Rocking four piece The Honey Sliders, boasting a pedigree of some of Brisbane’s finest musicians and led by talented all-round good bloke Danny Widdicombe, have been paying reverential homage to a swag of their all-time favourite albums since 2013, tackling everything from Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Axis: Bold As Love’, Neil Young’s ‘On the Beach’, The Band’s ‘The Last Waltz’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’.
This time around the band have once again set their sights on an iconic Beatles moment, choosing to reinterpret the Fab Fours’ famed final live performance, when they played to a bunch of bemused passers-by on the rooftop of their Apple business headquarters on a freezing London day in 1969 (before the local constabulary politely shut things down after 42 minutes of raw, unfiltered rock abandon).
Gold Coast fans will get to see The Honey Sliders re-enact this magical performance at the Currumbin Sound Lounge on Friday 20 August and in the lead up we managed to chat with Danny about the upcoming show, what other Beatles related treats we can expect to hear on the night and how he’s been coping with the challenges of the pandemic.
Having previously paid tribute to The Beatles Abbey Road, what made you choose this particular Beatles performance as your next classic album homage?
We’ve been thinking about doing this Beatles Rooftop Concert for a few years now. It came close to happening in 2019 to mark the 50 year anniversary of this iconic performance, but I ran into some health issues – then 2020 happened. There was a fair bit of excitement brewing amongst our band for the new Peter Jackson film ‘Get Back’, which features hours and hours of unseen footage from the scrapped film which was supposed to document The Beatles recording their album ‘Let It Be’.
I read that the movie features the entire rooftop concert – can’t wait to see it! We all love the images and songs from the roof – the outfits, the footage of the confused locals staring up to catch a glance of what was going on. The gear they used is so important to the sound and we’ve spent a lot of time sourcing instruments that match their tones. The addition of Billy Preston on keys gave these songs such a point of difference – how cool was Billy Preston! The Beatles were such a tight live band, and they delivered one the all-time great live rock n roll shows that day. My favourite track is Dig a Pony but it’s all so much fun to play. We actually got to play the Rooftop Concert on the roof of a 17 storey apartment block in Fortitude Valley at sunset recently – that was a memorable experience! No police came to shut us down though which was disappointing! These songs were huge influences in my formative years and I’m absolutely loving playing these concerts.
You’ll also be playing a selection of iconic Beatles numbers on the night in addition to the Rooftop concert performance. Was it hard narrowing down the set selection and is there any particular period of the Fab 4 that you’ll be focussing on for this part of the set?
We decided that we should focus on the Beatles’ late period recordings as a framework for the structure of our ‘other’ set. When The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, their recorded output was prolific and prodigious in its inventiveness. I don’t want to give anything away, but we take the audience on a trip of our favourite Beatle songs from 1966 through until the end in 1970. It was a joy to work on these tracks and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. The crowds that have seen this show all comment on the unexpected and surprising song selection. If you love psychedelic Beatles, you’ll love this. Our bass player is also a talented graphic designer and has created a movie that plays an equal part to the music in the presentation of this concept show. It’s definitely a case of turn on, tune in and drop out.
How do you actually decide which iconic recordings get The Honey Sliders treatment? And do you have plenty more of these events that you’d still like to tackle in the future or will you put a finite end date to the concept at some stage?
I remember being obsessed with playing the guitar when I was in my mid-teens and I realised that if you try hard enough, you can play pretty much anything you set your mind to. We take that approach with the Honey Sliders – we think what would be the most fun album to perform no matter the degree of difficulty, and then we just give it a good go and see how it turns out. A fair amount of positive thinking is required to pull it all together! The first rehearsals are always completely daunting, and every time we begin to tackle these projects, it feels like we’re test pilots jumping into the unknown and taking a huge chance with our reputation. The aim with all this is to present the music we love in a respectful manner – we don’t dress up like our heroes – we’re true to ourselves – it’s just us interpreting the music that inspires us.
As for the future, I have some big plans for 2022 because it’ll be the 10th year in a row that we’ve managed to put these shows together – and each of them has been completely satisfying. We’ve had quite a few friends and special guests join us over the years so I’d like to have as many of our Honey Sliders family to be part of our celebrations. Beyond that, I’d be happy to keep doing these shows as long as people want to come along. We’ve got a new single coming out later this year called ‘It’ll Be Ok’ so we’ll probably put out an album next year as well as celebrate our 10 year milestone.
Having overcome your fair share of adversity along the way, how is your health and wellbeing shaping up in 2021?
I feel good! Obviously 26 years of dealing with leukaemia takes a toll, but I still feel young and I still absolutely love playing music – I’m still learning so much from all the different projects I’m involved in. Music has always helped me deal with tough times – mostly as a way to find different perspectives.
How have you been coping (artistically and personally) with the challenges of COVID? And have you been pursuing any other musical related opportunities that you may not have otherwise considered prior to the pandemic?
This pandemic just keeps evolving and so do the issues that surround it – for everyone. In my case, the lockdown in 2020 was a chance to take a breath and concentrate on other projects I wouldn’t normally have time for. But it was also scary in the early days of the outbreak because it seemed like nobody really knew much about what we were dealing with. I have lung disease, so my partner and I completely locked ourselves away from mid March. I made a collaborative album of ambient music with my long time musical comrade Ant Aggs – he sent me snippets of piano tracks and I arranged them into long tunes and added pedal steel – we called the album Face – and described it as ‘space music for a lockdown environment’. One of the tracks was nominated in the contemporary classical genre at this year’s Qld Music Awards!
I also had time to set up a Patreon page where people subscribe to hear songs and watch videos no-one else has access to, and I managed to finish my Masters Degree. It was a productive time but I was lucky to have my beautiful partner Dana Gehrman with me – it must have been so hard for people locked down on their own. I think most of us thought that by mid 2021 we’d be over the worst of the pandemic but it still has a grip on societies all over the world – including us.
The biggest issue for me at the moment is the unwavering government support for sport, while the arts are left to fend for themselves. If this Rooftop Concert in August is cancelled or has heavy crowd restrictions in place, I can guarantee that you won’t see the same limitations placed on football. On a positive note, I’m excited to come back to The Sound Lounge who have been hosting us in Currumbin since we took our Neil Youngs ‘On the Beach’ show there in 2014. The public have been so supportive of live music and I know that the Rooftop Concert will be a night to remember.
The Honey Sliders interpretation of The Beatles Rooftop Concert (in addition to a swag of classic tracks for the encore) is sure to be one of this year’s musical highlights, so be sure to ‘Get Back’ to the Currumbin Soundlounge on Friday, 20 August for what will be one of the live highlights of 2021. Tix here.