Chris Cheney will never tire of singing the songs of The Beatles. Or talking about them, for that matter.
“For me, Elvis and The Beatles will always be eternally fascinating. I always find something new that I love about them,” he tells Weekender from his home in St Kilda.
The Living End vocalist and guitarist is taking The White Album on tour for the third time with good mates Josh Pyke, Phil Jamieson and Tim Rogers. The album was released 40 years ago and was never performed live by the Fab Four. It was actually self-titled but is more commonly known as the White Album.
Cheney is a fan of the record’s diversity and depth.
“It’s all over the shop but because I know it so well, for me it feels cohesive,” he explains.
“There’s an incredible sense of self in a lot of the tunes. I think The Beatles were so fearless without even knowing it. They just got on with it, writing songs, but with that genius quality and mastery of style that we all adore. At the end of the day they were just songwriters making decisions on writing songs like all the other bands of that era but but the world’s ear tuned in on them.”
When the idea of touring the White Album was first discussed, Cheney and his co-stars were “delegated a bunch of songs” from the album to sing. He got Helter Skelter and was, he says, “shitting himself”.
“But I sucked it up and got on with it,” he continues, laughing.
“Hopefully what we bring to the songs is our own individual stance – we’re not trying to replicate The Beatles or put on Liverpool accents or anything.
“I don’t make a habit of doing that much stuff outside of The Living End so when I do, it has to be something that I really believe in and is cool and different. This show ticks all those boxes.”
Cheney returned home to St Kilda in January after seven years in Los Angeles. It has been a welcome change of pace.
“It’s been so nice being at home and doing normal things like cutting the grass,” he says.
“We recorded an album in Berlin in January and released the single Don’t Lose It last week. I’ve got 12 months of living out of a suitcase in front of me. The day after we finish the White Album tour I think I’m on a plane to Finland or somewhere.
“Hollywood is full on if you want it to be. Once you get past all the industry stuff you meet some amazing creative people. It’s warm and sunny and there’s palm trees. It’s kind of a paradise. You’ve just got to keep your head in the right place.”
The White Album Concert stops at Newcastle's Civic Theatre on July 17. Tickets are on sale now.
THE WHITE ALBUM CONCERT
- Chris Cheney is the lead singer and guitarist in The Living End, who have had eight Top 10 albums (including two number ones), 12 Top 40 singles, and won six ARIA Awards. Fun fact: Chris has met a Beatle – he met Ringo at a party in LA.
- Phil Jamieson is the frontman of Grinspoon, who have released seven studio albums – all of which have made the Top 10 – and won two ARIA Awards. He also starred as St Jimmy in the Australian production of the Broadway musical American Idiot. Fun fact: Phil’s wife, Julie, walked down the aisle to the White Album’s I Will.
- Josh Pyke is a Sydney singer-songwriter who has won four ARIA Awards and had five Top 10 albums. He has also had his own beer, “The Summer”, with Sydney brewery Young Henrys. Fun fact: Josh’s favourite line on the White Album is “In a couple of years” from Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. “I just think that’s great.”
- Tim Rogers is the frontman of You Am I, who have released 10 studio albums, won 10 ARIA Awards, and had three number one albums. He has also released six solo albums and an acclaimed memoir, Detours, in which he is described as a flamboyant flâneur, a raconteur, a romantic and a raffish ne’er-do-well. Fun fact: Tim had a babysitter who would play Revolution 9 when young Tim was trying to go to sleep. “That song has always haunted me.”
10 FACTS ABOUT THE WHITE ALBUM
- Most of the White Album songs were written during a Transcendental Meditation course The Beatles had with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India.
- The working title for the album was “A Doll’s House”.
- The White Album was the first Beatles album to be released on Apple Records.
- The White Album hit number one in the US (nine weeks), the UK (eight weeks) and Australia (16 weeks).
- The White Album was knocked off top spot on the UK charts by The Best Of The Seekers.
- Hey Jude was recorded during the White Album sessions, but was issued as a standalone single three months before the album was released.
- No singles were released from the album in the US and UK, but Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/While My Guitar Gently Weeps was released as a single in Australia and spent five weeks at number one.
- Eric Clapton played lead guitar on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
- The White Album is the first – and only – Beatles album to feature Yoko Ono. She appears on Revolution 9, and contributes backing vocals to Birthday, and vocals and handclaps to The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.
- Ringo Starr’s personal copy of the White Album, numbered 0000001, sold for $790,000 at auction in 2015 – the most expensive vinyl ever sold.