Revolver aims to make Fab Four fans see what they hear
Revolver has been called “the best Beatles tribute band in the world,” but Rocket Norton (sometimes known as Ringo Starr), is hesitant to admit the group deserves the title, even if both critics and fans (including two members of Cheap Trick) think they do.
Members of veteran Vancouver acts like Prism, Shama, and the Surreal McCoys make up Revolver, which has been recreating Beatlemania for nearly a quarter century.
First appearing at Vancouver’s Expo 86, Norton says the Fab Four homage began very casually.
“I was doing a lot of work for Expo and they really liked one of the acts I put together,” says the former drummer for Vancouver classic rockers Prism. “They said, ”˜You know, it would be really great if we did some kind of a Beatles show,’ and they asked if I could do it.”
Norton happily agreed and rounded up fellow bandmate and lead guitarist for Prism, Skip Prest (George Harrison), Bassist Mike Sicoly (Paul McCartney), and Guitarist Mick Dalla-vee (John Lennon).
“I called them up and said ”˜Let’s do this thing at Expo’ and I don’t think we even had a rehearsal.”
On top of not being quite musically prepared for the Expo show, they hadn’t prepared visually, either. The day before their performance they realized they needed costumes, but opted for the last-minute look of black pants, white shirts and skinny ties.
Though Revolver’s costumes have improved since their first show, Norton says he wishes the band could say they work hard to sound like the Beatles. The reality is that it just comes naturally.
So how does the “best Beatles tribute in the world”—at least according to Rick Nielson and Robin Zander of American ”˜70s rock band Cheap Trick—achieve that status without even rehearsing? A lifelong love of the Beatles.
“When I started playing music in the ’60s, I would just play along to Beatles songs,” says Norton. “I would have my little drum set and put on the Beatles album [Meet the Beatles] and just play along to Ringo. And I think in a way, Ringo was probably my number one teacher, ’cause when we went to do the Beatles show at Expo with no rehearsal, I was playing just like him. I couldn’t help it. That’s the way I would play ’em ’cause that’s how I learned ’em.”
Since their first show, however, the members of Revolver have taken the advice of managers and agents to “up the ante” on the production value of the act and turn it into a theatrical spectacle. They’ve built sets, made costumes and even added a video component to their act.
But still, they don’t want to be mistaken for cheesy impersonators.
“We wear the costumes and we do all that we can to create an environment that people can easily buy into, but we don’t play the role. Throughout the show we are always talking about ”˜them,’” explains Norton. “We narrate the career of the Beatles, but what happens is when we start playing, the music is so uncannily close that the nuances... The people, it only takes them about half a song to go ”˜Mhm, that’s them.’?”
Sonic similarities aside, Norton has his own philosophy on why people accept him as Ringo Starr.
“There’s an interesting adage in the music business and it’s ”˜People hear what they see,’ but we’re the opposite. People see what they hear ’cause we don’t look like the Beatles... we never did. We didn’t look like them when we were younger and we certainly don’t now,” says Norton.
“I’m 6 - 2 and I’ve always been pretty slim. I don’t look anything like Ringo. Not even close, and yet at the end of almost every concert somebody will come up to me and say ”˜you look exactly like Ringo!’?”
That’s got to be a testament to the group’s musical prowess. If a 6’2" Rocket Norton can somehow completely recreate the nuances, mannerisms and musicality of 5’8" Ringo Starr, Revolver is obviously doing something right.
Revolver plays the Massey Theatre on Saturday (March 27). Doors at 8 p.m.