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A Beatle Sings Like A Monkey (Monkee)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

Did you see Paul McCartney on Letterman last night? It reminded me of my own encounter with the Beatle. It wasn't as cool as a roof-top concert, but it was unique.

I've been a fan of the Beatles, and therefore Paul McCartney, for as long as I've liked music, as long as I can remember.  Twice during the five years I worked for KWGN (then WB-2) in Denver, McCartney's tour made stops in the Mile High City.  Both times I lobbied for a chance to do a story on the legend playing in the city.  Both times my boss at 2 agreed to let me go.

Here are a couple of things about rock stars and local TV.  They generally don't do TV interviews because they don't need to.  The biggest shows (the ones reporters can convince bosses to let them cover) are sold out, so doing a TV interview doesn't really do the performer much good.  There are some exceptions, I've interviewed Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, Steven Stills and some others, that's for another blog on another day.

This day was November 1st, 2005.  Here's some more insight into news coverage of concerts. You don't just get to go in and shoot the show. It usually works one of two ways. 

1) You set up with a camera near the sound mixer in the middle of the arena floor. You plug an audio cable into the board to get clean sound, and shoot the stage with the TV camera.  There's some variation on how much you get.  These days most big tours will let you record 30-45 seconds from each of the first three songs, then you're gone.

2) You go backstage to the area where the guy coordinating the video feeds for the big screens on the stage is working.  These days most big shows have a half dozen or more cameras to put the action up on screens for the audience to get a closer look during the concert.  In this scenario, you bring a record deck (probably a card these days) and plug right into the stage video feed. This gives you perfect audio and video from a clean source.  Again you get 30-45 seconds of 3 or 4 songs. They don't want whole songs showing up on youtube!

For this concert it was the backstage option.  I was with a photographer named Eric (I won't use his full name on a blog without asking him first!)  He and I had worked together for a short time years earlier when I was at KRDO in the Springs.  In our work together at 2, we talked a lot about music, we're both huge fans.  He is one of the best news photojournalists I've ever worked with.  Anyway, he had just accepted a new job at a different Denver station, so this was his FINAL NIGHT of work at channel 2, what a way to go out!  We were the only station that applied that night to be at the McCartney show, so I decided to go backstage with Eric, even though there was no reason for both of us to be there. 

A Pepsi Center media guy took us in, and introduced us to the tour's video man.  He got us plugged in and ready to record once the show started.   A few minutes before showtime, the tour guys very quickly said to us, "You two need to stand behind that line, right now, and don't cross it until I say it's OK."

The next thing we knew, Sir Paul himself is crossing in front of us with the entire band walking behind.  They were probably about 15 or 20 feet away from me and Eric, but we like to think it was more like 10.  Here's the great part.  As they walked, those carrying guitars were playing them, and their leader was singing.  Here's what we heard from Sir Paul himself.

"Hey Hey, we're the Monkees.  And we just Monkee around.  We're to busy singing, to put anybody down."

In a few seconds they were gone, up on stage and ready to rock.  Eric and I just looked at each other and smiled. Wow! That's something almost no one gets to hear.  The Monkees were created in the late 60's for an American TV show, to jump on the popularity of the Beatles.  We heard a Beatle sing the Monkees theme song as a tongue-in-cheek warm-up right before the show. I was blown away by just how cool those few seconds were!  

We recorded what we could of the show, went out to our live truck and put together our piece to air during our 9:30 live shot. It all went fine and we couldn't wait for it to be over.  That's when we went back into the arena, acted like we belonged there, and stood at the top of a seating section to watch the rest of the concert.

Paul McCartney played for about 2 and a half hours. When he stood on stage solo and played "Blackbird" we were mesmerized.  He did old stuff from the Beatles era, not-quite-as-old stuff from his days with Wings, and some great newer stuff from his solo albums.  Beatle Paul was in great voice and he seemed to be having as much fun as we fans.  It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen and heard.

Having said all that, it was those few seconds of the Monkees song backstage that will always make me smile.

We'll talk again soon.

Don

 

 

 

 

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