In the later years he used a really distinctive Leslie sound, how do you replicate that?
That’s actually on the multi-FX pedal, it has a rotary sound on it and it’s perfect. I can be doing, say, the Abbey Road medley and we can be going from a standard slightly warm and distorted sound, and I can click on the rotary and get that beautiful sound before heading back into a heavier sound. I also use it on the solo on Let It Be or if we do The Lond And Winding Road, so it’s a brilliant asset.
Early on in the Bootleg Beatles, the first fifteen years or so, I just used an overdrive pedal with various setting on that and the amp. We just didn’t get into too many effects pedals early on just so that there wasn’t this great big chain and board out there. It didn’t feel right to do The Beatles like that. But now it’s really helped with the sound. But I want to underline that fundamentally it's down to the guitar that you’re playing and the way that you hit it.
In terms of performance, it’s particularly impressive how you inhabit George, from his stance to the way he sings, and his stage presence. How do you balance all that?
If you compared it to doing your own music in your own clothes it’s almost impossible. There’s nothing better than just standing there, being you, and not worrying about anything else other than your music and getting it across to the audience.
We’re trying to worry about the music, and get across the audience. You used the word balance, well half the time I’m on one leg or one heel or something! You want to change your character as George changes physically. He’s very open and smiley early on and becomes more introverted as you go through. Then you’ve got the vocals, and a costume or wig change coming up as well. That’s another thing that’s on your mind!
So it is quite a task really. If we’re playing abroad, it may be a great auditorium but maybe with not the greatest facilities out back, then that’s hard – trying to stick a moustache on in half-light! All these things make it a more difficult job. But all of us think that the mimic is such an important part. Wearing the right costumes is important, but it’s how you inhabit that costume and make it move that makes it believable to the audience. You know all these things that George has done because you’re a Beatle fan, and if you see something somebody does you see it. They’re very important.
It’s all about the detail.
We always say that the more detail you put in, it adds up to a big picture. And so every move you can add, whether it’s how George would approach the microphone differently at Shea Stadium to what he would have done on the Ed Sullivan shows, that all helps. Particularly with YouTube, which is a whole other ballgame for mimicking now.
When The Bootleg Beatles first started, there was just nothing available, apart from A Hard Day’s Night on at Christmas – you couldn’t even get a video of it. So you had to watch it, take it in and hopefully try and replicate it. But now even the most obscure TV performance is available on YouTube and it’s a brilliant asset for us, doing what we do.