Gary James' Interview With
Paul McCartney look-a-like
Mitch Weissman portrayed Paul McCartney in the Broadway version of Beatlemania and in the movie of the same name. That role has taken him around the world. Mitch Weissman talked about Beatlemania, The Beatles and what it's like to be a double for one of the most celebrated musicians of all time.
Q - How much work did you have to put into your Paul McCartney role?
A - A fair amount 'cause I had to change my whole style of playing, my whole style of movement, the stance and a lot of it, even style of singing.
Q - You had never played bass guitar prior to your role in Beatlemania, so how did you audition for the role?
A - I played guitar, piano and lead guitar for many years. You can go in and work out the bass lines. I'm a quick study, so I'd work up a few things. When you first audition for Beatlemania it was based on guitar and how you sang and they worried if you could actually play the parts later on. In my case, we all lucked out 'cause I could play. As to whether I could hold up as a normal Rock 'n' Roll bass player, I really don't know, but McCartney's lines are nice and melodic and thought out. It's not they're easy to play. In fact, they're pretty difficult, only 'cause they're so intelligent. For me, it wasn't a very tough switch.
Q - There must have been hundred, if not thousands of guys who auditioned for that role.
A - There were a few thousand. I don't remember how many. Obviously I wasn't there when they all came through. (laughs)
Q - Has Paul McCartney ever seen you perform in Beatlemania?
A - I know he's known about it. I don't know if he's ever snuck in to see it. There are rumors that he did, but nobody's ever really confirmed it. Lennon told me his son had seen it, but I don't know if he ever saw it. There are rumors that he snuck in as well. So, I don't know if any of them have actually seen it 'live'. I expect to find out one day, one way or another.
Q - So, Paul McCartney has never come backstage?
A - Oh, no. None of us have met him at this point. I don't think anyone's ever met George. I met and spoke with John on a number of occasions and met Ringo once in Los Angeles in '78.
Q - Was there ever a time when Mitch Weissman became Paul McCartney offstage?
A - No. Only for friends, but nothing to put over on anybody else. I have a really good grip on who I am. There have been times when Mitch Weissman has had to be him, because there were people who would not believe he wasn't. On numerous occasions I've had to sign autographs after having said in my best New York accent, "No, I'm not," and people would not believe you. Even today, I still get recognized as me and that guy from Beatlemania. In a strange way, you sign his name after they become persistent because if you don't, they believe that's who you are and if you deny it, it's a reflection on them, not me. As far as they know, they met him. If he was a schmuck and wouldn't give them an autograph, it's his reputation that goes around that way. I don't do it anymore, but in those days it was so adamant.
Q - Did you ever get recognized as McCartney before you did Beatlemania?
A - Oh, lots of times. The first time it happened was in early '76 on the Wings tour when I walked into Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
Q - Dick Clark once said "The Beatles' major accomplishment was getting the older generation interested in Rock." Is that how you see it?
A - That's one of their accomplishments. Off the top of my head I can't think of something else to augment it, other than they affected styles, dress, political thinking and they certainly influenced what is now the older generation. It took the older generation a long time to get used to them as well.
Q - You told the L.A. Times some years back that McCartney "hits some real duds in Can't Buy Me Love and in Eleanor Rigby. He's flat as hell and he won a vocalist of the year award for that record."
A - It wasn't "Can't Buy Me Love" that he sang the clunkers in. The L.A. Times got it wrong. I said he sang the clunkers in "All My Lovin'" He's flat as sharp all over the place, but that was the early days. If you listen to the early records, you can hear all the mistakes, all the harmony mistakes. But that was part of their charm.
Q - Why didn't Beatles producer George Martin pick up on those mistakes in the early days?
A - Well, there were no standards. It was Rock 'n' Roll. It was young. It was 'live'. It worked. So a lot of times you'll sacrifice, as a recording artist, accuracy for the performance value.
Q - Are you satisfied with the music Paul McCartney is making these days?
A - I like some of it, but I'm a little disappointed. I think he could do a lot more, and that's my personal opinion. I think if he's happy and this is what he wants to do, then that's fine. Nobody should dictate to him what he should or shouldn't do. He's obviously gotten a little softer. I would like to hear a little more of a rough edge, but that's what he wants to do. He's an entertainer. He's no longer a Rock 'n' Roll singer. I mean, he can sing great Rock 'n' Roll, but he wants to entertain.
Q - You met John Lennon several times. What kind of guy was he?
A - A very open, funny, slightly sarcastic, but in a funny sort of way, guy. He was very warm, very concerned caring sort of person as to what you were doing. There were no attitudes or airs about him. He was definitely a warm and friendly person. A character, but not crazy.
Q - Kiss is recording four of your original songs?
A - Well, we don't know how many are gonna end up now. It's either going to be three or four.
Q - How did you happen to tie up with those guys?
A - I've known them for a long time, since 1977. We met in a rehearsal studio in New York. They were rehearsing for a world tour and we were rehearsing for the show on Broadway. They were in the next room and they came and watched us rehearse for a day and we came and watched them rehearse for a day. And so, we all struck a friendship.
Q - I've been told you're now working as a graphic designer Why not continue on as McCartney in Beatlemania?
A - The Beatlemania shows started to become very haphazard as far as going out on tour. In other words, we couldn't book it all the time. Also, every once in a while you want to do something else. I mean, even The Beatles split up after a while to do something else other than being The Beatles. For me, I really enjoy the show. I'd love to do it again, but I just need to take a break 'cause it's been non-stop for six years. I do go back occasionally. In 1982, I was in South Africa with it. Last year, (1983) I went to Toronto for a brief tour. I went to Japan with it. I've pretty much pulled myself out of it because there are other things to do, especially more in music and some acting.