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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

Scott Owen of The Living End: “I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other”

living end

THE LIVING END have just played five Soundwave shows and will headline The Big Pineapple Music Festival next month; not bad for a band technically on a break. Upright bass player Scott Owen explains why the Melbourne trio doesn’t sit still for long.

“Soundwave was fantastic,” he says. “We didn’t know what to expect as it was all very last-minute; we only got added to the bill two weeks before the festival. It was unexpected, but you can’t complain about getting up in front of audiences like that. Everyone seemed to file in there early and there was a really respectable amount of people there. [Short notice] can work either way for us; sometimes we rehearse our arses off before a show and for one reason or another it’s difficult to pull it together, and then sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end without a chance to rehearse, and they can be the best gigs. We went for the middle ground and only had a couple of rehearsals in the week leading up to it, and left it at that; just enough to dust out the cobwebs a little bit, but not overthink it.”

The band will be the top-billed rock act at next month’s second Big Pineapple Music Festival, which also features Dead Letter Circus and Spiderbait.

“Because we’re at a stage right now where we don’t have a new record out, we’re just kind of getting up and trying to tailor our set – and this probably sounds wanky – to please everyone,” Owen says. “We figure with festivals you’re there for a good time, not a long time, so we just try to play things that we think people are going to know and things people can sing along to; I think that’s our job at a festival. We didn’t really think of doing [AC/DC’s] ‘Jailbreak’ until the day of the gig at Soundwave in Brisbane, but every now and then we’ll pull out a cover and it’s normally something that’s planned. We’ve got six albums, so there’s a lot of catalogue to choose from and it can be difficult to try to think of what will please everyone, but that’s why we tend to rely on the songs most people are going to know. It’s not our own show; people are there to see a bunch of bands, so we just try to offer a good time.”

This year marks two decades since the band formed in Melbourne, but Owen isn’t keen to make a fuss of the anniversary.

“We did a retrospective tour the year before last, where we went out and played all of our albums for seven nights in each city, and that was a good way to look back over everything,” he says. “I think we’re more into looking forward than looking back now, although the plan is to do nothing for pretty much the rest of the year, apart from a few gigs here and there, and then sometime next year we’ll get together again and start thinking about the next record. This is the first time we’ve all not lived in Melbourne. Over the last couple of years we’ve all moved in different directions; Chris [Cheney, singer-guitarist] is over in America, I live in Byron and Andy [Strachan, drums] is down the coast in Victoria. There’s a bit of a distance between us and we figured it’s a good opportunity to just chill out for a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately we’ve never had any major difficulties with each other and we’ve been lucky to continue to get people to want to watch us play. I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other, and just enjoy getting up onstage and playing together. I really don’t know how to read it any more deeply than that.”

The band’s sound includes elements of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and punk; a formula that has worked well for the trio, although Owen’s ‘bass stunts’ – primarily standing on his instrument mid-performance – wasn’t always the polished party-piece it is today.

“When Chris and I were in high school we were only interested in’50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly,” he says. “Getting up on the bass was always part of the act; it was happening from day one. The funniest time was when Chris and I started playing; we were only about 16 or 17 years old when we started playing pubs around Melbourne. One of the very first times we played a proper pub – and we were still just doing rockabilly covers at the time – Chris climbed up on my bass to play a guitar solo and it all went horribly wrong and we ended up in a pile on the floor. It was devastating; we were thinking we could never get up onstage and show our faces again after such an epic fail. But we got over the hurdle. Luckily it hasn’t happened in front of an enormous audience.”

THE LIVING END PLAY THE BIG PINEAPPLE MUSIC FESTIVAL SATURDAY MAY 17.