In celebration of Abbey Road’s 50th anniversary, some of Australia’s most respected musicians and members of iconic groups, collectively known as ARC — Kram (SPIDERBAIT), Mark Wilson (JET), Davey Lane (YOU AM I) and Darren Middleton (POWDERFINGER) — all self-confessed Beatles tragics, will faithfully and lovingly bring The Beatles’ most audacious creation to life on stage, performing Abbey Road in full, from start to finish, followed by a second set comprising of a selection of hits spanning the breadth of The Beatles’ career and catalogue.
Abbey Road – The Beatles’ swansong and their crowning achievement as a recording group – is a stately, majestic, playful yet fiercely rocking masterpiece of pop music, regarded as one of the greatest records of all time.
We talked to Kram about the Abbey Road show.
Kram explains: We’ve been playing together here and there for a while, the four of us. We’ve known each other for well over 20 years. Obviously, Spiderbait have all played together at different shows, many times.
And we’re all massive Beatles fans and Davey just basically popped up and said, “Hey, you know it’s the 50th anniversary next year.” This was late last year. And we were like, alright cool. We just sort of had the idea that maybe we should try and do this record and I’ve done another Beatles show with Davey a few years ago, and it was really, really great.
We really wanted to approach the current perspective as a band. I think, in reference to the White album one and maybe be other shows like it, the session musician drop in on one side and the singer’s dropped in another.
There will be extra singing and extra musicians involved, which I don’t think we’ve announced those guys yet. But the core of the production is the four of us and trying to play as much of the band’s work as we possibly can. Even though it’s a bit of a supergroup, it’s a very equal and very much a real band.
And we just feel really excited that we got the opportunity to do this project. It’s going to be epic because it’s really one of our favourite albums of all time and really one of the greatest records ever made.
It’s a pretty eclectic album.
Absolutely. I think that’s part of the excitement. We all know the record really well, and I do listen to it all the time anyway, even before we talked about this, during this production. In my group … I’m sitting in my lounge room now, so it’s a very strange mixture of Mozart, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Cosmic Psychos, Billie Holiday and The Beatles. So it’s fucking Sex Pistols as well. So it’s kind of where my head space is.
I live in a state of constant variation. So doing a record like this it’s a joy because trying to work out how to make all of those differences work, particularly on side two, is going to be a really wonderful challenge. I think we just can’t wait to do it.
So will you be playing drums the whole time?
I think there will be myself and an extra drummer, and we’ll do a few different variations. The plan is to move around a little bit. Obviously, Mark will be playing all the bass. The McCartney bass is incredibly complicated bass line that he’s learning. The rest of us will move around and do different things. It’s interesting because the way I conceived the production of the show, I do see a few people popping on and off and here and there, moving onto an instrument, staying there for a while, and just keeping a little bit of variation.
Sometimes you might be singing harmonies, other point you might be lead singing, other times you might be double drumming with another drummer, by yourself singing. So, I think that’s going to go a long way to keep the show really alive and really dynamic. At some point because of so much variation in the sound and in the styles, you all need to move around, coordinating it all with live thing and the sound that we’re going to create. It’s going to be a really exciting thing. But the end of the production is very much an organic one.
We really want to do it from the point of view of celebrating this and just the joy of actually getting to play it, rather than, ‘Here we are, we’re just singing it,’ and then we walk off, you know? We want to almost trial for every single note, so we can really experience it fully.
There’s been a lot of shows recently where someone will walk on, sing a song, and then walk off. And then the next person will walk on, and have a chat with the band, and then sing a song and it’s a lot of downtime.
Yeah, and I think that’s a well-worn style that works fine. I went to the R.E.M. one in Melbourne and that was really cool. You know, the White album one is similar and I did the Easybeats one last year, which was fantastic.
I think that that was a really good show and partially because we kind of bridged the gap, in a way on that show, between me and Chris wanting to play as much as we could, which wasn’t in the original brief. It was gonna be just the same old you walk on, you walk off and we’re like, “Fuck mate, I wanna play fuckin’ drums.” and Tim’s like, “Yeah, sure.”
That was really good because it seems that you were actually like a band then. It was fun.
That’s the key. I mean, I love to do that show again. I think that Mark did a fantastic job putting that show together. The 50’s show when all the people from Alberts turned up and members of the Young family, that was a really emotional night for all for us. Like that was really special and this show is a really similar beast in the sense that we really love playing together as a band, even though we’ve all had our massive bands and big success and all that.
When we play together it’s a real pure love of music there and this is how we wanna approach this Beatles record. And pretty much any future projects that we do do is from the perspective of that organic band production. And like you say, it doesn’t happen that much and that’s kind of one of the reasons that we really wanna do it this way.
It’s also paying tribute to this great music. I mean, The Beatles are very much like the Easybeats, you just love the songs and the band so much. And just the culture of the band and the process of a solo artist which is a group of friends getting together and all improving together as you go along, and the relationships involved are very much like a cast in a play or a film. Everyone’s is an important member in that story. And I know, in Spiderbait, that’s really big inspiration to us and one of the reasons we’ve been together for so long and have been such a successful band is that we just love being together.
And it’s very different if it was solo projects where sometimes I think the hiring and firing can not always work out or it can be difficult to let people go. But essentially the solo artist is a bit of an island and a band is much more like a party, or should I say more like a family. I mean, I know a lot of people are talking about Queen at the moment, it’s a classic example. Queen is probably pretty close to like a glam Beatles where every single member is so different and yet so important to each other and important to the collective. And I like to think bands inspire other bands.
So any bunch of friends, men or women, black or white, doesn’t matter who they’re from or what their social background or their language is. You get together and you create a unique thing and that could be as good as anything in the world. That’s the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll for me.
Is there a particular song on the album that stands out to you?
Oh, gee. … I mean, I’ve always loved ‘Because’. I think partially because I’m such a big Beach Boys fan, and I think in a way there’s a bit of homage to the Beach Boys on this record. I know Paul was a huge fan of Brian’s work and by the time they made this record, Brian was basically fucked up. And they never really got to be as big as they probably could have been but I also love ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, I’ve always loved that dirty sort of punky fucked up thing at the end with those crazy sounds. I mean, there’s so many amazing songs on the record. I mean, ‘Something’ is a masterpiece. I think it’s really poignant that George’s greatest ever song is on this final Beatles album and it just showed the potential that they’ve managed to keep going.
…and the first album where he got two songs on it too.
Exactly, and I mean it’s amazing really and just how it was moving in that direction. And also, a lot of people, it’s not their favourite, but I’ve always loved ‘Octopus’s Garden’ because I just love Ringo’s songs. And Ringo is what makes Beatles different to the Stones. Ringo just makes … The Beatles don’t give a shit. You’re not trying to be too cool for school. I loved how they didn’t take it that seriously and they could be humorous.
And for me, in my band, I really loved that element. You can be serious about your music but you can also just have a laugh and you don’t have to approach your music like your fucking Karl Lagerfeld. It’s like you can be artistic and create great art but also be kind of a knock about person and not give a fuck too much. And I just love that they not only encouraged but loved having Ringo singing on every record, it’s really cool.
Was Ringo an inspiration for you to get into drumming?
No, he wasn’t at all. I loved flashy drummers like Stewart Copeland and Omar Hakim and I just loved playing. I loved John Bonham and all these guys and was just like, “Oooah.” And then, I discovered two bands in the same year at high school that changed my life. One was The Beatles, and the other was the Sex Pistols. And it completely changed everything. The Pistols kind of went you can just fuck shit up and you can make really great songs with really simple ideas . You can have attitude and just really do something completely different. And I never heard a singer like Johnny Rotten before.
It was like this is … You can create something completely new, you don’t have to do what was done in the past, and fucking change everything. And I loved his disdain, and the politic behind the band was very crazy, and they we’re always gonna break up. But Never Mind the Bollocks, amazing. And the second thing was The Beatles, it was a revelation. But there was so many amazing songs, I couldn’t get them out of my head. It was just song after song after song and then I listened to this drumming, and I loved the sound, I loved the feel, and I loved the humility of it, and the sense of being playing within a band. And it really had a big effect on me.
So while he wasn’t initially an inspiration, I think he changed me from being more individual to being more collective in my orientation and in my work, and how I operate in Spiderbait.
You can be as flashy as you want, but it’s just gotta be the right thing for the song and just be a good person. I just loved Ringo’s personality and his temperament. So, of all the people in all the world, who could be the drummer in the biggest band of all time, it’s so cool that it was Ringo.
He was quite quirky in his ways. Being a left-handed person playing right-handed, I think made a big difference.
I know it’s a trick … I think that’s one of the facts that his fills are very influential. I remember seeing an interview with Phil Collins, and he was another drummer I love, Phil is just as influential, about Ringo’s fills and how they changed everyone. And I still think that has a big effect on my playing. Just little things like fills in certain places, I think the drums on Abbey Road in particular are fantastic. I mean, look at ‘Come Together’, it’s such an eclectic strange beat. He often is quite minimal with his hi-hat work where a lot of drummers would be laying down a hi-hat and he’d just stop it and just play a snare. So, yeah, he is a very … I think he’s still, in terms of his ability, is very underrated.
I think people that know their shit, if you wanna play in a band and you wanna really connect with the musicians, listen to The Beatles and you’ll really understand a lot into the fact. Not just through playing but through personality and I just loved them as people as much as musicians. But the weirdest thing about it all is they were the first. It’s very, very rare in life that the first is also the biggest and also the best.
Developed over just playing so many shows. I mean, I know and particularly when they went to Germany and just really honing that quality. And I know I’ve been in my band for such a long time, we’re so much now reaching this euphoric phase when our shows are packing on another level almost musically because we’ve been playing together for so long. And I wonder if bands like Badseeds and Midnight Oil have this similar thing where you don’t even have to look, you don’t even have to think, it’s just all happening there for you.
And it’s a really beautiful, beautiful feeling and they managed to get that in such a short time because they just played so many shows, and it went into their studio work as well. I mean, I’ve got The Beatles recording session sitting here, some of my favourite music books and just the amount it takes and the amount of effort. And I’ve made a lot of records and it takes a lot of work to do that many takes. Just go back day after day after day and keep your eye on the prize. It’s like doing this huge house and you’ve only got the foundations and you’ve just gotta keep thinking about the end product.
Kram: Often gigs can be a really great release in that respect and the fact that they didn’t even have them, the large part of it taken off of their career. Really they’re very focused four guys in that way and I do think the relationship between them was the really big reason that it was like that.
Is there anything else you wan to tell us about the show?
We’re just really excited and we feel privileged to be able to do this. We just really can’t wait to do it. The four of us approaching it very organically and then try and really play the record as close as possible to the way it is. And also, that The Beatles never did it live, so we get a chance to do something that they never did and that’s a truth in itself. And there’ll be three or four other that we haven’t announced yet who will join us and altogether we’re just gonna have a great time. And hopefully the audience will celebrate the record as much as we will playing it.
ARC Presents: The Beatles’ Abbey Road Live
Perth Concert Hall – August 11
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide – August 13
Palais Theatre, Melbourne – August 15
The Star, Gold Coast – August 17
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane – August 18
Enmore Theatre, Sydney – August 20
NEX, Newcastle – August 22
Anita’s Theatre, Wollongong – August 23