A lot of people love the Beatles, but how many have ever performed as one? Or ever recorded at Abbey Road Studios? Or toured with the cast of Beatlemania. Perhaps the only person in the world who has done it all, is John Babcock! It’s a love affair that began at age five when he was one of the millions who first saw the Fab-Four on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“My father said, you can stay up past your bedtime tonight. He said there’s this group from England called the Beatles. I remember thinking Beatles, like bugs, what is that? And I remember him saying I think this is going to be something really great.”
Still, as much as he came to idolize the Beatles, John idolized someone else a little more! His father.
“Absolutely. It all came from him. He was a good drummer a jazz drummer, he played in all these society bands, he played swing and country, backed some country artists in upstate New York in the late 50s, and he had me sitting at the drums when I was 3 or 4. I have this photo of me from 1964.”
As he grew it was his father’s influence that helped keep the passion alive.
“Talking about how important it is for parents to see a talent in their kids, whether it’s sports, music or art, and really embrace that, work at it, encourage them. That’s what he did and I’d have never got into drum and bugle corps if it wasn’t for him.”
John was part of the best! The prestigious Hawthorn New Jersey Muchachos. Even in high school, it was apparent his career would be in music. And in high school something else became apparent, his resemblance to the biggest star in the business.
“Oh, yes. I got that since I was in high school, you know?” And it’s not a bad thing to have high school girls believe you look like Paul McCartney! “Yeah, it’s better than them saying hey, you look just like Ringo!”
But he also had the talent, and the dream, to be a successful recording artist on his own. He’d written quite a few songs. But to record them? As HE saw it, there was only one option, the most famous recording studio in the world, Abbey Road.
“For me it’s a mecca for me, I gotta go there. I gotta record there. Most people are happy enough, you know, gotta go to the crosswalk and walk across the crosswalk and get the picture taken which is the most famous crosswalk in the world. WHICH YOU DID. Of course, had to do it, took the shoes off, the whole thing in the great McCartney tradition. But to go there, doing your own music as an artist is just phenomenal.”
So he went, a NUMBER of times. He recorded his own music in the very studio used by the Beatles. But even THAT wasn’t enough! So he made a request…
“I want to use one of the actual mics that they used, that the Beatles used. That Pink Floyd used when they recorded Dark Side of the Moon in studio two. He said you come back and I’ll pull out one of the old U-47s, one of the ones that John Lennon and Paul McCartney sang on, and I thought that’ll be a lot of fun. Just the vibe, you know? I loved it so much that from ’85 to’95 I did about a half a dozen sessions there. Every year or two if I was working on a new album I’d say I’ve got to go to Abbey Road and cut some tracks, you know.”
About the only thing he didn’t share with the Beatles was their level of success.
“It’s all about getting that record deal. I got a record deal. And I quickly learned there’s only one thing worse than not having a record deal, and that’s having a bad record deal.”
But avoiding a record deal kept him out of the spotlight, until he heard of an opening with Beatlemania!
“They said hey, c’mon! We’re going to go do a tour. And you can play Paul McCartney and we’re going to go on a 15 city tour and I remember we played all kinds of 10-15 thousand seat arenas, cast of Beatlemania, I played with some of the original guys that played on Broadway, we went out and did it, a lot of fun, a lot of fun to do it.”
He did over 15-thousand shows as Paul over the years to the point where performing as the Beatle had completely taken over. We asked if he was bothered by the fact that even in a story on John, many of our questions revolve around Paul.
“No it’s a great compliment, a wonderful compliment. If you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best! That’s the way I look at it!”
One of Babcock’s recent original songs is called Frost Upon the Window. The McCartney influence is unmistakable, yet, it’s all John Babcock! No, he never did land that big record deal, but he’s still writing, still recording, still as passionate in his 50s as he was in his 20s. Because without the stardom he’s still been able to carve out one of the most unique, and fulfilling careers in music.
“It’s pretty cool. That’s where the joy comes in. that’s what I was talking about before. Whether it be my music or I’m playing somebody elses stuff, or doing Paul, if it touches people, if it brings back a good memory for somebody who grew up with them. Seems like every getneration that comes up discovers them and what they did and that’s beautiful, that’s magic. To be able to be a part of that is a wonderful thing.”
To learn more about John Babcock and his music, just click here!