IF you love music, the chances are you love The Beatles.
Iconic, influential, indubitably one of the greatest bands to ever walk the planet.
For those born of a generation not fortunate enough to experience Beatlemania though, the Bootleg Beatles have been realistically re-creating the sights and sounds of the Fab Four for 31 years.
Neil Harrison is one of the group’s founding members but after spending three decades living and breathing John Lennon on stage he’s decided to hang up his round orange-tinted glasses.
“I’ve been doing it for such a long time now and I’d like to do other stuff. Although it’s theatre, it is getting quite difficult impersonating someone in their 20s when I’m 60. The band is going to continue though and we will be auditioning for a new John very shortly.”
His final set of dates will take him to the Halifax Theatre on Saturday, March 19th, where their two-hour multimedia production, encompassing numerous costume and set transformations as the band travel from The Cavern in 62 through to the rooftop of the Apple buliding in 1969, is sure to go down a storm.
“The amount of dates we do in a year varies but it averages out at more than 100. We regularly tour the UK and have done tours in Holland, Denmark, Sweden and across South America as well as festivals all round the world.
“We have to stick largely to the red and blue albums because they are the songs that people want to hear like “Hey Jude” and “All You Need Is Love”. We do play a few albums tracks such as “Norweigian Wood” and “Nowhere Man” but they vary from show to show.”
Having played in front of Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison, George Martin and the Queen during their career, which has now seen them play more than 4,000 shows, it’s fair to say the Bootleg Beatles’ highlight reel is quite impressive.
“There are so many highlights,” says Neil. “One of the early ones is from 1982 when we toured the communist Soviet Union, becoming the first western rock group to ever do so. It was surreal and I’m sure many of the kids over there actually thought we were the real Beatles.
“Playing on the rooftop of the Apple building to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the Beatles’ performance there was a big highlight as was supporting Oasis. We played with them at Earls Court and then went on tour with them, which included Knebworth and playing in front of more than 100,000 people.”
Despie being from the Wirral and an avid Beatles fan Neil never got to see The Beatles live.
“I always missed out which was a shame. I grew up with The Beatles buying each single or album as it came out. The tribute act came about after I got the part of Lennon in the West End musical Beatlemania in 1979 and the cast from that decided to carry on. We were one of the first ever tribute bands because tribute acts didn’t really start until the late 80s.
“It’s nice to have been part of the origins of tributes but it also has its difficulties. You don’t really get the chance to work on your own music because of your commitments and of course this is what’s making you the money. Now I’m finishing though I’m going to be working on my play called “The Great Pretenders” which deals with making it as a tribute band.
For tickets for The Bootleg Beatles, priced at £23.50, ring 01422 351158.