John, Paul, George and Ringo – and not to mention Alex Turner and Kasabian – it’s tribute band time, and Rachael Clegg catches up with ‘George Harrison’ ahead of his Sheffield show
SHEFFIELD will become a rock and roll hall of fame next week.
Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, along with bandmates Matt Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney at the City Hall while – just down the road – Keith Flint and his Prodigy crew share a bill with indie rockers Kasabian.
Not even Glastonbury can boast a line-up that includes the Beatles and the Arctic Monkeys yet here, in the Steel City, these heroes of rock and roll with be within a few hundreds yards of each other.
Except, of course, they’re not the real deal.
The Antarctic Monkeys, Kazabian and Jilted Generation play in a variety of venues as the city is gripped by tribute fever. The Leadmill, recognising the appetite for the cover band, is even holding a ‘tribute act festival.’
Indeed, the popularity of tribute acts has grown exponentially over the past decade, a hint, perhaps, that retromania has taken over contemporary pop music.
And the mother of all tribute acts is the Bootleg Beaatles, who have been gracing some of the world’s biggest stages as history’s biggest pop band since 1979.
‘George Harrison’ – aka - Andre Barreau, has been studying the Beatles since he accidentally formed the band that year.
“We didn’t start out as a tribute act, we were doing the ‘Beatlemania’ show for three months in 1979 and then we played as a band during a stop-gap after that and it just went from strength to strength.”
But it wasn’t easy. While the Bootleg Beatles had all the members – George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and John Lennon – they needed to know the Fab Four’s entire back catalogue like the back of their hand.
“We had to study them but it was hard back then because there wasn’t even VHS.”
Previous to becoming a part-time Beatle, Andre worked at the BBC, where he discovered his talent for mimicking George Harrison’s droll Scouse accent.
“A friend of mine and I at the BBC used to go through the lines of a Hard Day’s Night in that accent,” he laughs and even breaks into George – the likeness is uncanny.
The Bootleg Beatles are accomplished musicians, playing all the songs note for note and raising the question as to whether it even matters that they are not the Beatles themselves.
“I guess if you play the records side by side it makes no difference .
“If somebody goes to see a symphony that Beethoven wrote and it’s performed exactly as it was, without a slant on it, then it doesn’t matter. We try and do justice to the records and aim to get everything perfect but then in the creative sense we are just replicating the songs, we aren’t the creators.”
Such is the notoriety of the Bootleg Beatles that they played at Pink Floyd frontman’s Dave Gilmore’s 50th birthday party – at which George Harrison was a guest.
“It was a ridiculous party but I remember thinking playing Roll Over Beethoven and thinking that I had to just do the best I can.”
After the nervewracking set – playing a catalogue of songs in front of the man who wrote them in the first place – George, at last, met George.
“He was brilliant and the first thing he said was ‘Where’s the Bootleg Brian Epstein?’
“He also said ‘You probably know these songs better than I do’.”
Now if that’s not a testimonial for the Bootleg Beatles, what is?
The Bootleg Beatles perform at City Hall tonight.