THE SCOTCH PLAINSMEN are the brainchild of Smithereens frontman Pat Dinizio.
While it's no secret Dinizio has been carrying the Beatle torch his entire lifetime, this ensemble gives him the outlet to continue to perform Fab Four tunes without cluttering the Smithereens calendar. Yes, the Smithereens did two critically acclaimed Beatles tribute albums and are known to throw in some Lennon & McCartney staples into their live sets, but with the Scotch Plainsmen, Dinizio can really indulge himself with this exciting new outlet.
"We wanted to do something to set us apart from the many Beatles copy bands out there. So, we've peeled it down to its essence - just the music. We don't have a "Paul" guy or a "John" guy per se`. Heck, there are seven of us up there. We interchange vocal parts based on who can deliver it best. With even have three guitar players to try and capture that rich texture the Beatles used to get through multi-tracking and other studio techniques. And there are absolutely no tape loops or pre-recorded sounds. Everything you hear is performed 100% live, unlike a lot of the copy bands out there".
And of course, the fake moustaches, over-the-top cockney accents and Sgt. Pepper suits are nowhere to be found," Dinizio adds only half-jokingly.
The Fab Four fabric is indeed an integral part of the band's genesis and DNA. Dinizio met his musical cohort, acoustic guitarist Tommy Frangione, at a chance encounter on a return trip from a Chicago Beatlefest. "I saw this guy wearing a Beatles Apple Records t-shirt, and spotted his Beatle Brunch gig bag. I knew he was a kindred spirit!". So there at O'Hare airport, some 800 miles from home, these two residents of rural Scotch Plains, NJ forged a friendship that has travelled the Merseybeat Road culminating in the formation of this newest entry to the Beatles tribute circuit.
As the Smithereens released their well received interpretation of "Meet The Beatles" (a record Dinizio cites as the single most important album ever released), Frangione introduced them to Joe Johnson, host of the long running nationally syndicated Beatle Brunch radio program. Johnson loved the record so much, he dedicated an entire show to the disc, helping to introduce the band to many of his 2 million weekly listeners.
By popular demand, a followup release was arranged, with the unique concept of covering songs the Fabs buried on the flip-sides of their mega-selling hits, entitled appropriately enough, "B-Sides The Beatles". An associate producer for Beatle Brunch (as well as writer for Beatlefan magazine, and reigning trivia maven at the long running Fest For Beatles Fans), Frangione was enlisted to write the liner notes. In addition, that's Tom and his older brother donning the Beatles Halloween costumes in the rear sleeve photo.
Adding reverance to the proceedings, Frangione arranged for Andy White (the studio drummer at the Beatles first EMI session) to reprise his role behind the kit for the disc's centerpiece "P.S. I Love You", which was voted one of the top 200 tracks released that year. Coinciding with the album launch, White joined the Smithereens onstage at a benefit concert to perform the song, as well as its chart-topping A-side, "Love Me Do".
Along the way, Pat and Tommy have done some local acoustic shows, but the most memorable gig they did together was at the site of the most famous of all Beatles concerts, Shea Stadium, as part of a VH1 benefit for Autism research. Together with Smithereens guitarist extraordinairre Jim Babjak, the trio included the Fabs' own "Ticket To Ride" in the set. "I guess me, Tommy, Jimmy and John, Paul, George & Ringo are the only seven people ever to play that song at Shea" jokes Dinizio.
Another of Dinizio's pioneering endeavors, the Living Room Concert series proved to be the next buiding block in the Scotch Plainsmen annals. Recruiting friends and fellow musicians from these intimate musical gems, Dinizio hand picked guitarist Sam Fairley (of the NJ based "Altman Brothers") and bassist Bruce Pike (from the venerable "Home At Last"). "I wanted guys who 'get' the idea of soing this for fun, first and foremost. We're all big Beatles fans, so the biggest differences we have involve which songs to play. There's absolutely no ego, infighting, or any other hassle involved". Pike recruited drummer Bill Truluck and lead guitarist Tim Donald from the south Jersey based "Rubber Souls". Hailing from the Bronx, keyboardist David Solomon (the highly in-demand session player from the band Genetic Control) rounds out the group.
So with unabashed Beatlemania firmly anchoring their friendship and musical heritage, the band chooses "themed" sets to perform at select Dinizio shows. They have done shows featuring the White Album top-to-bottom, all 95 minutes of it), as well as those brimming with unbridled Beatle-geekness. One such example was an album based set featuring the Beatles classic "Rubber Soul". Never content to leave well enough alone, the band embellished the now standard British CD lineup with tracks found on the US release (back in the '60's there was a lot of mixing and interchanging of album lineups) and the accompanying non-LP single "We Can Work It Out" / "Day Tripper".
For tonight's set at the City Winery, the band's fabness is reflected in the "Let It Be Chronicles". In addition to each album track, songs from the "Let It Be" movie and famous rooftop concert finale will be included. Songs lifted from the widely bootlegged early version of the album (then titled "Get Back") will be included as well, including "Teddy Boy" which Paul McCartney later rescued for inclusion on his own debut solo album.
Dinizio defends the setlist vigorously: "'Let It Be' is often dismissed as a loose, non-focused, rough around the edges affair. but it contained no fewer than three #1 singles ("Let It Be", "Get Back" and "The Long & Winding Road" - ed). How many Beatle albums can make that claim?" he challenges. Chiming in as if scripted, Frangione offers up "two - 'Magical Mystery Tour'" and 'Help!".
Like we've said, these guys are pretty hardcore. Give them a listen - we're sure they'll pass the audition.