We were intrigued when we first discovered that record producer Roger Greenawalt devoted two days to performing each and every Beatles song on a wee Hawaiian guitar in an Austin taquería during the South by Southwest music festival. And we knew we had to know more when we found out that this performance was neither the first nor the last time that he busted out the uke to tear through every song the Fab Four wrote -- in alphabetical order, no less.
Asylum caught up with Greenawalt -- who, as a producer and engineer, is responsible for guiding the career of Ben Kweller, and has also worked with No Doubt and Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. -- to find out exactly what his project, which also features "new, improved" recordings of the Beatles' music, is all about.
"When I first loaded my old CDs into iTunes and made a playlist of the 185 songs the Beatles wrote, it was only 9.6 hours long," Greenawalt explained. "It immediately occurred to me that it would be easy to play them all in one day. They're like my religion, and I want to commune with them."
"All Shakespeare Ever Did Was Write"
We're fans of the passionately kooky, so we asked him to clarify. Greenawalt did not disappoint, explaining that the significance of the Beatles was the premise of a book he's working on, titled "The Beatles Are Bigger Than Shakespeare."
"In just their lifetime," he continues, "The Beatles have been massively influential, not just in music but in film, television, anticipating the evolving celebrity/TMZ media culture, fashion, technology, cultural criticism, spirituality, drugs, anti-materialism, individualism, performance philanthropy, sexual freedom, anti-war activism and gay, black and women's rights."
So how does The Bard compare? "All Shakespeare ever did was write," says Greenawalt.
"The Beatles Are Just So F*cking Wholesome"
The spiritual element of Greenawalt's Beatlemania isn't limited strictly to platitudes, like "the Beatles are my religion" -- the experience of playing all of their songs in a short period of time is also a moment of conversion for the producer.
"Imagine a hallucinatory Aloha Zen trance," says Greenawalt. "At a certain point in the 10th hour of the show, I literally felt as if I was floating about the entire scene, watching my dreams come true. All I would have to do was think it, and it would happen. I've always wanted to know what it felt like to be a Beatle, and now I know. It's something better than fun."
So, if taking the family to church on Sundays is kind of boring for you, you have a whole bunch of time and you can tolerate the ukulele, Greenawalt's religious awakening could be yours, as well. In fact, he even encourages listeners to bring the kids next time he takes over a venue for two days of uke-infused Beatlemania.
"As the Jesuits might say, 'Give me the child and I'll give you a customer for life,'" he says. "The Beatles are just so f*cking wholesome."