Saturday, May 14, 2016

Studio 2

If you're a music fan, you know Studio 2 as a part of the EMI stages in London where the Beatles recorded much of their iconic music. And you also know that EMI changed its name to reflect its location, and is now Abbey Road Studios. However, if you're Lefty, Zeek, Rocky or Smokestack, you know it as Mecca. That's because those are the stage names of The Weeklings, and to call them a Beatles tribute band is missing the point. Sure, they can cover the Fab Four's tunes, note for note. But along with the usual stuff, what they play are Beatles tunes you've never heard unless you are a rabid fan, along with originals that you'd swear were old Lennon-McCartney chestnuts that you just can't place.

In real life, The Weeklings sprang from the friendship and shared sensibilities of Glen Burtnik and Bob Burger. Burtnik (Lefty) was nine when he watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show: "I wasn't quite sure what I was watching, but it was riveting. Something was definitely happening here. Dad wasn't impressed and my oldest brother Ron thought it was silly. But Ringo got my attention."

Burtnik's fascination with the band led him into music professionally, and in 1978 to portray Paul in "Beatlemania." He started writing songs, built a solo career, and became a well know player in Asbury Park, NJ, part of the local musical fraternity that included Springsteen, Southside Johnny and many others. He toured with Styx and currently plays with The Orchestra, a group which includes former members of ELO. But his Beatles pedigree kept him in the band's musical afterlife, performing at fan fests and conventions. Burtnik and Burger (Zeek) were already playing together, and it was on the circuit they eventually connected with John Merjave (Rocky) and Dave Anthony (Smokestack).

They performed for the first time as The Weeklings at a gig at a library. The audience reaction was such that they thought it was worth pursuing. But it was more than just the Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starr sound. Says Burtnik, "We've come to the realization it's not simply about The Beatles. We are inspired by not only them, but a long list of bands in a style some call power pop. It's that combination of rock n roll with melody and harmony and the attitude of the early sixties, when pop bands were exploding."

A year ago they released their first album, containing six original Beatles-inspired tunes, as well as six actual Fab Four tracks that were demos and the like, but had never gotten a proper airing. Reviews were great: "The Weeklings contains 12 tasty slices of melodic bliss that will warm your heart and capture your imagination." And "When an album is as joyous and as entertaining as the debut record from the Weeklings, we feel like shouting our joy from every rooftop around." Another summed it up succinctly: "It doesn't get much better than this."

For the boys, the next move was obvious: for their sophomore effort, they booked that legendary Studio 2. They wrote new tunes, and dug even deeper into the Beatles archives for other stuff never recorded. And on June 8 and 9, in that very same space where musical history was made, they will see if they can conjure up the ghosts of George Martin and his charges. Says Burtnik, "I'm not a kid and I've had much experience recording records in my life. So I don't expect to freeze up or anything. But I'm certain I will be thrilled, standing in the footprints of giants."

Of course, recording doesn't come cheap. And so the band has created a GoFundMe page to enable fans and others help them out. All pledges of support are welcome, with premiums ranging from CD's to house concerts. But sorry: the violin bass that Lefty will use (just like early Paul) has already been claimed.

It isn't often that lighting strikes twice. And Ed Sullivan's not around to invite The Weeklings on his show. But that's OK. These guys play because 50 years ago a bunch of kids saw and heard something extraordinary on TV, and spent their lives trying to capture it themselves. It started them down a path they have been happily walking ever since. And now it's their turn in that same studio to make their own magic.


Marc Wollin of Bedford has had the good fortune to work with Burtnik. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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