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Dutch Day Trippers: An Interview with Bart van Poppel of The Analogues

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The last thing this world needs is another Beatle tribute band, right?


The Analogues are a whole different animal. If you’re looking for matching suits, wigs and phony Liverpool accents, look elsewhere. None of that here. Instead, you get a bunch of incredibly talented Dutch musicians, singing in their own (quite good) voices, and managing to include, with incredible accuracy, every note heard on the greatest records ever made. It’s a meticulous, yet fun presentation. This reporter had the great pleasure of catching them in a small city in Holland recently. The show was sold out (months in advance) and the crowd was euphoric throughout. The Analogues focus on the ’66-’70 era and so the night began with “Day Tripper” and ended, appropriately, with “The End.” And they live up to their name; everything is done on real instruments. At one point they apologized because their mellotron was “kaput” (one of the few words I could understand from the onstage banter).  The stage was full of the same kinds of keyboards, guitars and amps the Beatles used. Strings, harp, horns, Indian instruments… all real stuff. No digital samples.

To find out just how all this, as well as their own album of original material, Introducing the Analologues Sideshow, came about, we spoke by phone with their bassist and arranger, Bart van Poppel, who lives just outside of Amsterdam.

Stereo Embers Magazine: Do you recall when you first heard the Beatles? Radio? Tv? Record? How old were you?

 Bart van Poppel: The first time I heard The Beatles I was 8 years old and that was at my neighbor’s. They had a son who was 4 years older than me, he was my friend, and he owned a couple of singles like “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” I was too young to see them live when they played the Netherlands in 1964, but I remember the TV footage with the Beatles on a boat trip in Amsterdam with people jumping in the canals.

SEM: The Analogues do later period Beatles… from 1966 on. Do you prefer early or later period Beatles? 

 BVP: I prefer the later Beatles stuff. Their early stuff consists of well written and catchy songs, but their later material is more complex with rich arrangements with a significant share of George Martin.

SEM: One thing that’s noticeable right away about your show is that you seem to take a classical approach to your live performance of Beatle music. It feels much like a classical recital in a way. You’ve performed Beatle albums in their entirety, with all the parts we hear on the records, much of it played on the same brand of instruments they used. Also, there’s no impersonation going on. Was this the plan from the start, when you and your drummer, Fred Gehring, started The Analouges?

 BVP: Absolutely. Fred lives in America. You know the band called The Fab Faux?

SEM: Yes.

BVP: Well, Fred went to see them a couple of times, years ago and he was really into them, and he wanted to set up something like that– like the Fab Faux. So, I went to New York, and we went to see them. I saw that they were good, but I thought, “We can do it better.” They use keyboards but you don’t see anything… it’s all samples. I said to Fred, “It’s nicer if you use the real thing– if you show it to the audience.” And that’s what we did. And that works out very well. People love it, seeing and hearing the original stuff. But the Fab Faux are a good tribute band, they don’t impersonate the Beatles. They have the same concept. They play albums from start to finish and they were the inspiration. It was Fred’s inspiration and I worked it out.

SEM: Fred liked the fact they weren’t trying to impersonate each member of the Beatles?

BVP: Yeah, that’s right. The Fab Faux were role models for us, you could say.

SEM: So, once you had the idea did you have people in mind to bring in?

BVP: Yeah, we had friends for a long time…we played together in other bands. I have a complete network — I knew exactly who to ask for this project.

SEM: You yourself have an interesting background. You did jingles at one time, didn’t you?

 BVP: Ha ha! That’s right, yeah. I did it for twelve years. I made music for tv and radio commercials. They asked me for the old stuff, mostly. I was really trained in reproducing old stuff. It was a good school for The Analogues.

SEM: Another training exercise for you was “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. You took that apart, didn’t you?

BVP: Yeah, I bought an 8 track Teac machine from George Kooymans from the Golden Earrings. He lent it to me before I bought it, to record demos. The first thing I did with this machine was “God Only Knows”. That was in the early ’80s. That was the start of it all (laughs).

SEM: Brian Wilson’s band, when they perform Beach Boys songs, they’ve tried to put every little bit that’s on the recordings in the show. It’s kind of what the Analogues do with Beatles.

BVP: Yeah, Fred and I saw Brian Wilson in Amsterdam with that band, and it was a very good band. Fantastic. Great singers. I enjoyed it a lot.

SEM: It’s that same presentation where you’re seeing what’s on the record being performed. If you go to the Symphony, you might find yourself saying, “oh I didn’t know those were oboes in that part.” In your show at one point two guys came onstage in the middle of a song and they each played recorder and they did this little part and just walked off.

 BVP: Oh yeah, you mean in “Glass Onion”. Yeah, they play the little “Fool on the Hill” part. In the lyrics there’s a part about the fool on the hill and they come up to do that part and then they go. That’s nice. That’s the kind of thing we always do. All these details.

SEM: Up to now you’ve only played in Europe and the UK. With all the equipment you have, does that make it difficult to go beyond?

BVP: Yes, it’s a big production and so we need big venues and lots of people. We need to sell lots of tickets to pay for it. It’s a very expensive production.

SEM: Have you played in USA?

BVP: Not yet. We’ve tried to plan it but it’s quite hard. Fred, our drummer, has a second house in Manhattan, so he’s half American and is married to an American woman. He especially wants to play in the U.S. It might happen in the future.

SEM: Have you yourself been to America?

BVP: Yeah, a few times. Twice in New York. And outside NY, in a crazy music store. This guy wrote this book called Beatles Gear.

SEM: Andy Babiuk?

BVP: Yes, Andy Babiuk. I’ve been to his shop. We were filming for the documentary. That was nice.

SEM: Okay, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk a little bit about gear. You really have some difficult to find items like the Hohner Pianet and Lowery Organ. One important piece of Beatle gear you have is a mellotron… a real one. Something the Beatles got into in a big way. A lot of people to this day don’t realize the flamenco guitar thing at the top of “Bungalow Bill” is just a key on the mellotron.

BVP: Yeah, we have that. We have all the original tapes in our mellotron. We’ve got a double mellotron, but it needs to be serviced now. I’m going to Birmingham, England to bring it so that they can service it. These guys are the sons of the original Mellotron makers. They still sell them and restore them. The one we have used to belong to Roxy Music. They only made, I believe, fifteen of them. It’s a double mellotron. A huge box and there’s only six sounds in it. The older one is too fragile–impossible to tour with. So, we got a more reliable one.

SEM: Have you seen the digital one made in Switzerland now?

BVP: Yeah, I know. It’s samples. But if you play the intro to “Strawberry Fields” on ours, it’s a big difference.

SEM: You play bass, among other instruments, in The Analogues live performances of Beatles music. Do you have a favorite bass?

BVP: My fave bass is my Fender Precision, ’57. It’s got a real thick neck. I like that. I’m not a Fender Jazz player. For me, the neck is too small. I have to use the Jazz bass for the Beatles sometimes.

SEM: Sometimes you use the Hofner and that neck is not very wide either.

BVP: That’s true. I’m not quite used to it.

SEM: Since you do songs the Beatles didn’t do live; how can you tell when Paul used the Hofner or the Rickenbacker?

BVP: Just by listening. It may not always be the right choice but it’s how I feel it. Sometimes people say, “No, that’s on the Ric, man.” Like on “Paperback Writer”, if I play it on the Hofner, I hear exactly what I hear on the record. So, for me it’s the Hofner, no doubt. Nobody knows for sure. Even McCartney doesn’t remember. You have to believe your own ears, so that’s what I do. But I sometimes switch. I played “Dear Prudence” on the Rickenbacker before and then I realized it’s not the Ric, it’s the Jazz bass.

SEM: Do you hear the Hofner sometimes on the Pepper album?

BVP: I play one song from Pepper on the Hofner: “Fixing a Hole”. When I played it on the Rickenbacker, it didn’t fit. Didn’t sound right. I changed to the Hofner and it was more like the original. But the rest is all on the Rickenbacker, I’m quite sure.

SEM: In studying McCartney’s bass, do you find it evolved at all? Seems he started playing more up the neck when he got the Rickenbacker. Do you find his style of playing more melodic than others? Many people have said you could just listen to the bass on the Pepper album.

BVP: McCartney is a very melodic bass player indeed, especially on Pepper. He rerecorded the bass at the very end of the process and that’s why these parts are like classical arrangements. Brian Wilson did that a bit on Pet Sounds, but I’ve never heard that before in pop music.

SEM: How about your strings, amps, and effects?

BVP:  I use Pyramid flatwounds on my Rickenbackers, Hofners, Jazz Bass and my Harmony H22. Only on my P-bass do I use roundwounds. All basses go straight into the amp except my Jazz bass which goes through an Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff on a couple of songs. All my Vox and Fender amps are the real deal inside and of course I have trouble now and then, but we have very good techs to look after them.

SEM: Currently your repertoire consists of Beatles songs from ’66 on. Are you considering going back before that?

 BVP: Next year– because it’s sixty years ago on June 6th that the Beatles were in Holland. They did one show in a very strange hall somewhere in the north of Holland, in a small village. They want us to do that same Beatles set… it’s only 8 songs. All early stuff, of course. We might do such a thing next year.

SEM: This Beatles show was in ’64?

 BVP: ’64, yeah.

SEM: When you do that, are you going to take the same approach with that as you do with the later albums, adding everything that’s on the recordings– all the overdubs that the Beatles couldn’t have done live?

BVP: Absolutely.

SEM: Like bongos, for instance, in “A Hard Day’s Night”?

BVP: Yes, we’ve done “A Hard Day’s Night” before and added the bongos. Absolutely.

SEM: You’ve performed complete albums by the Beatles from 1967 onwards, from Sgt. Pepper to Abbey Road. Might we see you do the same with earlier albums… maybe Rubber Soul or Revolver?

BVP: Yeah, sure. Rubber Soul is not exactly in the planning because the Beatles did play some songs from that album live and our thing is we only play songs they didn’t do themselves. But next year we exist 10 years and we’ll do three shows in the Ziggo Dome, the very big hall in Amsterdam. The first show will be Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. The next is the white album and the last is Abbey Road and Let it Be. That’s the plan for next year.

SEM: You’re doing the entire Revolver album?

BVP: Yeah.

SEM:  Are you ever tempted to go back further?

BVP: We’ve done that before. In every show there’s a mixed set and we’ll do some of the early stuff. We’ll do an hour set at a festival coming up and end with “Let It Be” but shortly after that we’ll do “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. That will be the very last one for the festival set.

SEM: Supposedly there’s organ on “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Some of us are having trouble hearing it.

BVP: Yeah, me too. But there is an organ, yeah.

SEM: You’ve presented “Revolution 9” with a reel-to-reel tape machine and a film behind it. How did you put that together? You didn’t use anything that was on the record, did you? You made your own bits?

 BVP: Yeah. I made a complete remake. I recorded all the parts separately and put it together in a big session. I worked for weeks on it (laughs). There’s a guy called Japp Drupsteen, a graphic designer. He was famous in the 70’s in Holland. He made logos. He made a complete new film for “Revolution 9” and I had to reproduce everything exactly and it had to be in synch. Together we made this great film, and “Revolution 9” really comes to life with this film. It’s great. Have you seen it?

SEM: Yes. It’s fascinating.

 BVP: We did the film because we can’t play it live. It’s impossible to play it live so we thought we’d let this guy make this film and then we’ll just go offstage when “Revolution 9” is on. We leave the stage and we put a [reel-to-reel] tape machine on the stage, and somebody presses the button, and the film starts and we’re off for nine minutes (laughs).

SEM: You finally get a break.

BVP: Yes, we call it “Number Wine”.

SEM: After your show in Amersfoort, there were free glasses of wine for the audience as we exited into the lobby.

 BVP: Oh, really? That’s nice. I didn’t know that. Most of the time, we have a glass of wine after the show.

SEM: One of your members, Jan Van Der Meij was a regular member of the band in the past but now it seems like he’s coming on and off stage.

BVP: He’s a guest performer now. He’s replaced by Felix [Maginn). Jan had a big hearing problem, so he can’t do the whole show anymore. We’re very glad that he can do something because he’s a great singer. We worked about three years without him because he couldn’t do it anymore. When he came back his voice had already gone. He’s in his late sixties. But on the last two shows his voice was completely back. He’s fantastic and he does exactly the stuff where we need him.

SEM: The audience really cheered when he came on. It seemed like he was a famous solo guy or something.

 BVP: He had quite a popular band in the ’70s and ’80’s: Power Play. It was a trio, and he was the lead singer and guitar player. They did a lot of tours and were quite famous. They had a couple of hits. He’s quite known by the audience, and they love him.

SEM: Tell us a little about your album of original material, Introducing The Analogues Sideshow. It’s great.

BVP: Thank you.

SEM: How did the idea for The Analogues Sideshow come about?

BVP: That was years and years ago. We thought, “We have an audience as The Analogues, so why not record an album with songs of our own?” But we never had time for it. When Corona was there, there was time to record the album, so we did. We want to record a second album, but we have to find time for that as well.

SEM: What was your approach in producing the album? Was it any different from directing the band in the Beatles project? Did you suggest things like “slide guitar here” or “mellotron there”?

BVP: The whole idea for the album was to write songs with our own personal touch without focusing especially on The Beatles. No concept, but diversity in styles and using Beatle related instruments like the Hohner pianet, mellotron, etcetera. We recorded old school in the studio with guitars, bass, and drums ‘live’ and later did some overdubs.

SEM: What’s interesting about it is that everybody in your band, like the Beatles, writes and sings. It’s not just one lead singer and one or two writers. Do you find that each of you– yourself, Diederik, Felix and the others — do you each have a different style of writing?

BVP: Yeah, I think so. Felix and I are quite British. Diederik and Fred are a bit more American orientated. Especially Diederik. He’s a bit more American. Felix and I are very British.

SEM: You can hear Badfinger in there and of course, the Beatles.

BVP: Yeah. And The Move.

SEM: There’s a psychedelic song.

BVP: Yeah, “Turned into Sand”.

SEM: It has some mellotron. Real mellotron!

BVP: That’s right.

SEM:  That one’s got an odd note in the intro on the bass. Was that done to make it a bit more psychedelic? In a way it’s similar to what the Beatles did on “I Want to Tell You” where it goes to those “wrong notes” on the piano. Was that the idea?

BVP: I would rather call it dissonant. I did it on purpose because I like that kind of “mistake”. If everything is right and in place it can get boring sometimes, I think. But I know what you mean, it’s a bit weird. And yes, The Beatles did such things too. On the pianet intro ‘Walrus’ for instance.

 SEM: One of the best songs on your album is “Don’t Fade Away.”

 BVP: Oh really? That’s my song. (laughs)

SEM: Is that the single?

BVP: It was one of the singles, yeah. Didn’t become a hit. They played it on the radio a few times and that was nice. We played it on national TV.

SEM: There’s one song that’s kind of Stones-ish: “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”

 BVP: You’re the first one who compares that with the Stones. I always thought that was a really Stones one. Especially the bass part, it’s Bill Wyman style that I do there. I love that song. It’s from Felix. In my opinion also, it’s Stones. It’s funny that you noticed that too. I’ve never heard that from anyone. They all say it’s like the Beatles and I don’t hear the Beatles especially. In some songs on the album maybe, but it’s more just British Invasion. In “Don’t Fade Away” it’s not even ’60s, it’s more of a ’90s song. It’s an old song… I wrote it in the ’90s. It’s more like Teenage Fanclub.

SEM: “Don’t Fade Away” is very Teenage Fanclub.

BVP: It’s from that era, that song. I was really a Teenage Fanclub fan at the time. That’s why it sounds like them.

SEM: “Nothing Can Hurt Me Today” was played on a radio station here.

BVP: They played that in the States?

SEM: Oh yeah. You’ve been getting airplay here.

BVP: I never knew that. That’s great.

SEM:  The bass on “Pawn in Your Pocket” is interesting…especially in the intro. How did you come up with that and what bass did you use?

BVP: I have to say that Felix came up with the idea for the bass part in “Pawn.” I liked it very much, so I only made some small changes and played it on my 1965 Hofner 500/1.

SEM: What was the inspiration for “Can’t Figure You Out “? And for “Still Waiting”?

BVP: I’m still a huge fan of bands like The Small Faces and The Move and I think I had these two groups in my mind when I wrote ‘Can’t Figure You Out’. In ’Still Waiting’ you’ll definitely hear traces of Procol Harum.

SEM: In your documentary, Sgt. Pepper’s, 50 Years Later, there’s a part where you and your bandmate, Diederik Nomden, are meticulously analyzing a track. He seems to hear hidden stuff and he points it out to you. Are you still learning, still discovering new parts in Beatles recordings?

BVP: Oh yeah. Yeah. We want to do a big revision. I want to make a document. Put everything together in a book, or maybe with DVD’s. All the scores and all the instruments. One big document. But before we do that, we’re going to have to do a revision because we always forget something. Like you mentioned, the organ in “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, for instance. It’s such a lot of work. You can’t focus on everything together, so you forget something. Later on, I heard — in “the End” from Abbey Road– there’s a Leslie guitar part and later I heard that there’s also orchestra over that part. And we don’t have that. So, like I said, we need to do some revisions.

SEM: Is the documentation idea– a book with DVD’s– a way of hoping to continue The Analogues concept via the next generation? If so, you’re giving the world a great gift. 

BVP: You’re right about the documentation, that’s for the next generation.