“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” The literary critic, Cyril Connelly, wrote that.
Nice one. However, if Cyril would have lived long enough to witness the rise of the Internet, he may have revised his words to mention the wireless router in the hall, too. Just what is it with nostalgia and online behaviour these days? Music, more specifically, is the creative world’s biggest culprit of looking back online: remastered reissues, archive-trawling box set downloads, YouTube documentaries about where the bass amp was in the studio… you get the picture. Look, I’m as big a music geek as anyone, but the Internet’s obsession with yesterday (week, month and year) is all-consuming and threatening to cut off oxygen to original creative thought
And just as 2016’s best new music throws us a line, we get drowned in something new (and old): this time, it’s the news of ‘The Sessions: A Live Restaging Of The Beatles At Abbey Road Studios’, opening at the Echo Arena next week. Hey, the previews are fantastic and the attention to detail looks phenomenal… indeed, the show is backed by Abbey Road engineer, Geoff Emerick, who obviously has the ‘I was there’ credentials. But, should we have had enough?
To be fair, the Internet didn’t create this touring show – it’s certainly responsible for the insatiable appetite that will sell the recreations out, however. And that’s what troubles us. Should we have had enough, we asked above. Because, almost certainly, we won’t have had enough as the tour will sell-out and reveal the Fabs’ behind the curtain to thousands waiting on a glimpse of… what exactly? A session musician or actor playing a note using the same guitar and amp as John Lennon?
“This is the closest the audience will get to experiencing the way things worked, in the confines of the studio, when I was part of the team that recorded the greatest music of all time,” Emerick told Uncut recently. The multi-Grammy Award winning studio man has accessed unique resources and gathered original stems and audio mixes to painstakingly bring the concept to life. “Finding the right musicians has been one of the biggest challenges,” he also told the monthly music magazine.
We’ll bet. He’s also worked alongside producer Stig Edgren, the man behind ‘Elvis Presley – In Concert, and stage designers Stufish (The Rolling Stones, U2), to get the colossal undertaking road-worthy. What will audiences be getting: a tribute band? A recording session? A cast of thousands? The latter seems likely, as the show requires two Johns, two Pauls, two Georges, one Ringo (!), seven additional musicians and a 21 piece orchestra. Oh, and there will also be eight studio technicians on-stage.
What they will be doing exactly has yet to be revealed – you’ll have to shell out your £40-£50 first. Well, actually, we know this upfront: “Each of the albums recorded at Abbey Road will become a ‘Suite’ all of which form part of The Sessions’ definitive Beatles Overture, driving the true story of how they made the records that shaped the next half century of popular music and culture.” That’s that cleared up, then…
Look, we’re not daft, we know the show has the potential to be great – and proceeds from the box office will be donated to Radio City’s Cash For Kids – but you have to ask the question of where to next? It’s great that a young girl or lad in Alder Hey can perhaps rest a little easier in hard times because of philanthropy from events like this. What if they grow up to be a musician or actor, however? What will their future hold, then… solely playing notes and parts from decades before they were born? It’s a concern.
We need the creative opportunities provided by that wonderful little box in the hall to be about looking forward. We need to encourage young musicians, actors and creatives to learn about their art, pick out their favourite parts of the past (perhaps, yes, even where the bass amp was placed in Studio 2) and then create something startlingly original. Or just something undeniably good!
If not, the pram in the hall maybe the only future they have.
The Sessions: A Live Restaging Of The Beatles At Abbey Road Studios
March 30th 2016, Echo Arena, Liverpool
Beatles Sessions at Black Island Studios, London
– pic by Tom Oldham