stand in, because he knew I liked rock'n'roll and I had an
orange Cochran Gretsch guitar. I hadn't done any acting
at this point, just a few sessions and bands. The first time
I stepped on stage, at the Manchester Opera House, I was
shaking with nerves, but they asked me to come back for
more shows - and after that they asked me to join. I loved
it straight away and I embraced it. Theatre is great fun"
“Another show followed where I played Johnny Cash,”
he continues, “although I had to train my voice to drop as
low down as his. Then one of the guys from that show,
Stephen Hill, left to do
Let It Be,
which had just started,
to play George Harrison. Six months later I bumped
into him and he told me they were auditioning for Paul
McCartney's part. I sent the MD a video of me singing 'Till
There Was You', which was probably terrible, but I got the
part. That was in September 2013 - and they gave me two
weeks to prepare.
Be under no illusion about those McCartney bass
parts: almost without exception, they contain runs and
fills which everyone knows, and high in the mix as his
bass is, Jackson is in deep trouble if he gets one wrong.
It's understandable, then, that in that two-week period of
grace, he took the concept of 'doing your homework' to
an entirely new level. “I watched the show every night, to
get it into my head,” he remembers. “All of a sudden, my
job had become watching the Beatles! I studied everything
about them, and listened to Macca's isolated bass tracks on
Youtube. Fortunately I already loved the songs and I knew
most of the bass parts.”
Nonetheless, the job of mimicking McCartney on bass
was tricky, and that's before Jackson even addressed the
guitar, piano and vocal parts. “It took me hours to get the
fills completely right!” he sighs. “I learned so much music
that I'd thought I'd been doing right, but I wasn't: I had it
wrong. The original Macca from the show, a guy called
Emanuele Angeletti, showed me some lines, but it was still
difficult. We used to do 'Ticket To Ride' in the show, and
we were trying to figure out if he plays a D or a G in one of
the sections - and it turns out that he plays both notes in a
chord, hence the argument about which one it is"
Gear-wise, Jackson is just as thorough as you'd expect,
lining up the most authentic gear for the role. In the first
third or so of
Let It Be
he plays a Hofner violin bass, just as
you'd expect. As he explains: “I had a right-handed Hofner
anyway, but when I switched to left-handed playing I
contacted Hofner and told them that I wanted to swap
my right-handed basses for left-handed ones. They really
accommodate their players, and so they said yes. They also
send me strings and books and so on, which is great - and I have a little feature on their
website as a Hofner artist, next to McCartney, which was funny.”
When the show moves into the Beatles' psych era, day-glo costumes and all, Jackson
switches to a pair of Rickenbackers, of course - sourced with great care to represent the
correct model. “I have a 2006 4001 C64S, which they call the Wings bass,” he says. “It's
very rare: I've only seen another two in that natural finish. They're quite easily located in
right-handed form, but lefties are almost impossible to find. I got mine from a collector of
left-handed basses. He didn't want to sell it at first, but I kept bugging him!”
He continues: “And then I have a 1999 Fireglo 4001 V63 PMC - the PMC indicates the
Paul McCartney add-on. When you specify the PMC in your order, they give you the
right-handed headstock on the left-handed body: the truss rod cover is also wonky. Again,
that's really rare: I've only seen a couple around the world. The guy in the Bootleg Beatles
has got one, or at least something very similar, and another guy who plays in an American
band called the Fab Four has got one too.
“I found mine when we were on tour in Europe, playing the Circus Krone in Munich,
where the Beatles played in 1966 - now that was an experience! They put us in their
dressing room, and then we went down and played the same gig that they played. While
I was there, a friend of mine emailed me and told me that he'd seen the Ricky on US eBay,
so I had to get it. All the basses for the show have flatwound strings: with roundwounds,
they sound nothing like McCartney.”
As for amps, there may be a vintage-looking Vox amp up on stage but it's not doing
anything, Jackson explains. “McCartney had a Vox T.60 transistor amp for a while,” he
says, “but it kept getting too hot, so he moved through various Voxes. He even used an
AC30 guitar amp for a while, plugged into his bass cab. We can't do that, though, so all the
bass sounds are programmed for each song.”
We wonder what Sir Paul himself would make of the show - but according to Jackson,
he hasn't yet looked down and seen the man himself sitting in the front row.
.. yet. “That
would be terrifying!” he says, quite plausibly. Makes your band's next show at the Dog &
Duck in Peterborough seem pretty easy, doesn't it?
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