People often ask us about our guitars. These photos are a visual guide to some of them. Enjoy! (We certainly do…)
By Aviv Kammay
“Always unpredictable, a bit more inventive than most” (Leonard Bernstein on the Beatles, 1967)
“If you want to know about the Sixties, play the music of the Beatles” (Aaron Copland)
These two quotes from a pair of American classical music giants beautifully capture the significance of the Beatles, unmatched in the history of popular music. Take unprecedented originality and creativity in songwriting and combine it with a historical social phenomenon and you get a very powerful compound that generates fandom and scholarship, connecting generations of human beings around the world for over half a century and counting. Like many others, we at Get Back Wisconsin have the bug. We immerse ourselves in the music of the Beatles, and experience it as the listeners, performers, scholars, and fans we are.
But what is Get Back Wisconsin?
In early 2013 we embarked on an exciting and challenging journey, setting ourselves a goal of studying every song from the Beatles catalogue, and creating live performances that are as true as possible to the recorded versions. That is why the Wisconsin State Journal celebrated us as “the Beatles purists” (see story here). But we are not the kind of tribute act that puts on wigs and fake accents. We are five dedicated musicians who focus on bringing the subtleties of each song to life on stage. We are honored to share the music of the Beatles with audiences, and we always insert a few bits of vital (and less vital…) information about the songs we play.
And that is why we are so thrilled to offer a workshop at the Madison Music Foundry. Our workshop is designed for musicians who love the music of the Beatles and want to take a peek inside the songs. We will share with you the pleasures and struggles of creating note-for-note cover versions, and all the participants will have a chance to engage with the music hands-and-minds-on, as we will all make Beatles music together.
For updates and more about Get Back Wisconsin go to www.getbackwisconsin.com and “like” them on facebook.
Defining the repertoirial guidelines of our project
by Aviv Kammay
First, Apple did it for us. Not that Apple, the other one. The Beatles’ one (or is it that the Beatles are its?). In March 1988, with the release of the two Past Masters compilation CDs, the boundaries of the Beatles recorded canon were commercially defined. To complement the 13 albums released on CD the previous year (the 12 original UK albums plus the US album Magical Mystery Tour), the Past Masters collections – edited by history’s greatest Beatles historian, Mark Lewisohn – included 33 additional tracks that were not on any of the albums.
Thus, an official complete Beatles catalogue was formed. What was in? Well, it boils down to…
The UK albums,
plus non-album tracks on UK singles,
plus the Long Tall Sally and Magical Mystery Tour EPs,
plus the single containing German language versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You,”
plus the song “Bad Boy” (first released on a Beatles US album in mid 1965 and then on a Beatles UK compilation in late 1966),
plus the version of “Across the Universe” released in late 1969 on a World Wildlife Fund charity album.
That’s a total of 224 unique tracks (after deducting second appearances of identical recordings of “Yellow Submarine,” “All You Need Is Love” and “I Am the Walrus”). These 224 were now known as the Beatles’ core catalogue, pressed on the period’s newest format, the compact disc. It is important to note that at that point each one of these tracks was officially available in either mono or stereo (never in both) on CD. In other words, each track had one specific “canonized” mix.
So there it was. The Beatles’ canon. It featured selected (or in some cases, newly created) mixes of every title the Beatles recorded and commercially distributed spanning from their EMI signing in late 1962 through their final album release in mid 1970.
What was left out? Well, numerous other Beatles recordings:
Mixes officially released only on vinyl/tapes,
authorized and bootlegged live recordings,
the entire Beatles BBC corpus,
studio outtakes, sessions, and rehearsals (many of which had been leaked and were in circulation),
and various collectors’ gems, from precious home demos to obscure fan-recorded Beatles dialogues to yet more obscure material suited for scholars, the obsessed, and the scholarly obsessive.
Much of what did not make the cut in 1988 was later officially released by Apple on various compilations and formats (remember the Anthology and the Capitol Albums sets?) and a very great deal of the rest is (and has been for a while) available on hard-format bootleg collections and online.
It’s All Too Much…
It is now early 2013, and Get Back Wisconsin is formed. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of every Beatles album release. We will study and perform every Beatles song. Wait, every Beatles song? As in, the infinite number of known (and really, unknown) official mixes, BBC sessions, live versions, and who knows what else? That would not make sense. However, the 224 core catalogue tracks that constitute the rich Beatles canon make PERFECT sense. They are the most “real” Beatles songs (excuse the dangerous adjective there). They are the ones on the albums whose anniversaries we will mark and they include the in-between-albums material which is essential for an authentic representation of the Beatles’ music. And they, if I may, reflect the Beatles’ own desired releases (with the occasional odd exceptions).
Now there are more interesting questions to ask, intentional compromises to consider, and happy decisions to make, some easier than others:
- Are songs that the Beatles themselves covered fair game?
For sure. So many of them are associated with the Beatles (think “Twist and Shout” and “Act Naturally”) and all of them are vital building blocks of the releases in which they are featured.
- Are the 7 instrumental tracks by George Martin on side two of the Yellow Submarine album a truly integral part of the canon?
We should symbolically acknowledge them in one way or another.
- How important is it that we perform the German language versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You?”
Not that important.
- What about some of the Beatles songs that absolutely deserve to be paid tribute – for scholarly reasons, historical accuracy, or simply for fun – even though they are not in the canon? Take “Love of the Loved,” “You Know What to Do,” “Leave My Kitten Alone,” “If You’ve Got Trouble,” or “What’s the New Mary Jane” for example.
Let us pick and choose!
- What do we do with “Across the Universe,” “Get Back” and “Let It Be,” two versions of each are featured in the canon?
We base our decision on the context of a given performance. The album versions of these songs will suit their album show best.
- Wait, and “Love Me Do?”
Really? If you are seriously asking this, then you automatically get a bonus point and I guess you will have to look for that tambourine and find out the answer for yourself next time you see us perform that old number!
On Saturday, January 23, 2016, Get Back Wisconsin will partner with the Madison Music Foundry to produce a one-day Beatles workshop
Goal: Participants in the workshop will experience hands-, ears-, and minds-on, the various aspects, benefits, challenges, and principles of preparing and performing Beatles songs, when the aim is to stay true to the recorded versions.
9:00-9:45 Introductory session (in the big rehearsal room):
- A quick overview of what we are doing and why
- A few words about each of the specialized sessions
- A short performance by GET BACK WISCONSIN
10:00-11:00 Specialized sessions round 1 (in the big room + 3 others):
- Drums (led by John Nokovic)
- Bass (led by Steve Morgan)
- Keyboard/Strings/Winds (led by Aviv Kammay)
- Guitar (led by Geoff Blake-Horst and Sean Michael Dargan)
11:15-12:15 Specialized sessions round 2
- Vocals (led by Sean Michael Dargan and Steve Morgan)
- Beatles literacy: Discography and bibliography (led by Geoff Blake-Horst and Aviv Kammay)
1:30-2:30 Specialized sessions round 3:
- Self-contained “inauthentic” Beatles covers for the solo artist (led by Sean Michael Dargan)
- Arranging Beatles covers in the practical world (led by Aviv Kammay and Steve Morgan)
2:45-4:15 Practice time in small, ad hoc ensembles, each facilitated by one or more Get Back Wisc. members.
4:30-6:00 Closing session (everybody back into the big room):
- Performances by workshop participants
- A live rehearsal by GET BACK WISCONSIN (using Rubber Soul material)
- Q&A with GET BACK WISC.