Bootleg Beatles still have a ticket to rideBy Paul Cassell
March 29, 2012
It was 32 years ago that The Bootleg Beatles began to play. And like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they’re guaranteed to raise a smile when they return to Reading on Saturday to celebrate 50 years of The Fab Four.
It will be the final show of a 20-date UK tour and promises to be another treat for fans of the iconic 60s band whose music changed the world like no other group before or since.
In was in 1962 that Ringo joined The Beatles, Brian Epstein became their manager, the band had their first recording session at Abbey Road and they made their radio debut.
The rest, as they say, is history.
So let me introduce to you Adam Hastings as John, David Catlin-Birch as Paul, Andre Barreau as George and Hugo Degenhardt as Ringo.
Adam is the latest incumbent to The Bootleg Beatles. He joined in July after performing in no fewer than 13 bands covering Beatles songs.
When word went out that Neil Harrison, the original John, was stepping down, the 24-year-old musician was halfway around the world.
“I couldn’t be at the first audition because I was in the US doing Beatles songs with an American band and instead of going in person I had to send them a video of myself doing the songs,” he recalls.
“I got through to the next round and I had been in Australia for two months and had to send more stuff.
“Eventually, it was between me and one other guy and this time I came back and played in person, probably because I was running out of money, and three to four weeks later I got the job.”
For Andre, who has been in the band since the group was brought together for the West End cast of the Broadway musical Beatlemania in 1980, it was much simpler.
“I was in a band called Sunfly and saw an advert for the production saying something like ‘Could you be a Beatle?’ and I thought yes I could,” he says.
“I felt I could cover many aspects of George’s musicianship and bore some resemblance to him, probably because I’ve got bandy legs more than anything else.”
By coincidence, The Bootleg Beatles were the first band Adam saw live as a teenager when they performed a gig at Newcastle City Hall.
And he got a signed poster from Neil Harrison.
Adam’s father is a respected musical arranger and session bass player, who played on the famous Pearl & Dean cinema theme, and who taught a nine-year-old Adam how to play the bass to A Hard Day’s Night.
Having grown up to a soundtrack of The Beatles, his love of The Fab Four has never left him.
“For me they were and still are the best band ever,“ says Adam, who studied jazz at Leeds College of Music and formed his own Beatles band after graduation.
“There has never been another band that has brought out albums that were so fresh.”
The Bootleg Beatles haves been acclaimed as “fastidiously authentic” and “flawless”, with one critic proclaiming “the band are as similar to their namesakes as it is possible to be... unlike any other group in the last 25 years of rock, they can safely say that they look and sound as good as The Beatles”.
During their various incarnations The Bootleg Beatles have performed some 4,000 shows, including one for The Queen, and, some might say more importantly, in front of Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Andre recalls meeting George at Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour’s 50th birthday in 1996 and Paul McCartney at The Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2002.
“George joked, ‘Who’s the Bootleg Brian Epstein because he has all the money?’ and said really charming things like, ‘You probably know the chords better than I do’.
“McCartney was really into it and just said, ‘Don’t do Hey Jude because I’m doing it,’ so we obeyed.”
But for Adam the chance to meet a Beatle is still a dream.
“If I met Ringo or McCartney and had the chance to talk to them I would ask them was there any moment when they thought that my performance was close to how they remember it,” he said.
“If they said yes, that would make me really happy. I couldn’t have done any more.”