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Hamptons Life

Mar 12, 2019 10:20 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Revisiting 'Abbey Road' And 'Let It Be' On The 50th Anniversary Of The Beatles' Final Studio Sessions

The Moondogs in 2017 Performing The Beatles 'Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band' Album At Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. BY MICHAEL HELLER
Mar 12, 2019 10:35 AM

Though the Beatles haven’t officially been a band since 1970, their music has been garnering plenty of attention in recent years. This is thanks to a plethora of 50th anniversary events commemorating their taking of the world by storm as four young lads from Liverpool who first arrived in the United States in 1964.As fate would have it, 2019 marks yet another Beatles 50th anniversary milestone—the band’s final studio recording sessions in 1969. To mark the occasion, Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor will host a Beatles Weekend on March 15 and 16 with The Moondogs performing “The Beatles ’69: Let It Be and Abbey Road” both nights.

The Moondogs is composed of a group of well-known local musicians including Dan Koontz, Jeff Levitt, Michael Schiano, Mick Hargreaves, Dave Giacone, Howie Silverman, Fred Gilde and Joe Lauro. All are Beatles fans, and together they have performed several Beatles-themed shows at Bay Street in recent years to commemorate the various half-century marks.

For this show, they will be performing the entire classic albums “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road” in their entireties on successive nights at Bay Street, including favorites such as “Across the Universe,” The Long and Winding Road,” “Come Together,” “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun.”

Mr. Schiano, a vocalist and guitar player in the band, is also the group’s musical director. In a recent interview, he explained that while they duplicate the music as accurately as possible, The Moondogs aren’t trying to literally imitate the Beatles physically.

“We don’t have a strict tribute band philosophy in that we dress or look like them,” he said. “If anything, we’re more along the lines of the Fab Faux. We want to play the music and do it accurately.”

To that end, Mr. Schiano notes that though he ends up singing more of the John Lennon songs, he isn’t strictly the Lennon guy.

“There are three vocalists—myself, Mick and Dan and we share the vocals,” he said. “Since I’m the de facto musical director, I was in charge of deciding who sings what, but it’s a joint thing. … So everyone’s equally disappointed by the songs they don’t get to sing.”

Among the songs to be performed this weekend is “One After 909” from the “Let It Be” album which Mr. Schiano will sing with Mr. Lauro. It turns out that this particular song goes a long way back for both of them.

“We grew up in Massapequa and went to high school together. We’ve been singing that song on stage since we were 16,” said Mr. Schiano, who describes The Moondogs as a collection of musicians who are crazy for the Beatles.

“I can say Paul sang that line, and everyone’s like, ‘no way,’” he said. “We’re really a group of Beatles nerds.”

As a band, The Moondogs have technically existed since the 1980s when they were founded by Mr. Schiano, Mr. Lauro and a third musician, a drummer, who isn’t in the current lineup. As one would expect, the group’s name has special meaning.

“It was a name the Beatles used in the late ’50s and early ’60s,” Mr. Schiano explained. “They were ‘Johnny and the Moondogs’ for about 10 minutes. We took that name years ago to show those roots, and we played a lot of Beatles.”

This current incarnation of The Moondogs began in 2014 with a performance at Bay Street Theater to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.

“It became an annual thing and as time went on, this band coalesced and fell into place,” Mr. Schiano explained, adding that The Moondogs offered a Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones show in 2015, followed by a full performance of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album in 2017.

“We just stayed together as a unit strictly for this kind of thing,” he said. “Last year, we did George Harrison 75th birthday shows.”

While the era of the Beatles left a lasting impression on many of those who came of age with their music, in truth the group’s actual time together as a band was astonishingly short.

“The shocking thing is, the first time we did this was in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first coming to America,” Mr. Schiano said. “Now, here we are already at the end of the road. They packed so much in in such a short time, from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to ‘Abbey Road.’”

Which raises the next logical question: What will happen to The Moondogs after they perform these two final albums and officially come to the end of the long and winding road?

“I have plans for when we run out of Beatles,” Mr. Schiano said cagily.

Beatles Weekend with The Moondogs is Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road” will be performed both nights. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 on the day of the concert. Call 631-725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

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