The Bootleg Beatles in Llandudno – Gordon Elsmore on Keeping The Beat as Ringo Starr!

“I’d love to go and see the show I’m in, but I’m part of it! “ Gordon Elsmore tells Andy Howells as they discuss The Bootleg Beatles forthcoming appearance at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. Gordon’s statement borders on the tongue in cheek humour of Ringo Starr, the Beatles legendary drummer of whom he plays on stage.

The Bootleg Beatles are Britain’s premier Beatles tribute band and have been at the top of their game for over four decades. They remain instant crowd pleasers whenever they take to the stage with their shows, of which they play the fab fours greatest hits as well as much-loved album tracks.

“They are the market leaders,” enthuses Gordon, “The Bootleg Beatles were pretty much the first tribute band to do what they do and everybody else pretty much copied them. They supported Oasis at Knebworth and were around at the right time when The Beatles Anthologies happened in the mid-1990s.”

Part of The Bootleg Beatles success is to emulate the original John, Paul, George and Ringo on stage visually and musically. The Bootleg Beatles have done just that since 1980. The band concept came together, following the final West End performance of the musical Beatlemania and was the brainchild of three of the shows cast members, Andre Barreau, Neil Harrison and David Catlin-Birch.

The band currently consists of Tyson Kelly (John Lennon) on guitar, Steve White (Paul McCartney) on bass, Stephen Hill (George Harrison) on guitar and Gordon Elsmore (Ringo Starr) on drums.

Andy Howells chats to Gordon Elsmore
The Bootleg Beatles will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fab four’s Please, Please Me album.

Gordon, who hails from the Forest of Dean, joined The Bootleg Beatles in 2016. Gordon has been playing in Beatles bands for nearly 20 years. That’s most of the time that he’s been playing the drums and it’s taken him all over the world. His first Beatles band was the Paperback Beatles in 1997 and more recently he was part of the original stage cast of Let it Be.  Despite being in three signed bands and even appearing on Top of the Pops it’s always Beatles bands that have kept him busy!

“I went from one band to another without really realising I’d be playing in The Bootleg Beatles at the top all these years later, “ he says.  “The Beatles are in everybody’s record collection and as a drummer getting into music, Ringo had to be a first port of call. He was part of the landscape of becoming a drummer.”

How does Gordon find keeping the beat with The Bootlegs as Ringo? “It’s more challenging than you think,” he confirms, “Ringo is a very idiosyncratic drummer, he was born left-handed, and he learned to play right-handed, so already he’s leading with his left hand on a right-handed drum. That’s a really hard thing to do. Of course, everyone knows Ringo’s at the back shaking his head, you wouldn’t normally do that – its Ringo’s persona. You might think Ringo’s stuff is simple but to mimic him is really hard – harder in fact than many other drummers whom people may consider to be a lot better.”

Ringo’s had his fair share of critics over the years, but Gordon believes the Beatles legendary drummer to be the greatest. “Ringo was exactly the right drummer for the Beatles. What he does is so understated that what you don’t realise is what he does is quite difficult. I think he’s been maligned a bit over the years, but he is a brilliant drummer and anyone who knows what they are talking about will tell you so.”

The Bootleg Beatles demonstrating four individual costumes from the fab fours career.

The Bootleg Beatles visit Llandudno with their show on March 21st. They take a whistle-stop journey through the most vibrant revolutionary and divisive decade of all – the Swinging Sixties – many of the hits are there from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘Let It Be’, via Liverpool’s Cavern Club to the Apple rooftop… and several costume changes!

“This year we’ve got more costume changes than ever,” explains Gordon, “We do three costume changes in the first half. If you go backstage, there are clothes everywhere, wigs coming off, make-up going on, all in the space of about a minute. I start off with a quiff and a brown suit for the Please, Please Me era and in about 30 seconds I turn into a mop top and there’s 3 other blokes trying to do the same thing!”

If the backstage costume changes of The Bootleg Beatles sound like a chaotic scene from The Beatles 1968 animation film, Yellow Submarine, then their onstage show will draw even more comparisons with the fab four.

The show features several tracks to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Please, Please Me album. There are also many of the number ones including She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. Plus, several album tracks the real Beatles never got to perform live on stage including many with an orchestral accompaniment.

“We’ve done stuff with big orchestras at the Royal Philharmonic Hall for Sgt Pepper,” says Gordon, “Playing with an 8 or 16 piece is fantastic and the Bootleg Beatles always wanted to play these songs live!”

One collaboration with the orchestra includes the ground-breaking psychedelic track Tomorrow Never Knows from the 1966 album, Revolver. “That stuns the audience, and you see the front row go ‘what on earth?’” laughs Gordon, “the orchestration is fascinating, with the clarinet doing these backward seagull sounds and I’m looking over going “how are you doing that?”

Gordon also leads the band on a few numbers including Ringo’s signature tune, Yellow Submarine. “I really love doing Yellow Submarine,” he says, “It’s like the big one when everyone joins in and its a bit of a break for the others as well! Octopus Garden is another favourite. They are all fantastic songs, I never get bored playing the Beatles!”

Welsh fans can catch The Bootleg Beatles at Venue Cymru, Llandudno on March 21st.

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