Rant ’N’ Roll: Guitarist Andy Timmons In His Own Words

Sgt. Pepper Re-Imagined

In what has to be considered a left-field surprise, guitarist Andy Timmons has successfully struck at the soul of a little 1967 album by The Beatles called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by recording The Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper. All instrumental, with plenty of muscle, the album includes “Strawberry Fields Forever” (which was originally recorded, as was “Penny Lane,” for that album). Timmons did all the arrangements from memory, not once referencing the original recording. Adding “She’s So Heavy” at the end of “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite,” for instance, is straight out of Cirque Du Soleil’s Las Vegas production of Love.

Timmons, who sold a million records with Danger Danger in the ‘90s, played on two Kip Winger albums and sessioned for everyone from Paula Abdul to Paul Stanley, explains, “I was in Vegas performing with Olivia Newton-John. We had an early show so I literally ran from our venue to The Mirage just in time to see the second show of Love. I was so curious to see how they’d do the mash-ups and the remixes, I forgot how visually stunning it was too. It really was overwhelming. The high point of the night for me was that moment with ‘Mr. Kite.’ On the record, it goes to the tape loop calliope snippets but Love goes into `She’s So Heavy’ and whole theater goes deep dark red. It’s this wonderfully chill but sinister moment.

“About half the album I got live with the band,” continues Timmons. “[Drummer] Mitch [Marine] was able to replicate Ringo’s beauty. I have profound love for Ringo. I’ve played with a lot of the world’s greatest drummers and I’m telling you that Ringo can really do it right.

“The bassist is Mike Daane. We’ve played together for over 20 years in The Andy Timmons Band but we all do different things. Mitch currently drums for Dwight Yoakam. He played in Smashmouth. He’s a working guy out playing with a bunch of different groups. But we always come back together and do our Andy Timmons Band thing.

“Danger Danger was a great experience but it wasn’t in my heart. It was an opportunity. I was already making the music I’m making now with the power trio concept but Joe Satriani owned the landscape back then and I’d already been turned down by Interscope so I took the gig thinking it might be my only shot in getting some Major Label experience. It was definitely a childhood fantasy come true getting to open for KISS and Alice Cooper.

“It was Steve Vai who told me to try to play it like this with just one guitar, bass, drums. I knew I’d have to cover a lot of ground as far as playing the melodies, supporting them with chords and filling out the songs with a sonic landscape. I’d played a decent amount of jazz in my career where it’s common to play chord-melody. Joe Pass, on his Virtuoso series, plays melodies, supporting himself harmonically with chord work and bass lines. I knew how to do that, but with a rock guitar tone things get a little messy when you start adding any upper extensions, meaning anything beyond a root third and fifth. The distortion magnifies the imperfections of the tuning. Long story short, that’s what became my 2006 Resolution record. It really kicked my butt, wasn’t easy, but therein was the excitement and I have Steve Vai to thank for giving me that advice.

“To be frank, I’m not the biggest fan of Beatle cover tunes. It’s hallowed ground. Those of us who grew up with it from day number one, it means something to us. It’s in our collective DNA. I mean, sure, if it’s done respectfully, if it’s done well, a good cover is cool, but a lot of the stuff out there I don’t necessarily connect with.”

Despite all the complex arrangements, Timmons admits to some divine improvisation. “So we’re in the studio. I’m cuing Mitch. I go back into the riff to end `She’s So Heavy’ and he’s shaking his head no. He’s not stopping! He literally prods me to keep playing! I play for a little longer, try to cue it again, he’s still shaking his head no. So that’s why there’s the lengthy solo. Mitch literally wouldn’t stop!”

The Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper (Favored Nations Entertainment) is a satisfying trip through that entire album. It avoids Yngwie excess yet has enough prog chops to satisfy guitar geeks as well as baby boomer Beatles fans like myself.

Sometimes the most gut-wrenching rock performances come from surprising sources.