so dispirited he left for an unscheduled holiday.
Yet, individually, Lennon and Paul McCartney - supported by George Harrison, who was rapidly emerging from their considerable shadow - laid down a suite of songs unsurpassed in their breadth. From heavy metal ( Helter Skelter) to acoustic ballad ( Blackbird), from political anthem ( Revolution 1) to music hall pastiche ( Wild Honey Pie), from guitar classic ( While My Guitar Gently Weeps) to Lennon's lament for his lost mother ( Julia).
"The White Album is so eclectic, so out there," Jon Stevens says. "I just love its quirkiness. Take Rocky Raccoon. What kind of song is that? It's mad, but once it's in your head, you can't stop singing it."
Stevens was too young to remember the White Album, though he does recall "my first Beatles experience - listening to Penny Lane in my dad's truck when it came on the radio". The youngest of 11 children, he learnt about the Fab Four from his siblings. "Their songs just permeated your soul as you were growing up."
Stevens's favourite song from the White Album is Lennon's Happiness Is A Warm Gun, which he will sing on both nights of the concert - much to Waters's chagrin: "Maybe I'll be able to nudge him out of the way one of the nights. I've always wanted to sing it."
Stevens will sing most of the heavier songs, including McCartney's Helter Skelter, which became notorious for supposedly inspiring the mass murderer Charles Manson. New York-born Jones, who is overseas, has been assigned most of the McCartney ballads, including Blackbird and Mother Nature's Son.
As for Waters, the former Playschool presenter and star of All Saints (and a grandfather to boot), still gets to belt out some rippers, including Lennon's manic Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.
"Dirty rock and rock is my forte," boasts Waters, whose nights are disturbed by his 11-week-old twins, Gloria and Rusty - "they sound like a country and western duo" - with third wife, Zoe.