Peppercorn band

Sergeant Peppercorn at the Bluestone - photo by Amy Peppercorn

Ecstasy--pure human ecstasy, not the cheap drug--is a beautiful, necessary thing. Living the modern life of civilized apes, we sometimes either impoverish ourselves of the ecstasy of life or outright outlaw it. Not good; not right. Seeing visions was essential to a great many of America's original people. How they got 'em seems natural enough--fasting, dancing, natural stimulants, worship of nature, etc...
  To which I say: Beatles = liberation.

  Thus it was at the sixth annual 'Beatles-a-thon', 12 hours of live Beatles music provided by Joe and Matt Peppercorn and their band of highly proficient deep believers in the Beatles canon. I was ecstatic simply waiting in line half-an-hour before it began at the Blue Stone at 12:30 p.m. December 26. Liverpool and nirvana, here we come!

  Fasting--me? I was there on an entirely empty stomach. Dancing--me? I'm not bodily shy. Natural stimulants--me? I'm long passed my acid days so it's white man's firewater for me. Spirituality? Well, I was in a awe-inspiring old stone church listening to uncommonly talented local musicians playing the uncommonly incredible music of the greatest of the great culture-altering boy bands, the Beatles, whom we heard in 12 hours how the music of four Liverpudlian lads evolving into four great musical men who seemingly have never stopped ruling the planet of pop.
  A twelve-hour vision!

  Playing the Beatles 12 UK-released albums in chronological order, Sergeants Peppercorn and their Liverpool-hearted band delivered the Beatles multi-year career as one long journey. There were no intermissions, there was no Beatle fashion mimicry. Dressed in dark suits they stood and played, perhaps pacing themselves? I mean, you can't blow all your cookies on "Please Please Me" and "Twist and Shout" at 1:30 p.m.--though that is a helluva treat coming on the day after Christmas.

  And so it was as Peppercorn and company lovingly plowed their way through album after album, roughly one per hour, give or take, obviously, playing more than 200 Beatles songs one stage in a single day!

  About Joe himself I will say he is a performer, a real one who puts emotions in songs when he feels them. He's a born romantic, and did especially well on ballads, particularly early Beatles slow tunes. "This Boy" was utterly exquisite; "Taste of Honey" knocked me out; "If I Fell," a puller of heartstrings. Ballads are a very real strength of this phenomenally dedicated, fine singer of a fine locally grown boy (formerly of The Whiles, as his sphynx-like serene brother, Matt, on guitar--the cat stands and plays and amazes and occasionally gently smiles. Such class.)

  A few highlights throughout the day, and no, not in order of play:
  I was seriously moved from the first two words of  "Hey Jude." There were many entire families in the crowd and near me, four members of one--mom, dad, two teen-aged daughters who'd been standing with a few yards of each other just naturally grouped themselves together as they sang nearly ever word of the song. Indeed, the whole place turned opened their mouths and opened their souls to sing it. Might have been the most deeply moving song of the night.
  For me, having just watched "Help!" on Christmas morning very closely--the silliest most cleverest movie ever made--I'd never realized until then that the soundtrack might just very well be the Beatles first truly great albums. So I chugged some firewater and hit the dance floor singing my untalented lungs out with along with “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away”--man, could John Lennon write 'em? Could that ultra-cat tell it like it was, to be hung out to dry, like a man? And, besides the title track (HUGE crowd participation, that one, absolutely electrifying), you've got "The Night Before" and "Ticket To Ride" (oh man, I fell apart on that one, don't ask me why, but the mid-period Beatles guitars just get to me--no apologies!) And of course "I've Just Seen A Face."

  "Tomorrow Never Knows" could be the greatest psychedelic song ever written, Lennon having told teen studio engineer to make his voice sound like the "Dali Lama calling from a mountain," which Geoff Emerick did indeed. The Peppercorn People turned this out and into a massive feedback driven rave-up, a real over-the-top climax for which I do believe I was levitating if not outright whirling like a dervish. Thank you, boys.
  Joe Peppercorn's vocals on "Girl", the Lennon tune where he goes, 'ah, girl..." and then sucks in his breath (sssssssss), well our Mister Pepper exaggerated the sensuality of the Lennon sigh, taking it an extra few bars at the end and turned it into one of the sexiest, cat-on-a-hot-tin Beatle you ever done heard. Fantastic, just fantastic.
  By the way, who do you think was the best lay in the Beatles? My money's on John--I'll bet he combined emotion with passion and humor like a stevedore doing ballet--rough but artistic. Paul, prolly very thoughtfully good but a little too lacking in thrust; George, a snooze more interested in watching himself; Ringo would be perfect in an Eagle Scout sort of way--a metronome with just enough variation to make you feel like you were his home run of the week. You can tell a lot about a musician by the way they play.
  What I really want to convey though is that the beauty of Peppercorn's day-long performance is that his highly empathetic band create each of the Beatles albums with such realness that the true depth and soul and human meaning of their music creates an ever-expanding mood. So by the time Sgt. Pepper's was played--the album where I think the band sounded their absolute best, so think about that--the audience of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people have risen with the band's artistic accomplishment and the mood reflects it. I swear to God, from that point on, album after album, just kept taking the people higher and higher. I think the whole day and night is one of the most uplifting communal events I have ever experienced if not the most.
  I was delirious with serious Beatles mania. I last 10 hours, making it to the White Album, missing out on Let It Be and Abbey Road. But I will say, my last observation was of Joe Peppercorn having the time of his life singing Back In The USSR. He not only did not seem exhausted but he seemed absolutely elated, as if the happiest fire he'd ever ignited was inside him, burning like a musical light house. We were all high. Now that's what I call a revolution.

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