Andy Timmons Band
‘That Was Then, This Is Now: The (re)Making of Sgt. Pepper'
One of the most beloved cultural milestones of the ‘60s generation and every generation since, Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles gets creatively
interpreted and re-imagined in this all-instrumental rendition by a
guitarist whose lifelong love of this material has resulted in an
album that transcends all musical boundaries and genres.
Two years in
the making, guitar fans, Beatle fans and everyone in-between will come
together when Favored Nations Entertainment releases Andy Timmons Band
Plays Sgt. Pepper on October 24th.
Every song on Sgt. Pepper, including 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' a
tune that was originally intended to be on that album, comes
stunningly and vibrantly alive. One Guitar. Bass. Drums. That’s it.
Lead guitarist Andy Timmons arranged it all from memory, never once
referencing the original album. This allowed him to take artistic
license to travel down some of the complex paths set forth by these
masterworks’ original creators.
It all culminates in an extraordinary
lovefest of psychedelic proportions filled with improvisation and
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Andy Timmons and discussed the new album, his love for The Beatles, his famous friends that love his new work too, and, of course, ... Penguins!
So why choose The Beatles' classic album to re-imagine? "The whole Pepper thing started with a medley arrangement I did of the songs Sgt. Pepper/Strawberry Fields Forever. We (The Andy Timmons Band) began including this in our setlist every night and it always got a great response!!! While we were on tour in Italy, my good friend and promoter Riccardo Cappelli suggested 'Hey, next time you come back, why not play a whole set of Beatles songs?' My initial thought was 'no way! I couldn't possibly play a whole set of Beatles material instrumentally and make it interesting!' However, it got my curiosity going."
"What if I played Lucy In The Sky? How would I do that? I just started playing around with different Beatles songs. It was so much fun!! Before I knew it, I was working on all the Sgt. Pepper songs. Not a conscious thought, I just kind of went down that path."
"I literally worked on the arrangements (on and off) over the course of two years. I really wasn't thinking of making a record, I was just enjoying the process. Then I started to realize 'wow, this is really working!!' We had gone into the studio to record some new original material. At the end of the second day of recording, our engineer Rob Wechsler mentioned that we now had two extra days for recording, but we had already recorded the material I had prepared. So Mitch (Marine our drummer) said 'what about those Beatle arrangements you're working on? Lets do it'!"
"So literally in two days we recorded the whole record!! Mitch and Mike (Daane our bassist) had never heard my arrangements, so it's pretty amazing how quickly Mitch got the drum tracks done. I never once had to mention anything about feel etc. He knew exactly what to play. He really understands the beauty of Ringo's drumming and feel and then puts his own flare into it. I literally heard him playing in my head when I created the arrangements. Magic!!"
"I kept about half of my live tracks and replaced the other half with better performances at later sessions. Mike also replaced some of his parts. I think he had the most difficult task of learning the incredible McCartney bass parts, and then having to adapt them to my arrangements in the power trio setting. He did a brilliant job!"
Amazing! So, what other classic album was a close second, but didn't make the final cut - and why? "There really was no other choice! For some reason, the Pepper songs seemed to really lend themselves to electric guitar arrangements. I should also point out that I did the arrangements from memory. In a way, this made the process a bit easier because I also wanted to record the record without overdubs. So I'm trying to capture the highlights of each song in one guitar performance."
"As the record plays in my head, different parts become more important at different times: the vocal line, a chord, orchestrations, sound effects etc. Had I been referencing the record and trying to play everything it would have been a much more daunting task."
What do you remember of the time when the original Sgt. Pepper's came out? "I was only 4 years old, but I vividly remember how different it sounded!! The artwork also had a huge impact. The sound of the record really went with the colorful images! That was one of the most difficult aspects of our version of Sgt. Pepper: the artwork! The original cover has been copied and spoofed so many times over the years, that I simply wanted to avoid trying to emulate that. My only clear vision was that I wanted the cover to be the same red that's on the original back cover of the Beatles' version."
"We had a photo shoot set up in Germany at the end of a tour earlier this year and the hotel where we were staying had walls that were the exact same red as the cover!! We took some photos and that was it. Simple!"
Why did you decide to make this new album an all-instrumental affair? Was any of it ever recorded with a singer, perhaps? "I do sing occasionally, but over the last 10 years I've been more focused on my guitar playing: specifically in the power trio setting. I recorded the Resolution CD (2006 Favored Nations) in the same manner as the Sgt. Pepper record meaning one guitar performance per track, with no overdubs."
"This approach necessitates playing chords and melody simultaneously, so in a way it's similar to the way a jazz guitarist would approach arrangements. I've played a good bit of jazz though the years and studying Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass really helped me in my own arranging even though I'm playing more in a rock guitar style. It's all about what's needed to support and feature the melody in the best possible way."
What have Beatles fans said to you that have heard what you've allowed them to thus far? In truth, what's been the good and what's been the bad - if any! "Overall the response has been overwhelmingly positive!! I must say that generally I'm not a big fan of Beatle covers, so obviously I was a bit cautious about doing this record. When I first was able to play the record from start to finish by myself I started to really feel great about how it sounded and it felt very natural. I think you'd be able to tell if it was a calculated commercial attempt. It was purely done out of my love, admiration and respect for the music."
"I hope that comes across in the recording. There was one slightly negative response from a good friend of mine who felt that the playing was great but he didn't think the songs worked without the lyrics.I certainly appreciated his honesty! I realize it's impossible for everyone to connect with it, but so far…so great!"
Steve Lukather has said that your new album is "one of the coolest things" he has ever heard. So, how much did you pay him?! "Steve is a friend as well as a hero. He's essentially one of my biggest influences and for him to praise my work in this way is truly gratifying. It's so cool that I have to share his entire quote:
“I must hip you to new music I just heard that floored me! It is, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I have ever heard…originality, as well as virtuosity, will make this the best guitar instrumental record in decades, if not ever.” — Guitarist Steve Lukather
"And from Elliot Easton of the Cars:
"WOW!!! OK, first of all you are a very sick man and I hope you never find the cure! My fave moment: the chicken cluck coming out of 'Good Morning' into the 'Pepper Reprise'. This is proof that you are a genuine Beatle homo and believe me, it takes one to know one! What a fantastic player you are - great choices, touch, tone and above all you ear for nuance. I think you should do the White Album next. I just want to hear how you'd handle Revolution 9!!! Best of luck with this. It's a unique and ambitious and masterful piece of work. Most importantly, I found it very entertaining to listen to, beyond the dazzling guitar work. I thought it really stood up as a piece of music. Best, ee
"It's hard to imagine two bigger Beatle fans than Steve and Elliot, so no matter what, I already feel that this record is successful!"
Well, based on all that, and with regard this new album, how easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I guess I really didn't think of it so much as 'what will the public want?' or 'what will surpass the original recording?' as much as 'what do I want to hear?' I didn't try to improve upon (how can you!) or re-invent the original. My intent was to present the music as faithfully as possible in the context of a power trio setting."
Do you have a favorite track from the new album. One that's more personal to you then the others, perhaps? "I think it would have to be 'She's Leaving Home.' It's one of the most emotional Beatle tracks of all time and I spent a lot of time trying to capture that feeling in the guitar arrangement and performance. Paul has mentioned many times how the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds record was a big influence on Sgt. Pepper and where it's quite evident in his bass playing throughout the record, on this song he demonstrates a very Wilson-esque falsetto that really packs an emotional wallop!"
It's been said about you that you are a renaissance man whose guitar work can fit any genre. But, in truth, is there a genre that comes to mind that you know, in your heart, would be a tough sell for you? "Not really, as long as there's a good song involved I genuinely love playing any style of music."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why? "Can I pick 'Mandy' from Barry Manilow even though it's from the '70s?? I'm a Fanilow … I confess! It's a really beautiful song!"
Sure, that works ... and so, lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins...do you? "Well, I don't personally know any Penguins, but I did love the 'March Of The Penguins' documentary. They are undeniably cute and nothing if not determined!! Though, through my occasional brushes with the African Penguins at the Dallas World Aquarium, I can attest that they are quite a stinky species!"
"I can also say that some of my favorite jokes include Penguins. No disrespect intended. I'll share next time I see you! Thanks!!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
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