googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners: Backbeat At The Ahmanson Theater

Backbeat At The Ahmanson Theater

Today is Fred Wolf's 80th birthday. Happy birthday Fred! Fred owned Murakami-Wolf Films which produced animation for Harry Nilson's classic Movie of the Week, The Point, Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, the Flo and Eddie staring movie Cheap, the Puff The Magic Dragon TV specials and lots of commercials for popular rock albums, back when there where television commercials for rock records.

Fred went to England early on in the pre-production of The Beatles animated classic Yellow Submarine and became a friend of the band and their friends, like Nilson. Because of Murakami-Wolf's association with rock and roll and their decidedly un-factory-like environment of animation production it was the only studio I ever wanted to work for. It certainly was not the only studio I ever worked for but that was my dream job and the only place where I built any lasting relationships in the Animation Industry.

Because of Fred's relationship with the Beatles he is often given Beatles related gifts such as two tickets to the play Backbeat at the Ahmanson Theater. He gave the tickets to his son, Bill, who oddly enough has the same birthday (kind of like John and Sean Lennon), and suggested I might appreciate one as well since he knows what a Beatles fan I am. So a couple weeks ago Bill Wolf and I attended a performance of Backbeat at the Ahmanson Theater in downtown L.A.

Overall, I enjoyed it, of course. I had heard that some of the reviews said it was "too loud" and to a theater audience it was a bit loud when the band played. But it was a rock band and that's how they sound. I think many times when people complain about a band being too loud they're actually referring to the sound being "too intense". If The Sound Of Music was playing at the Ahmanson the mix level might have been every bit as loud. After all, the sound has to be mixed for the back row not the third row where I and Bill were seated. It's not really the volume that offends some people but the intensity of the music, the "in your face" aspect of rock and roll that non-fans mistakenly interpret as volume.

It was weird to watch an actor, too young to have been born before the death of John Lennon, portraying John. As a life-long Beatles fan you tend to feel you actually know these people and are certainly extremely familiar with their life stories so it's a little strange to see your "friends" portrayed live in front of you by strangers too young to have had the same relationship as the original fans. 

I've seen a lot of Beatles tribute bands in my day and the cast of Backbeat, which was based on the movie of the same name, was not a Beatles tribute band. Only the cast member portraying Paul McCartney had even a remotely passable resemblance to a Beatle and he was not left handed. The actor playing John was a good enough actor to catch his mannerisms and accent, which was hard to understand, but didn't even seem to try at approximating his singing voice. That being said, the band as a band, did a good job, they just would never cut it as a Beatles tribute act. The show takes place when The Beatles were playing in Hamburg, Germany, before they got a record contract and is essentially a love story between John, Astrid Kutcher and Stu Sutcliffe, the Beatle doomed to die before the band breaks big. Because the show depicts the early days there are no Lennon-McCartney songs in it until the encore when the band returns from the curtain call to perform a six song miniset of abbreviated early Beatles hits.

One of the interesting points in the show is that according to this script Paul McCartney was originally the Beatles' lead guitarist. It is only after Paul takes up the bass guitar position after Stu leaves (Paul seems to grab the bass as fast as he can every time Stu shows up late to a gig not so much because he really wants to play bass but because he really wants Stu out of the band) that George Harrison becomes the bands lead guitarist. This is not how the Beatles' story goes as George originally auditioned for the band as a lead guitarist by playing an instrumental and Paul and John, both lead singers, wanted to be able to play rhythm guitar while they sang. In the show it makes you wonder why George Harrison was in the band to begin with. He was too young to be able to work legally in Germany and was the reason they got deported and he didn't sing much at that point so who needs a third rhythm guitarist?  I assume the show was written that way because the actor who played and looked like Paul was the only one capable of playing the lead guitar, which he did very well, so George didn't have to play any licks until the very end encore where most of the solos were cut from the songs.

Thanks again for the ticket Fred and happy birthday to you and Bill.

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