By Anthony J. Machcinski
Kevin Wallace, owner of Donegal Saloon, expressed it best when he said, “The music of the Beatles just spans generations.”
This was no more evident when Beatles cover band Hey Bulldog played the Donegal on Friday night.
Hey Bulldog first came together on Oct. 9, 2004, John Lennon’s birthday, when the owner of Clydz in New Brunswick asked a couple of local musicians to put on a show to celebrate the occasion.
“The night was supposed to end, but everybody just kept jamming,” said bass player Gerry Rosenthal. “The audience would call out a song, and we would try to play it. It was such a success that the owner asked us to do it on Sundays.”
It wasn’t until December of 2007 that Hey Bulldog decided to take their talents on the road, playing shows all over the area, including Old Bay in New Brunswick, Dockside in Sea Bright, Harrigan’s Pub in Sea Girt, and the Donegal in Kearny.
“You put 100% into it,” Rosenthal explained. “It’s tougher to get a crowd into an original gig. Everybody loves the Beatles, no matter what we do to the song, everybody digs it.”
While no one can replace the Beatles and their influence on music, Rosenthal and the rest of Hey Bulldog have taken their creative freedom and made the music into their own style.
A great example of this change is in the classic “A Day in the Life.” While the original song is very smooth and mellow, Hey Bulldog made a grittier version, similar to the sound of the Beatles when the band was playing in Liverpool.
The grittiness does not affect the meaning or the feeling of the song. It simply reflects an idea the Beatles would have supported: freedom of expression.
This interpretation of the songs helps the band separate itself from other Beatles cover bands.
“They’re covering songs like the record, and we rock it out,” Rosenthal explained. “We model ourselves after the kind of band the Beatles would have been in the ’60s in Liverpool. We take guitar solos, we jam, and the people respond to that. They’ve been hearing the songs the same way for 45 years, and it’s fresh to hear it done differently.”
Added to the setting of the show was a video display, featuring old concert clips, cartoons, and other stock footage of the Beatles. This visual dynamic created an environment that the audience got into. Members of the audience, both old and young, were up in front of the band dancing and moving to the music, despite some of the audience not being old enough to have heard it when it first came out.
While Hey Bulldog is a band in its own right, each member has his own separate band. Rosenthal, who is a bass player in Hey Bulldog, also plays guitar for Big Wake, a rock and jam band.
Hey Bulldog’s local success is all the band has been trying for.
“We’re not trying to record anything,” said Rosenthal. “Any place or crowd that loves the Beatles, where the staff management and clients love the Beatles, we’re perfect for.”
Hey Bulldog will play The Dockside in Sea Bright on Oct. 14, followed by Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick on Oct. 29.