Entertainment behind the scenes
The kids are all right as Beatles’ White Album gets a fresh coat
The good thing about cuts to music education in schools is that wannabe rock stars flock to savvy entrepreneurs like Paul Green — the Philadelphia musician who inspired the Jack Black movie “School of Rock.”
Green — himself the subject of the 2005 documentary “Rock School” — has set up a nationwide School of Rock chain that helps kids unleash their inner Ozzys, Jimis and Janises. It’s certainly more fun than learning “Home on the Range” and “Kumbaya” in a public-school setting.
In Los Angeles on Sunday, 19 future stars from the Hollywood school recreated the Beatles’ “White Album” at the Whisky a Go Go, the Sunset Strip site where the Doors and the Byrds cut their teeth. Even though it was a midday show, there was a surprisingly long line at the bar as parents and grandparents stocked up for the 30-song marathon.
The musicians ranged in age from about eight to 17, with girls slightly outnumbering the boys. All were dressed in white, with a few accessorizing with John Lennon glasses or Sgt. Pepper jackets. The lineup changed after each song, giving everyone at least several shots in the spotlight. The all-star champ was the youngest: Stanford Fram (pictured at left), who sang lead on three songs, played drums and keyboards on most of the others, and even provided nasal snorts on “Piggies.”
Among the others, Ronnie Connell — a dead ringer for Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington — pounded the drums on “Don’t Pass Me By”; William Lancaster (pictured below), almost dwarfed by his bass, studiously replicated Paul McCartney’s melodic stylings; Genessa Gariano did some elegant finger-picking on “Blackbird”; and Waylon Rector tore up a guitar solo on “Yer Blues.” The vocalists, naturally, basked in the spotlight, and who wouldn’t want to belt out “Helter Skelter” on stage?
The songs were surprisingly faithful to the originals, although the full-cast take on “Revolution No. 9″ came in at a mercifully short 90 seconds. In a technological innovation that George Martin would have been proud of, singer Ava Cohen played bird noises from her iPhone at the end of “Blackbird.”
The musicians were actually in the beginners class at the Hollywood school, which has about 120 students in total, said their teacher Pablo Signori. Armed with a 90-page dissertation on the Fab Four, they started intensive rehearsals and lessons in February. Signori joked (or maybe not) that fist-fights broke out along the way.
The Beatles songbook is a tough challenge for the best of musicians, with songs such as “Sexy Sadie” and “I Will” full of deceptive chord progressions. “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” sung by Matthew Ernst, also presented hurdles with its time changes, but ended up being the highlight.
Up next for the school is a tribute to Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Saturday and Sunday, while the following weekend will see students loading up on spandex and Aquanet as they take on hard rock tunes from the 80s.