Interview: A hard day’s night playing John Lennon

Adam Hastings as John Lennon in The Bootleg Beatles.
Adam Hastings as John Lennon in The Bootleg Beatles.

By Graham Chalmers

It must have been great being in The Beatles – but how much better to be in the world’s premier Beatles tribute band spared of the hassle of having to write mind-blowing new music all the time?

“I’ve always been a fan,” says Adam Hastings who plays John Lennon in the incredibly popular Bootleg Beatles,

He adds: “The Beatles have been my favourite band since I was 13. I played the Sgt Pepper album every day one summer when I first got it. I thought it was the best thing ever.”

In terms of the Bootleg Beatles, the first and still hailed as the finest of the hundreds of Beatles band currently circling the globe, Adam is still in his Beatlemania years, writes Graham Chalmers.

This chirpy Newcastle-born musician only joined the group less than four years ago when Neil Harrison, the original John Lennon from the Bootlegs’ earliest beginnings, finally called it a day.

But it seems Adam was cheekily trying to ease him out long before that in a manner which the real Lennon himself might have respected.

He said: “I’d written to Neil a couple of years earlier saying I’d heard he was getting old and suggesting I take over! No surprise, I didn’t hear anything back.

“Then Neil announced he was leaving so I wrote again and practically got the job without even an audition.”

The current line-up of the Bootlegs whose latest tour is coming to the Royal Hall in Harrogate on Wednesday, March 25, is the first without any of the founding members who first came together in the late 1970s for West End musical Beatlemania and went down so spectacularly well they hung around for three decades.

But anyone taking a look at Adam’s CV as a youngster might conclude he was an unlikely candidate to take up such a key role in the world’s most successful tribute act.

It’s true he did have a musical background.

Adam said: “My dad was a musician and I grew up in a house full of musicians and I got used to their lifestyle – going to bed late, sleeping in until lunchtime.

But he didn’t actually play rock music in his teenage years. He was a jazz man.

Adam said: “I did a degree in jazz at Leeds College of Music, then went straight into teaching and playing with function bands to make some money.

“Being a Beatles fan, I started playing little gigs on my own and eventually started wearing the wig and everything. Being a Beatle seemed a perfect fit.”

Getting the music just right is obviously crucial in the Bootlegs but looking and acting the part is just as important.

Adam tells me Steven White, who plays Paul McCartney, had to learn to play bass with his left hand when he joined, stirring his tea each morning the wrong way until he forgot he was, in fact, right-handed.

But Adam’s task is, perhaps, even trickier. How to get across all the complexities of Lennon’s mercurial character and, occasionally, cruel wit and remain likable?

“It’s not easy to harness all the different elements. You have to learn the mimicry like an actor, as well as being a musician.”

What about Lennon’s tendancy to play up on stage in a leering fashion between songs. You don’t do all that ‘cripping’ stuff, surely?

“I do. People know what Lennon was like. You’ve got to do it - all that stomping his feet and clapping his hands stuff.

“I don’t want to be offensive and I don’t think anyone who has ever come to see us has been upset by it.”

Known for a 100% authentic recreation of the Fab Four in all their guises, from the “yeah yeahs” and mop tops to the beards and long hair and “na nah nah nah nah nahs”, I ask Adam whether the Bootlegs would ever do the White Album in its entirety?

I stupidly add I’d love to see them tackle the tape looped weirdness of Revolution 9!

Adam laughs and says his favourite show so far has been the one at Shepherds Theatre in London last September when the Bootlegs performed the whole of A Hard Day’s Night before the interval and all of Abbey Road after it.

“It was tough. You’re going from fairly simple but brilliant songs to much more complicated music, but it was really rewarding. I loved it and so did the audience.

“The great thing about being in The Bootlegs is that we’ve got an amazing band behind us with strings and brass.

“It means we can do material live The Beatles themselves never had the chance to play like I Am The Walrus.”

From performing on top of the rooftop at 3 Savile Row in London in 1999 in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of The Beatles own appearance there in the days of Apple Corps, to playing The Queen’s jubilee at Buckingham Palace in 2012, the Bootlegs have risen to nearly the same heights as the legends they honour.

The true royalty of rock tribute acts. And all of it without the screaming girls and pressure. How perfect!

Adam said: “We have to work hard but we’re lucky to get to do this. It doesn’t actually matter who is in The Bootleg Beatles. The main thing is people want to see the real thing brought to life. It’s our job to give them that.”

The Bootleg Beatles play the Royal Hall in Harrogate on Wednesday, March 25.

Tickets are available on 01423 502116 or online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk