The View From the Side of the Stage: The Beatles Marathon - by Ricki C.

Sgt. Peppercorn's 2018 Beatles Marathon will be held at the Bluestone this Saturday, Dec. 15th. Click here for ticket info.

I remember it like it was yesterday: in 2011, at the conclusion of the Hitless Wonder/Brick & Mortar tour (the one and – as it turned out – only tour that Whiles leader Joe Peppercorn served as a member of Watershed) Joe turned to me as we were grabbing our tour bags out of the van and said, “Hey, I’m doin’ a show at Kobo in December playing all the Beatles’ songs in a row, you wanna roadie for it? I’ll pay you a hundred dollars.” “A hundred dollars?!?” I said incredulously, “Are you crazy? That’s like three nights pay with Watershed.”

“Ummmm, I think it’s gonna be a lot of work,” Joe said, in his usual overly-serious way, “it’s a LOT of songs.” “How much work can it be?” I replied flippantly, “I’ll roadie the show, we’ll work out the money later.” (Truthfully – and I fully acknowledge HOW naive I was being – at that point I firmly believed you could play the entire Beatles catalog in maybe 3 or 4 hours, tops.)

As it turned out, that first Beatles Marathon show at Kobo started at 2:30 in the afternoon (because the band had never played the songs all the way through at the same time, and nobody knew how long it would take) and ended AT 4 O’CLOCK THE NEXT MORNING! I EARNED that hundred bucks, ladies & gentlemen.

Actually, I made a lot more money than I expected that night. Joe bumped my pay to $125 after counting up all the door-money that night. There was a line around the block at Kobo for most of the day & night that December 29th, 2011, the date of the second Marathon. (The first one was 2010 at Andyman’s Treehouse, with Joe playing solo and being helped out by various friends, our own Colin Gawel among them.) Plus, I made an extra hundred bucks because 4 or 5 fifty-something guys gave me 10-20 bucks apiece in the hours between midnight and 4 am, because, “I was workin’ so hard,” and, “they knew I wasn’t gettin’ paid enough.” I told them I was being adequately compensated, so they didn’t have to feel sorry for me, but they insisted I keep the cash, so I did.

The five-piece band that first year at Kobo – Joe on guitar & keyboards, Brandon Barnett from Ghost Shirt on lead guitar, Whiles stalwart Chris Bolognese on bass and Dan Murphy & Jessie Cooper alternating every two albums on drums – was a scrappy bunch for sure, but at times the presentation was almost like The Modern Lovers or late-70’s Talking Heads playing The Beatles catalog. There were some harmonies from Brandon & Chris, but there was hardly the pinpoint/right on the money/dazzling precision of the latter-day Marathon shows. (By the way, the next year at Kobo, Brandon Barnett was forced to drop out of the show by family commitments and Matt Peppercorn - Joe’s younger brother and lead guitarist of The Whiles - had THREE WEEKS to learn the entire Beatles catalog and play the show. It was a musical achievement I would not have thought possible and still marvel at to this day. That guy is a mathematical guitar genius.)

Okay, I could go on like this all night, but I’m already WAY over my allotted 500 words and the Marathon hasn’t even been moved to The Bluestone yet. There’s a GREAT article by professional writer Joel Oliphint about the run-up to the 2016 show linked here – The Beatles Marathon / Columbus Alive, 2016 – that does more justice to the Marathon than I ever could. Check that out and let me just say this: I’ve stage-managed The Beatles Marathon for eight years now and every year there’s a new musical memory I’ll never forget - Matt’s MASTERFUL recreation of the Eric Clapton guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2015; Joe SEARING through “Tomorrow Never Knows” like the bastard son of Iggy Pop & James Brown in any given year; Carrie Ayers BLASTING Paul McCartney vocals to shreds on her guest-spot star-turns, to name just three off the top of my head.

To sum up, three things: 1) At 13 hours, The Beatles Marathon is at least TWELVE hours longer than any Beatles live show was once they graduated from The Cavern in Liverpool and The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany back in 1963; 2) The Beatles never toured ANY of their albums from Rubber Soul onward, so the large majority of these songs were NEVER played live by them; 3) In my view – from the side of the stage – the boys & girls and the ladies & gentlemen in the audience dearly LOVE to sing along to The Beatles’ songs, all 200 & some of them. – Ricki C. / December 11th, 2018.

(editor’s note: Oddly, Ricki C. has never made any secret of the fact that he never even particularly LIKED The Beatles, only bought a couple of their singles back in the 1960’s, and NEVER bought any of their albums. We here at Pencilstorm are occasionally bewildered why he ever even TOOK this roadie gig, and how he’s managed to hold onto it for all these years.)

For more from Ricki C. on this topic, click this link from his 2012 blog, Growing Old With Rock & Roll:

Mrs. Children, The Whiles & the Beatles Marathon

(editor’s note: That’s blog author Ricki C. handing off the Gibson SG at the beginning of this 2011 video.)