Well, what really happened was I was in a cover top 40 band with my brother for years and then he fell in love with a girl, and we ended up breaking up. I was having dinner at my parents’ house one night and I was saying, we have been together for years and we are going to break up … what do we do, what do we do?
With all the bands I’d ever been in, we had always played some Beatles songs. Mum, just off the top of her head, said: “Why don’t you play more Beatles songs?” And I came back with: “Why don’t we play all Beatles songs?” In those days we didn’t have the internet, so I searched around and found out that the Beatles wrote 236 songs. I found three other guys plus myself, and we put the band together. We decided we would rehearse for a month and play for a month and go from there … well, it took off, and now here we are.
You started so early – was it hard to get attention in the early days?
Yes it was, I think … probably the same as if someone said to me, “Oh, I can paint like Picasso”. You’d think,”Oh yeah, right!” And it’s the same sort of thing, until you come along and actually hear it and say, “Wow – it does sound like it!” Even now, until people actually hear or see it, they are kind of a bit cautious – which is fair enough; it’s a big thing to say you sound like the real thing.
What has kept the tribute show so popular over the last 32 years?
Well, we would have to say most of the success is due to the great songs that the Beatles wrote. Without their songs, we would be nothing.
As the founding member, what’s kept you passionate about the show?
Two things, really. One is to be able to make a living doing something; when I first started in the band, my voice packed up after three months. I wasn’t a trained singer, and a lot of the McCartney parts are quite high pitched. I’d damaged my voice and I hadn’t realised I’d done it; I got nodules on my vocal cords, so that forced me off stage. I thought it would be a shame to let this go and as we were getting bigger, I worked out that we would need a manager, as we can’t do it all internally. So I decided to set it up as a business, buy all the equipment and run it as a business.
You travel worldwide. What have been some stand out places you’ve performed?
Probably the best place would be Brunei; there’s lots of money over there (laughs). What happened was an old friend of ours rang me and said, “You’re going to be getting a call from Brunei” … Well, I didn’t know much about the place. He does hotel reviews and had been visiting a hotel there near a theatre they had just built. I think it was about a 2,000 seat theatre – absolutely beautiful.
Anyway, they had asked him if he could suggest any Australian entertainment, and he said that an all round band would be The Beatnix; the guy rang me later on that day. It was really a beautiful theatre; they had the special smoked glass up the back where the royal family sat, state of the art equipment … that would have to be the most memorable by far.
You are coming to Port Macquarie for our very own festival. Tell us about what you will be doing?
We will be doing about 35 songs through the show.We split basically in two halves, so there’s the She Loves You, Twist and Shout, Wanna Hold your Hand – all those early songs which are in the black and white costumes. Then we will have a short break and come back with the Sergeant Pepper costumes, which I’m sure everyone is familiar with, change guitars, and we come out and do a song from Sergeant Pepper and all the later albums from 1967 onwards and finish up with Hey Jude, which everyone sings along to.
How often do you change the show content?
What we found is for those who go to see the show for the first time, they expect to hear certain songs, so in a way we are kind of trapped to stay within those top 35 songs. However, we will throw a extra one in here and there; if one of the guys has a sore throat, we will do something with a lower pitch.
What’s next after the Port festival for the Beatnix?
What we have been doing lately, something that has become a lot bigger, are cruises. We have about 25 musicians on the books, so we can cover all areas and maintain our shows on land and still go and perform on the cruises. The business is still growing for us, although we used to do shows four, five nights a week where now it’s mainly on weekends.
Interview with Founding Beatnix member, Tony Dean.
This article can be found in issue 87 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus