Former Southern Sons frontman, sideman of John Farnham, and Electric Mary rocker Jack Jones (aka Irwin Thomas) heads to Perth this week for The Beatles Back2Back performance of classic albums Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road at Crown Theatre on Friday, 2 September. SHANE PINNEGAR got Jones on the phone ahead of their Sydney Opera House shows for a chat.
Singing alongside blues, rock & pop legend Russell Morris, local Eskimo Joe boy Kav Temperley, and Brit folk singer Jon Allen, Jones is excited to bring the show – which has been receiving rave reviews on the East Coast – to Perth.
“It’s going to be good, man,” he raves down the phone line. “I love these gigs because they just give me an opportunity to, a) we’re celebrating great music, so that’s fantastic, and b) I always get to meet new and interesting people, like the other performers who are doing these gigs. We’ve got Kav [Temperley]. I know Russell Morris, obviously, Then Jon Allen, who’s from the UK, he’s a lovely fellow and a fantastic singer/songwriter. Obviously Kav’s a monster as well. That’s been really fun, talking about little things that we could do in the future.
“I was a late bloomer when it came to the Beatles,” Jones explains his own connection with the albums, “well, any sort of classic rock music other than Joni Mitchell and the likes of Wes Montgomery. Then my mother played a lot of folk music like Janis Ian, Jim Croce, some Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Crosby Stills Nash & Young. I think it was when I really discovered song writing, then I heard music completely differently. All of the sudden then there’s the Beatles and Led Zeppelin – the doors just opened for [me for] a lot of those bands. Now, of course, all I do is just listen to those bands and go, ‘oh my God, I can’t believe that the Beatles only recorded for eight years and then made all this ridiculously good music.’”
The Beatles Back2Back show features no less than nineteen musicians & singers on stage, covering all thirty songs across the two albums. I suggest to Jack that it must be an interesting process as both a songwriter and a performer, to deconstruct those songs and then reassemble them in their little component parts and maybe discover out, ‘oh, that’s what that is, and that’s how that works’.
“Oh yeah – because these guys, these cats are so amazing at what they do, it’s a perfect balance of hearing the music played authentically and really with a lot of love. For us, as singers, we get to interpret the songs to a certain degree, in a way that allows us to be ourselves. Yeah, you’re right, and through that process I get up there and I listen to these parts being played and I’m like, ‘far out.’
“It blows me away, man. To think, really, no-one had done this before, that’s the thing. It’s hard to impart that. It’s just hard to really get your head around, ‘this had never been done before,’ that they were pushing the boundaries not only of songwriting but even of the technology at the time.”
Between his chart-topping stint out front of Southern Sons, touring with John Farnham or Tina Arena, rocking out with Electric Mary and the many other projects Jones is involved in (most recently in Perth as part of Richard Marx’s band), he’s no stranger to a big audience – but is there added pressure going out on stage knowing you’re going to be performing works that are so beloved like these?
“Yeah, there is,” he says solemnly. “I’d be lying if I was like, ‘oh no, I don’t really care about that.’ I always think about that, but I try not to let it play when I’m actually doing it. When I’m doing it I just try to really enjoy the beauty of having the opportunity to sing those songs and deliver them in a way that is real. We’re playing music that… it’s not that the Beatles couldn’t play it, but they couldn’t play with four of them. It’s kind of cool to be [performing with] a big band, with some horns, and some strings. I hope it’s a great experience for the people that are die hard Beatles fans. I hope they really get something out of it, because we definitely are.”
And with that I let Jones go finish setting up for that night’s show at the Sydney Opera House. Playing such iconic albums at such an iconic venue – that’s pretty damned cool.
“It is, man – every time we go to sound check there I’m like, ‘really?’ This is pretty amazing, not everyone gets to do that. I’m pretty lucky.”
For tickets and more info head to www.beatlesback2back.com.