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Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

74 CNY Musicians Unite to Play Tribute to the Most Important & Significant Album in Rock & Pop Music on its 50th Anniversary.

50 Years Ago Today … Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would have been wrapping up production unleashing the highly anticipated sonic monster that changed music forever. After an unheard of [at the time] 5 months of production at Abbey Road Studios, The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was released on June 1, 1967—the summer of love in full-bloom. An immediate and immense success—topping UK and US charts—Time magazine declared it “a historic departure in the progress of music,” while the rest of the media also praised its elevation of rock to the level of fine art. In fact, it won four Grammy Awards in 1968 including Album of the Year, becoming the first rock record to fetch this honor.

In February 1967, about half-way through the recording of the album, after recording the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” song, McCartney suggested that the Beatles should release an entire album that would represent a performance by the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. This alter ego idea would enable themselves the creative freedom to experiment. And yup. We’ve all heard about the experimenting ways of the Beatles.

By this time the Beatles had also stopped touring. Therefore, they would no longer have to play their songs live. And with this came the opportunity to adopt an experimental approach to composition, writing songs such as “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life​.​“

Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick’s innovative recording techniques included sound shaping, signal processing you name it. They invented a lot of techniques in the making of Pepper. They even hired a 40-piece orchestra performing aleatoric crescendos. If they could get their hands on it, they would try it. Recording was completed on April 21, 1967.

It is also important to note that in 1966, Brian Wilson’s [Beach Boys mastermind] growing interest in the possibilites of the recording studio and his admiration for both record producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul resulted in the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds LP, which demonstrated his production expertise and his mastery of composition and arrangement. This album, also profound, influenced many musicians of the day. McCartney in particular became inspired to work with sounds and textures not usually associated with popular music largely due to his affection of Pet Sounds. A record he made John Lennon listen to over and over. Beatles producer George Martin notes that without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened, and that Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.

It has been described as one of the first art rock albums, contributing to the eventual development of progressive rock, and credited with marking the beginning of the Album Era itself. What a great era. The Library of Congress placed Sgt. Pepper in the National Recording Registry, in 2003, honoring the work as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And ever since Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number one in its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” it’s been there or near thereever since when such polls arise.

And fittingly, there is nothing new about paying​ ​tribute to such a profound work. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been paid it’s fair tribute, though special live performances. All over the world.

Syracuse is no exception with it’s annual BeatleCUSE event, spearheaded by the 6th Beatle we know (from Liverpool of course) as Paul Davie. BeatleCUSE has become quite a production honoring Beatle music and music related to the Beatle influence. The shows feature some of the folks associated with Beatles music and culture such as Denny Laine from Paul McCartney’s Wings; Joey Molland from Badfinger (Beatles via Apple records put Badfinger on the map); Earl Slick (who played guitar for post-Beatle John Lennon): Hilton Valentine from the Animals (who, at the time were in the same top 10 circles with the Beatles, sharing billing with them for a great number of shows … they were “right there;” Mark Hudson, from the Hudson Brothers, who was basically around for John Lennon’s Lost weekend days hanging out with Harry Nilsson, Alice Cooper, Mickey Dolenz, and Elton John. Mark has great Beatle stories. Oh yeah, he also produced records for Ringo for about 10 years.

And these guys openly LOVE the experience of playing with Syracuse’s finest at the BeatleCUSE event. Denny Laine, in a phone conversation, says very Englishly, “It’s quite refreshing to see a high-quality production like BeatleCUSE. I mean really, man. Paul Davie really sticks-up for the details being right. And that’s not easy. All of the musicians were fantastic. You know, it can be unnerving to walk into a gig where you haven’t met the band, yet, but these guys made my job easy. Just killer. It was right. I had a great time. I appreciated the historical aspect of the production, as well. Very good.” When I asked him if he’d do it again, he replied, “Absolutely! I’d love to play with you guys, again.”

Hilton Valentine relates his experience, “First and foremost, the entire event was so well organized and executed. And the quality of the musicians was excellent. They all care about creating the authentic sound of the original recordings. The cherry on the cake was obtaining the bagpipe band for Denny Laine’s “Mull of Kintyre”. I honestly have not experienced a promoter like Paul Davie that cared as deeply about the quality of a show they were presenting. I would do it again in a heart beat.”

What a riot it is for any of the participating musicans to know that some of the musicians we all look up to with great respect have a good time playing this music with us. One of the most exciting and unique aspects of the show is that BeatleCUSE encourages big namers rocking with the local talent. They do. And it works. Shucks, you can meet these people too as part of the fun is the meet and greet components of the experience.

Syracuse drummer, Susan Royal enthusiastically states, “The BeatleCUSE show is a high energy, family friendly night of entertainment celebrating the musical legacy of the Beatles. There’s something magical and spectacular about participating in such a high quality production. I’m honored to be among Syracuse’s finest musicians to share the stage with legendary artists that share a musical connection to the Beatles. It’s going to be a rocking night of feel good music that celebrates the colorful and creative catalog of the Fab Four.”

“When Paul asked me to participate in BeatleCUSE, I said, ‘Hell, yes,’ exclaims John Freund, (who makes the the drive from Jersey city annually for the event) “There is so much camaraderie between all the BeatleCUSE musicians and the crew that it’s uplifting. Really. We played some of our favorite music with the some of the people who made that music in the first place.”

“I remember walking away from my first BeatleCUSE experience and thinking WOW! I hope I get to do that again! The musicians take it very seriously and work very hard to provide a memorable experience for the audience. Moving and memorable!” shares Edgar Pagan while Syracuse music vereran Bob Halligan declares, ”It is a real party that the audience completes for us!”

“To witness the Syracuse musical legends, that I grew up admiring, reproduce the recorded catalog of the musicians they admire is priceless.” explains drummer Kevin Dean, who is an annual component. And so is Rhys Brigida from Salt City Chill. “It’s still one of the most thrilling shows I’ve participated in throughout my 40 years of performing in CNY. Syracuse is richer culturally, as a result.”

This year’s installment of BeatleCUSE will prove to be yet another smash outing with 74 musicians—yes, 74, more than any of the prior BeatleCUSE events—on hand to render the evening’s music program. Among these people are SAMMY Hall of Famers, past winners and nominees. There are old pros and new blood.

Pete Szymanski, drummer for the Barndogs (who have been featured numerous times) remembers playing Live and Let Die with Denny Laine, offering the following elaboration, “Beatlecuse is a locally produced tribute of world class caliber to the greatest rock n roll group of our generation. It is organized and performed by people and players who care enough to give the time and attention-to-detail that such a show deserves. Nothing is faked. The performances are genuine. An added bonus is the inclusion of performers who have been involved with the Beatles in one way or another. Is it worth it? It’s Beatles music—of course it’s worth it!”

Anna Marie Lopez-White concurs. “It’s an amazing collaboration of some extremely talented musicians. The show is headed by Mr. Paul Davie who I call the George Lucas of BeatleCUSE. It’s a show that should be penciled in every year. Even if you’re not a fan of The Beatles—you will be by the end of the night!”

And of course there are the headliners. This year, Joey Molland from Badfinger will at the show contributing music and compelling relevant anecdotes. At the time of this writing a potential 2nd headliner—I can’t say or they’ll have to kill me—is in the works.

In my opinion the historical and anecdotal aspect of the show is part of what sets the bar of this tribute so much higher than the usual tribute. And when I use the word “tribute” I do not us the term lightly. BeatleCUSErs go to great deatil in honoring this music whether they are replicating it authentically to the popular versions we all know, or whether they’re rendering their own readings of the material, which is also compelling and fun.

The evening will feature two halves. The first half will feature different groups and collected musicans playing selections from the vast Beatles catalog. The second half will feature a note-for-note replication of the Sgt. Pepper album.

Dave Frisina, the head honcho at 105.9FM The REBEL will be on hand to emcee the show as he does every year. “The reason to go is because the Beatles music is timeless. It changed popular music and continues to influence and inspire musicians. And the artists that will be performing at the BeatleCUSE prove it. You’ll know the music and you’ll admire the way it’s done.” explains Dave.

The fans concur. “A jaw-dropping first experience. The show itself is more like being taken on a journey of sentimentality and nostalgia. All the while you are with your friends—all experiencing the same. I like the way it brings people together. And for those of us not able to see and hear the performances by the original artists, we get to feel what it must have been like.” says annual attendee and local music lover, Steve Sauro.

“It’s fantstic!,” says longtime CNY music fan, Liz Brown “I love seeing all the musicians, some of whom I’ve been following for a long time. The music is great and so are the stories. The show itself is a spectacle. I go every year!”

And then there is benevolence. A good protion of the proceeds generated at BeatleCUSE Productions (a 501c3 not-for-profit) will benefit Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, Clear Path For Veterans and scholarships to high school students pursuing college education in music education, performance or recording technology fields.

74 of Syracuse’s finest hardest working musicians all in one tonight. Its a good thing for a city to come together like this. You can be part the extravaganza yourself on April 8, 7pm at the Palace Theater. For more information, visit www.BeatleCuse.com

Chuck Schiele
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Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.