Imagine — Remembering the Fab Four will perform in Park City
December 27, 2013
On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles performed on the "Ed Sullivan Show."
Tom Coburn was a teenager and one of the millions who were inspired by that appearance.
"I can’t talk to anyone who is in my age group who wasn’t impacted by what we saw," Coburn said during a telephone call to The Park Record from Gardnerville, Nev. "Even if you weren’t a musician, you started combing your hair differently and wearing different kinds of clothes, because the band was so hip."
Decades later, Coburn came full circle when he began portraying John Lennon in the Beatles tribute band Imagine — Remembering the Fab Four.
The band — Coburn, Richard Fazzi as Paul McCartney, Brad Armstrong as George Harrison and new drummer Mark Robinette at Ringo Starr — will bring its concert to the Egyptian Theatre on Dec. 30 and 31.
The origins of Imagine began in a Salt Lake City bar band called Vital Signs in 1991.
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"Although there were only three of us in the band, we did some Beatles covers, and our personas were so much like our counterparts in the Beatles," Coburn said. "One night, one of the guys, David John, who originally played George Harrison and is still big in the Beatles tribute business, brought his brother to one of our shows and he was the splitting image of Paul McCartney. And that was when we started working on becoming Imagine."
The band’s first two shows stank, Coburn said.
"We realized then that we didn’t do enough homework," he said. "We were trying to do the Beatles like a bar band, and that didn’t work. So we spent six months rehearsing each part bit by bit until we got them down right."
The band soon realized that getting the vocals right was the biggest challenge.
"Many people have a misconception that the Beatles’ vocals are just fun and carefree, but they aren’t," Coburn confessed. "When you try to sing them right, it’s (difficult), and, well, I just want to say to if you want to just try to sing these songs in a live setting and get them right go ahead. You will be surprised (how hard it is)."
The next challenge was the song dynamics.
"We had to deconstruct the songs to see if we were even playing them right," Coburn said. "Even today, when I put on my iPod and listen to those recordings, even the really raw early ones, the intricacies of the songs are not what anybody thinks."
Since 1993, Imagine has experienced some personnel changes and Coburn said without the former members, the band would not be where it is today.
"I would love to give a shout out to people who really launched our band," he said. "In the original lineup, we were fortunate to have a gentleman named Dave John, who played George Harrison. He broke down all the music and brought it to us and said, ‘This is how it should be played.’
"I would love to thank our drummer of 19 years, Dan Burt, from Salt Lake City," Coburn said. "His ability to break down the vocals and teach us each part was so incredible. He was also the ultimate road warrior and never missed a show in all those 19 years."
Coburn said he’s learned a lot while he has researched John Lennon’s life.
"Most people look at him as a rough and tough guy who is outspoken," Coburn said. "I can be outspoken, but John was an incredible intuitive person who had his finger on the pulse of what was going on in the world a long time before many did.
"He got shouted down a lot for being outspoken on the war in Vietnam and other issues," he said. "I think America wanted to squash him, but in hindsight, you could see how he was right about many things."
While the Imagine show has changed over the years, the basis has always been the music. "In the past, we would play what most people consider the hits, but these days, in order to progress, we change the mood several times during the show and play some more obscure songs," Coburn said. "We also play songs that the Beatles didn’t play live.
"In fact, the whole second half of the show features a keyboard that serves as a synthesizer for all the orchestrations," he said. "When the original songs came out, there wasn’t the technology to play these songs live, unless the Beatles had lots of other band members."
Brad Armstrong, who plays George Harrison, said playing these songs are a welcome challenge.
"We recreate their records and not their live performances," Armstrong said. "We certainly try to get the sounds right, and when we at least get close to getting it right, it’s amazing. There is nothing like it when you get the audience on your side."
Unlike Coburn, who was a teen when the Beatles hit the United States, Armstrong caught up with the Beatles through his older brother.
"I was born in 1961, so the Beatles were prevalent during my childhood by what my brother was listening to," Armstrong said. "But even today, the Beatles specifically mean joy, peace, happiness, freedom and the celebration of life to me."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Imagine — Remembering the Fab Four, a Beatles tribute show on Monday, Dec. 30, and Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $29 to $50 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.