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Jack’s back and he’s preaching a Beatles kind of love. Jack Jones joins Ciaran Gribbin, Darren Percival, Jackson Thomas and the 40 piece Strawberry Fields Rock Orchestra in the latest Beatles tribute show All You Need Is Love. AM’s Greg Phillips spoke to Jones about the show just prior to their Sydney Opera House performances.

Gloat all you like about today’s current crop of fleeting pop bands, nobody comes close to the success of The Beatles during their relatively short ten year reign. To date, they have sold over one billion units. Twenty of their singles topped America’s Billboard chart and 19 of their albums reached number one too. They were a global phenomenon. It’s no surprise that the recent Beatles tribute shows here in Australia such as The White Album Concert, Beatles Back2Back and Let It Be were a huge success. It also seems that the Australian public can’t get enough Beatles, as another show celebrating the band’s music is being presented by the same promoters. This time it’s All You Need Is Love, featuring Jack Jones, Ciaran Gribbin, Darren Percival, Jackson Thomas and the 40 piece Strawberry Fields Rock Orchestra. All You Need is Love has already played two sold out shows at Sydney’s Opera House and is next heading to Melbourne’s Hamer Hall (Jan 29 & 30) and Adelaide’s Festival Theatre (Feb 5 & 6).

Jack Jones (aka Irwin Thomas) who is appearing in All You Need is Love, was born a year after The Beatles broke up and was latecomer to Beatlemania. However, once the penny dropped for Jack, he became enamoured with the band’s songs. “I didn’t really like The Beatles when I was growing up,” he says quite bluntly. “I was into Larry Carlton, the Yellow Jackets, Robben Ford, a lot of jazz … Steely Dan … Joni Mitchell. I used to hear them of course. What I remember more though, was when I heard them but really got them for the first time. That came from being a musician, guitar player and then becoming a songwriter. That’s when I discovered songs and I thought, wow, this is what songs are all about. I was probably 17 or 18 when that happened. I was a really late bloomer with The Beatles. They really only hit home about 15 years ago. It was then that I realised that their recording career had only gone for like 8 years and the band had only been together ten years and there was this amazing catalogue. Once I had done a couple a couple of records myself, that was when I could truly appreciate the extraordinary contribution that they made, so really my first discovery of The Beatles was SONGS! When I thought, hey I want to be a songwriter, I’m going to try writing songs. Well the next step is you go to school and The Beatles is your first stop.”


Jones’ second wave of appreciation for The Beatles came when he built his own studio and began recording. He began reading books on how The Beatles and their producer George Martin recorded and marvelled at their innovation.
“There is no doubt to me that George Martin was the 5th Beatle,” Jack tells me. “The contribution that he made was significant. Even just by creating an environment where those guys could be creative. Myself, I am not big on plug-ins and stuff like that. I know everyone does it now but I would much rather hold a microphone and sing to create an effect, rather than look for the tremolo effect in a box. I think that is a big part of The Beatles music. Even post the Beatles, bands like Queen were really progressive when it came to recording and that is part of your identity as an artist. The Beatles definitely carved out a sound or a bunch of them from Ticket to Ride and All My Loving to I Am The Walrus and Sgt Peppers. It constantly blows me away how much they did in such a short period of time. That’s the overwhelming thing about The Beatles, how they pushed the boundaries, going from recording with one microphone to using 4 tracks. They pioneered that stuff.”

Surprisingly, when Jones first performed in the All You Need Is Love show last year, it was the first time he had ever sung with an orchestra. He’d previously considered touring his own music with a string quartet but never got around to it.
“To sing in front of a full orchestra, it is just magnificent, ” he says. “I was so hoping to get the opportunity to do it again and here we are. It’s really exciting to hear that many instruments behind you. Living in New York, I will occasionally go and listen to an orchestra and it is like, wow! This huge group of musicians playing together become this one thing and that’s something I never thought I’d say. You know, I love playing in a loud rock band where everyone is cranked. There is a certain energy about that but equally there’s an energy about the subtlety and complexity of performing with 40 people plus. We have a rock band and an orchestra on this show and it’s great to have those elements together. And The Beatles is the perfect way to deliver it.”


The songs featured in All You Need Is Love span the Beatles entire career, so there was an incredible amount of music to choose from. Initially the four main singers threw their Beatles’ song requests into the ring but ultimately the final selection and allocation was entrusted to the show’s vocal director, Lindsay Field. “Sometimes we barter,” laughs Jack about the song selection process. “I’ll trade you a Walrus for a Yesterday! There are certain songs which everyone wants to do and then there are dark horses like Martha My Dear, which I have grown to love. When we’re doing the White Album it is easy, here’s the songs and everybody put up your favourites. With this though, there’s the whole catalogue to choose from.”

Jack flew into Australia from New York, where he is now based, just a week prior to the first show and will return in early March to finish work on new music he has been recording. He has hooked up with several New York musicians who have been giving Jack a new perspective on music.  “I found a couple of amazing singer,songwriters, James Maddock and Freddie Stevenson,” he explains. “They have become great friends and we’ve been doing some shows. There’s another guy named Roy Harter who has an apartment where he does the Davey Mac Sports Show. He comes and plays piano with me. He is like a keyboard boffin guy. New York has been about being completely creative and exploring a new palette of players and have access to something completely different.”

So varied is the music that Jones has been recording that he is considering releasing multiple albums in 2016.  “I’m almost finished it,” he says. “It started out being one record but now might become a few. There are these different layers. One is kind of acoustic, one electronic and one is rock so it was hard to put them all together. Not that I want the album to sound all the same but it was tricky to find the cohesion. There are a couple more songs to finish off. It’s hard for me to know when to sign off, especially with such a big body of work. So hopefully I’ll get a couple of records out. I have also been making these videos, like short films for each song.”

For now Jones is thrilled to be fronting a fabulous 40 piece orchestra singing a wonderful catalogue of music with Ciaran, Darren and Jackson, three singers he greatly admires. “These guys are great,” he says of his fellow cast members. “They are great cats and nobody is jumping on anyone’s bits or anything like that and it makes it so enjoyable. The opportunity to sing such amazing songs with great musicians, to people who will appreciate it and also to those who haven’t heard it … there are always kids who come along with their parents and just the fellowship of sharing it with a great group of musicians, it’s fantastic.”


HAMER HALL, ARTS CENTRE MELBOURNE or 1300 182 183 or 1300 136 166



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