by carlos andujar
If you’re like me, whenever you hear the phrase “tribute band” you might easily become confused and mistake what you really heard as “cover band.” You might form a mental picture of some mid-life crisis guys churning out old Skynrd licks at your local bar and grill. I can recall some fun moments with my friends and I at their expense… ah, memories…
Needless to say, when I was offered the opportunity to interview Joey Curatolo (a.k.a. Paul McCartney of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles) I have to admit that I rolled my eyes a bit. The skepticism was heightened because of the reaction from friends when I told them about the piece I was writing. But setting my initial skepticism aside, and wanting to give these gentlemen a chance to tell their side of the story, I decided to be the open-minded thinker that I like to consider myself to be and see what they were all about.
According to Curatolo, music had always been a part of his home life since he could walk. He was influenced by classical music early on and by the time he was around 10 years old he was exposed to pop music. But it took watching one evening of television to determine the course for the rest of his life.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show,” says Curatolo. “I taught myself to play guitar by ear, then gravitated to piano, then to vocals, and it was always centered around the Beatles’ music the whole time. I would say that the Beatles music is the soundtrack to my life.”
Curatolo apparently meant this literally because during the years of 1978 and 1982, while still a teenager, he was hired to perform Beatles tunes for the Broadway show of Beatlemania. It was then that Mark Lewis, who played with keyboard in Rain (at the time spelled Reign), was introduced to Curatolo.
“They added me on to play [bass] with the band and it kind of progressed from there and 30 years later, here I am.”
In light of the success of Rain, the obvious question blared inside my head like a trumpet, “What makes these guys so special and how are they different from any other cover band?”
In the case of Rain, the Devil’s in the details.
“We used the CDs and records as ‘textbooks.’ We look at it in the same way that a classically-trained musician would perform a piece of music written by a composer,” explains Curatolo. “The Beatles are classical music. Their music has withstood the test of time. When people look back to the 60s, they think of the Beatles.”
Anytime you tinker with something that holds so much value to so many people you’re bound to get the, “Who do they think they are?” attitude.
“Yes we do get that. We don’t really like to be associated with those terms, but it is what it is. Yes, we’re guys imitating the Beatles, but it’s as classy and well-done as a Broadway production, and that’s where the difference is. It’s more of a presentation, it’s more of a show, and it’s more of an encapsulation of the 60s. There’s always going to be skeptics, as critics often are. But I can tell you that the person who’s usually folding their arms at the beginning of the show is in tears towards the end. There’s a lot of people who lived the era that come to our shows and come to us afterward with a tear in their eye.”
Since the roles that Curatolo and the other 4 members of Rain are assuming carry such a weighty legacy, they realize the importance and the need for attention to detail when performing. In fact, their attention to detail is so much so that fans of the band were the reason they began to put out their records.
“Initially we felt it would be a disrespect to record any Beatles tunes again, but our fans wanted our recordings. We put [the albums] out for movies and commercials and such… We come so close to the original and you really can’t tell. We’re always polishing our craft, and it’s always an ongoing study. We have to be true to what is on record, and we pride ourselves on the music first. The look and act is secondary and is just like anything else in acting and taking on a role.”
In the case of his role, he plays a Hofner bass and piano in the band and assumes the persona of Paul McCartney. Since everyone associates with certain identities, I wondered why he chose McCartney in particular.
“He’s just a charming gentleman, the quintessential entertainer, and I feel very comfortable with that. For myself, it comes naturally to me. And his music and melodies are like none other.”
The Beatles music truly is like no other. Rain has achieved over the years tremendous success with this music, including providing the soundtrack for Dick Clark’s straight-to-TV movie Birth of the Beatles and dedicated touring 200+ days out of the year across the globe. Their work ethic, attention to detail, their eagerness to continue and contribute to the nostalgia of the Beatles experience should be enough to allow any skeptic to acknowledge and appreciate what Rain is doing, and maybe even help others to remember their own real Beatles experience with a tear in their eye.
The band will soon be releasing a 3-disc volume set that includes all three acts of their show and includes a disc of live music. They will be performing in Jacksonville on Saturday, January 24th at the Moran Theater in the Times-Union Performing Arts Center. Call 632-337 or visit artistseries.fccj.org for tickets.
the beatles are back
by carlos andujar