Beatlemania is coming to Corn Fest this month.
Beatles tribute band American English will take centerstage at Corn Fest on Aug. 31. The Chicago-based band has been performing more than 20 years.
Reporter Jessi Haish spoke with American English member Eric Michaels, who is Paul McCartney in the band. Michaels said an American English show is a chance to “see history of the Beatles flash before your eyes in 90 minutes.”
Haish: Tell me a little about yourself and how you got involved with the group.
Michaels: To make a long story short, I got a call 20 years ago to come sit in with a band. I played “Yesterday” and we crushed it. The guy was putting together a band called American English and wanted me to play. My brother called and said ‘If you don’t call this guy, I’ll give you a butt kicking like the good old days.’ So I played, learned the 15 hardest songs McCartney would do. We went on to play schools, festivals and we started to catch on because no one did something like that in Chicago at the time. I’ve been in charge now, and we’ve got to see the whole world, Japan, Australia ... all because of the Beatles.
Haish: Why is Paul McCartney a good fit for you?
Michaels: McCartney and Lennon were my favorite Beatles when I was younger. They were the main songwriters, main vocalists ... poor George [Harrison] always got second best of everything. My voice suits McCartney, and we kind of look alike. I also play lefthanded, which comes in handy, and I can play piano. But my voice is usually hoarse from playing “Hey Jude.” There’s a lot of screaming going on in there.
Haish: What do you enjoy about being part of a tribute band as opposed to a regular band?
Michaels: At first it was the music and having the sound created live in front of your face. The second thing was to see people’s reactions to it. People loved it. If you’re an original band playing, sometimes people just talk, get drinks, and you’re just kind of on the side. I noticed right away when playing The Beatles, people pay attention. They love it. I also enjoy the challenge; taking your voice, having the range of this person and making it sound as much as you can to sound like McCartney.
Haish: Have you always been a Beatles fan?
Michaels: I listen to Beatles all the time. I would listen to cassettes from beginning to end and think whoa, this stuff is pretty deep. I was always a Beatles fan, but I really became an avid Beatle fan [after joining the band.] When the opportunity came, I gave it a shot because it was fun. But you have to learn [the music] to a T, because Beatles fans are tough if they want to be.
Haish: For those who have never been to an American English show, what should they expect?
Michaels: They should expect that every time we play, we’re going to change it around somehow. You’ll hear songs you don’t expect to hear.