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John Lennon comes alive in emotional new show

by Adam Forrest, Beatles News Editor

Imagine it's today, the year 2009. Imagine that the world really was captured by Beatlemania in the 60's, but for some reason the Beatles are not as big today as they once were, they're a bit forgotten now. And then imagine one more thing. Imagine that John Lennon's still alive, and he's come out of quiet retirement to go on stage with a one-man show to tell the world his story, what it was really like being in the middle of it all, in his own words.

That's what you will see in a truly unforgettable show, Just Imagine, starring Tim Piper, which makes its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, California, on John Lennon's birthday, this Friday night, October 9, running through November 15.

Tim Piper, who has traveled the world performing music made famous by The Beatles, takes his life's work to incredible new heights with this show. In addition to being a member of various Beatle Tribute bands, including Revolution, Tim has distinguished himself as the pre-eminent John Lennon with roles in the CBS production "The Linda McCartney Story," E! Channel's production of the "John Lennon Story," "Beatle Wives," and more recently as the singing voice of John Lennon for the NBC TV Movie of the Week, "In His Life - The John Lennon Story." He's even played at Shea Stadium!

But if you've seen tribute bands, you know what they do is dress up like the Beatles and play music that sounds like the Beatles. They're enjoyable (especially if you're seeing a band that Tim's in), but that's not what you'll see in this show.

In Just Imagine, Tim Piper literally becomes John Lennon, and performs for you, one-on-one, playing songs that illustrate the part of his life that he's telling you about. Or perhaps what he's saying illustrates the songs he's performing for you, it's hard to tell. And he's backed up by four great musicians. They don't look like or sound like the Beatles, they look and sound like a really great rock band, exactly the kind of guys you'd imagine John Lennon would have playing with him.

Tim Piper on stage as John Lennon

John's... uh, sorry, I mean Tim's backup band, Working Class Hero, is Greg Piper on bass, Don Butler on lead guitar, Don Poncher on drums and Morley Bartnoff on keyboards.

Greg Piper, Tim's brother, has played in rock bands since high school and toured the world with leading Beatle tribute acts including "Revolution - The Beatles Tribute", and "Working Class Hero - The John Lennon Tribute." Along with his brother Tim and Don Butler, Greg performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in connection with the premiere of their John Lennon exhibit.

Don Butler has performed with sixties legends Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, Spencer Davis of The Spencer Davis Group and Chris Montez (who toured with The Beatles in the U.K. in 1963). He performed with MCA Recording Artist Sam Neely from 1982 thru 1985 and was also a session guitarist at RCA/Hacienda Studios in Corpus Christi, Texas between 1980-1986, where he recorded three albums with world-famous Freddy Fender.

Don Poncher has beat down with music legends like Joe Cocker and was in the Big Beat Band for the cult classic rock movie "American Hot Wax", the story of Alan Freed and the birth of Rock N' Roll, Don backed most of the greats of that era, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Morley Bartnoff, AKA Cosmo Topper, has performed with The Sluff Bros. with Minnie Ripperton and George Benson drummer Hugh Morran and excellent former Kentucky Blue Grass and Sonny Charles guitarist Mark Miller.

These guys are hot, but it's John Lennon's show, and I know when I say it that Tim Piper really becomes John Lennon you'll say, yeah, right. But it's true.

All throughout the show, Tim is John Lennon, speaking to you and an intimate audience of about 100 people, in John's voice. But there are a few places where Tim is so much like John Lennon, I swear it is spooky. You will have deja-vu moments, your reality will skew and you will feel like you are seeing and hearing the real John Lennon. Be prepared for this phenomenon when he sings the words "Come Together."

And if you've ever heard John's recording of "Mother," you will feel like you're hearing it for the first time when you see it performed in this show. Tim doesn't put any more emotion or feeling into his performance than John put into the original recording. But when you hear Tim sing "Mama don't go!" it is emotionally staggering. You will never again be able to hear this song in the same way.

In Just Imagine, John takes you through his childhood, talks about what it was like working with Paul McCartney, and speaks candidly with you about the "Y" word (Yoko). When you hear what John says about her in the show, you may not feel different about how you feel about Yoko, but you will understand more, and appreciate more about how John felt about her.

Tim has been been performing as John Lennon nationally and then internationally since 1989. He told me that while performing in Beatles tribute acts, he started thinking about delving deeper into the character of John and his back-story. In October, 2002, a very early version of the show, then called "One Night Only," ran at The Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood for five weeks, attracting celebrities like Reba McEntire, Leonard Nimoy and Burton Cummings.

Tim says, "I love John and The Beatles as much as anyone on earth so it's a thrill for me to perform my favorite bedtime story live for people and share the joy and tragedy that the world has to offer. Everyone wishes that John was still with us as with any loved one who has passed and certainly in such an unresolved way. I want people to remember the humanity behind the character we knew as John and to revive and carry on the message he tried to give to us. He was the greatest artist and spokesman of our generation, but he was also like a member of our family."

Beatles tribute bands are tributes with a small "t", just entertaining imitations. But this show, Just Imagine, is a Tribute with a capital "T", the real thing, a Tribute to the life of John Lennon. After seeing this show, you will really feel like you have seen John Lennon perform live, for you, in person. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which may never happen again and is not to be missed.

Just Imagine, starring Tim Piper, makes its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, California, this Friday Night, October 9, and runs through November 15, 2009, with performances on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday matinees. For tickets and more information, visit

Published October 7, 2009

This article is Copyright © 2009, Adam Forrest, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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