Gary James' Interview With
Lucien plays John Lennon in Beatlemania Stageshow. What's Beatlemania Stageshow all about? We'll let Lucien explain.
Q - Lucien, it seems to me you have your hands full in this band. You're also the musical director for Beatlemania Stageshow. What does that job entail? Do you pick the songs? Do you arrange them and pick the order they'll be played?
A - That's exactly right. It's the order. The arrangements are true to the album, as far as the arrangement of each song. So, it would definitely be the arrangement of the show on how the show is presented from venue to venue. One show might run 90 minutes straight through with all of the four costumes. Another concert might go with the normal set-up which is two 60 minute sets. The songs are so important to that order of how the venue is set up for that evening. It involves a lot of changes throughout each show, if the shows are different, which also would include if there's a specialty song that would have to be thrown into the mix or two for whatever event we're playing for. Each show is it's own little world.
Q - How do you avoid boredom from having to perform the same songs time and time again? It has to become routine after awhile.
A - We could change it up. Our fun can change if we get hired to do say a specially show that might showcase for example the "Let It Be" rooftop concert. So in turn we would have to mimic that entire set which is all with one costume being the roof with the fur coats on with the wind blowing. The stage props being the brick chimneys. For songs it would be just those songs on the roof. There is where we can have a little fun with the changing up of tunes within one evening, but as far as the show and how it runs normally throughout the years, the sets are almost the same routine. Each show we might be able to change up one song, two songs, possibly three maximum, but that would be it. As far as keeping the routine and having fun with it, even though they are almost the same songs, it's just doing the entertainment thing, to put yourself in that different place, being the character, watching people's expressions throughout the night that have never seen the show or if they are fans that wait for those little trademark things that we do. So, it becomes an entertainment night really for us as the performers. The songs become secondary to the actual performance itself, through the antics, the jokes that are represented onstage. Also the inter-mingling that we do or the crowd participation that we ask for during certain numbers. We know they look forward to the clapping, answering questions. If we're doing the song "Help!", we'll say "alright, we're going to do the film in color. How many people know that one?" A million hands raise. "Alright, you get a date with Ringo!" Ha ha ha. All that kind of stuff is what the evening ends up to be about first.
Q - I notice you call the group Beatlemania Stage Show. Why not Beatlemania? Are there some copyright or trademark issues with Leber-Krebs Beatlemania?
A - That's a very interesting question that's really never clarified. The point is, it's just so each individual cost after the show, after the Broadway show I should say, which ran for three years from '77 to '80, when it shut down it went on the road and became the production of Beatlemania On The Road, in your town, at a theatre near you. It was pretty much in every major city. After that it really lost its organization by the Broadway show, individual members would kind of take charge of their own units or their own casts or their own group. To keep clarification over the years, each cast tagged on a different little name or a word after the Beatlemania so that it would still keep the tie of the actual stage show or the actual production. But also for legal reasons as far as their checking accounts, people would pay Beatlemania Yesterday And Today, Beatlemania Now, Beatlemania Stage Show. All of these little tags would have a way that the money could actually get into the bank without confusion. So that became the standard of the naming thing. Technically, four young guys can wake up in the morning, be pretty good impersonators, get the costumes and literally just call themselves Beatlemania if they wanted to and get away with that. But the problem they will incur when they're booking, when they get asked those zillion questions, "how is this tied?", they either have to lie and say "we're not tied in" or "we just decided to call ourselves that." Then it's up to the person booking them to say "do we want guys that have been doing this many years that were tied to the actual show or should we take a chance on those Beatlemania guys we don't really know?" Are they good enough would be the question. There's no law that says you have to even have that name. But most guys keep the tie because they have either been on the show, have been in the actual production as it closed and went on the road. After that, the guys who were running that lost their powers, but the show kept going.
Q - So, how did you get into the whole Beatlemania Stage Show experience?
A - I saw the show when I was eleven and after that it closed. I got into it because I was chosen to play the part. I trained myself early on to play this. I got a hold of the other Beatlemania guys and said "What do I have to do to get into this?" Prepare for this. Prepare for that. I did all my homework. I got all my instruments. I got all my costumes. Then I got a chance to jump right into one of the casts that was floating around Connecticut at the time. That's how the members who were not old enough to have been in the show could actually be affiliated with the show. So, I've been doing it now for maybe seventeen or so years.
Q - What were you doing before this group?
A - I am a Jazz musician first and foremost. I mean, I'm a Rock guy. Right now as it stands, I have albums in both worlds. I have Rock with vocals which I enjoy, with vintage heavy guitar 'cause I'm a guitar player first. It's like aggressive, harder-edge stuff, fun lyrics and very good guitar stuff. In the Jazz world it's all instrumentals, so there's no vocals. That's the serious side of me. I've got many personalities when it comes to this. Jazz and Fusion have been in my blood for a very long time 'cause that was my first study. Actually The Beatles were the first from age five through age eleven. Lennon made me pick up the guitar. I used to dress like him at Halloween. So, I was a Lennon freak first and foremost.
Q - Did you ever see John Lennon in person?
A - No. I was born in '65, so when I was six, it was '71, The Beatles had probably just broken up and I didn't really know of their solo stuff. Beatle freak beyond recognition. Dressing up like Lennon, the whole nine yards. I drove my parents crazy. About fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I jumped into a cover band. We travelled all over. We were actually very good for the time. I was the lead guitar player and lead singer and we covered everything; Clapton, Beatles, Stones. I wasn't in tune with being a Beatles impersonator. I was just a Rock guy. But The Beatles spurred that. I always had those memories of being a Beatle first. But through that band, which was called Destiny, we travelled all over. I was fifteen, sixteen. The Beatles were still the top priority, but I was doing more guitar stuff. I was known as like the guitar guy of the school. So I was really livin' that and enjoying that. Then at that point, I was getting very progressive. Then about seventeen, eighteen, I got into a Fusion group, Funk rhythms, crazy stuff with vocals 'cause I was able to sing. I got so into the Fusion side of that playing that I went and I studied it. "Return To Forever" was a big inspiration for me. Chick Corea. Al Di Meola. I wanted to play that stuff and only. I kind of just lost touch with everything. I dove myself completely into that. It's an addiction once you get going with it. It's a very artistic world. You can express yourself in ways you can't do in Rock. I studied that and went totally crazy. I sold everything electric I had. I bought a Jazz guitar and a little amp and went on tour as a Jazz musician for a long time, many years, five or six years. Dove into the straight ahead world. I went to Manhattan School for awhile. Then I went on the road. I just needed to play, but the money is not good in Jazz. Then I said I'm gonna get back to doing some Rock stuff. At that point I got into getting my own Rock going. I was in a heavier band called B Bop Gypsies, elements of Fusion. This was in the '90s.
Q - It sounds to me like you were a better guitar player than John Lennon.
A - That's a funny thing. People come up to me all the time and say "Why? You have two albums out. You're doing so well." I wrote a method book, which I also teach. "Why do you do Lennon? Is it the money?" It's a combination of the money and just the love for what actually made me pick up the guitar. That's pretty much why I still do it. It's a love that's really, really hard to describe. I'm not out there overly playing. The Harrison is doing all the leads. I do a couple lead spots, where Lennon did the lead I will do the lead. Until people hear the story, then they can realize why I actually do it and still do it. I love just being the character.