The White Album Tour: Prefab Four

white album

IF YOU’RE GOING TO CHOOSE a single album to base your 21-musician show around, it had better be a good one.

Four of Australia’s top rock singers; Chris Cheney of The Living End, Tim Rogers of You Am I, Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon and ARIA Award-winning singer-songwriter Josh Pyke have chosen to do exactly that. Thankfully for everyone concerned, they have chosen wisely.

Their upcoming White Album Concert tour will see the four musicians backed by a 17-piece orchestra to run through the 1968 classic Beatles album on a national tour, including such numbers as ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ in a repeat of the widely successful 2009 tour that brought a slice of the swinging sixties into the modern day. High demand for the show at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre on 13th July has led to the addition of a matinee show on the same day.

Speaking to news.com.au, Jamieson and Rogers explained that it was an easy decision to reconvene and get into a Fab Four frame of mind once more.

“The timing worked,” Jamieson said. “We weren’t in a cycle trying to sell our own rubbish so we could do these amazing concerts again. It was a blast for the audience and you could not disguise the absolute joy we all had up on stage.”

Despite having commitments with You Am I and his solo work, Rogers was also quick to jump at the opportunity.

“We were completely surprised by the reaction to it,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been in anything that’s been so complimented. Anything I’m involved in there always seems to be a certain percentage of dissenting voices questioning as to whether I’m a complete hack or not! The four of us are quite different personality-wise and quite complimentary. Doing anything that’s other people’s material is not my automatic go-to thing. I prefer writing what I perform. But it’s like stepping into a character, it’s almost like sweet relief at times. You can go and be a performer. There’s less Rogers angst, more Lennon angst.”

In terms of musical releases, 1968 was a teeny bit special. Maybe it was the influence of the Summer of Love the year before, the rise of the counter-culture movement in America and elsewhere or the sudden widespread availability of a range of mind-altering new drugs, but one twelve-month period saw the release of some of the most influential and era-defining music of possibly any other year in musical history, and to say the charts of the day hosted an embarrassment of riches is an understatement. Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, The Band’s Music from Big Pink, The Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks featured alongside albums by The Doors, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Aretha Franklin.

At the top of the pile, though, has to be the White Album, so called for its blank, nameless cover. Written at a time when the Beatles had long since quit touring and the distance between main song-writers John Lennon and Paul McCartney was growing ever wider, exacerbated by musical differences, ego and supposedly meddling spouses, the album still sounds fresh today. It also contains one of George Harrison’s finest compositions in ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’; a song only taken seriously by Lennon and McCartney after Harrison enlisted the help of Eric Clapton to play lead guitar on the track. Josh Pyke explained in an interview with the AU Review why the song and album will always be considered a classic.

“It’s just a genuine phenomenon,” he said. “There is never going to be another band like the Beatles. And even if there are bands that are technically as popular or sell as many records, I think it’s fair to say they will never have the lasting impact upon culture as the Beatles have; because the Beatles came at a time when nothing was like what they were creating and they kept on pushing the limits of records, and they peaked and kind of disappeared under tragic circumstances when they were still massive; there was no slow decline.”

“With the White Album, you’ve got your raw, Hamburg rock’n’roll,” Cheney told Time Out Melbourne. “Then you’ve got stuff like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Rocky Raccoon’. It was pretty fractured at that point, so they were all in different studios doing their own stuff. I think every band needs that friction or it’s going to result in bland music. I know from personal experience, the hardest times with The Living End have produced the best results, because you’re fighting for something, and you’re pushing each other towards a greater result.”

The show will see the double album’s thirty songs played in full and in order, starting with ‘Back in the USSR’ and finishing with ‘Good Night’, and will include guitars, strings, horns, two drummers and musical direction by former Air Supply guitarist Rex Goh.

THE WHITE ALBUM SHOW APPEARS AT QPAC’S LYRIC THEATRE 13 JULY AT 3PM AND 7PM.

For Scene Magazine/Scenestr

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