There I was on the ropes at Abbey Road. Maybe it was a mistake to try and stand toe to toe with an uninterested, chatty audience. At least Jimmy Page was paying attention.
It was late last year when I got the opportunity of a lifetime. My producer Perry Margouleff was on the phone telling me that I had been invited to play a private party at Abbey Road, in Studio Two. "There's a catch though," he said, "Instead of playing your original songs they want you to play Beatles songs." Like a fighter who agrees to a match without knowing his opponent, I quickly agreed to do the gig. Then reality set in. I'm an unknown artist that's going to play Beatles songs at Abbey Road in legendary Studio Two in front of a British audience. No pressure.
Like most, I'm a Beatles fan. Anyone under the age of eighty who claims they don't like the Beatles at all is, in my opinion, lying in some ridiculous attempt to be different. For me the chance to perform where the Fab Four recorded so many great albums was incredible news. Why was I so nervous? After all, I've been writing, recording, releasing albums (for Pie Records) and touring the US for over 20 years. Hell, I've even played for the inmates at Folsom Prison and survived, but this time it seemed like I bit off more than I could chew. Despite my paranoia, I had fun learning the Beatles songs and before I knew it, with Perry as my chaperone, I was on a plane bound for the UK.
To get the most out of this adventure, I booked two other gigs: one at the Troubadour in London, and one at Fargo Vinyl Shop in Paris. This was shaping up to be an amazing journey. Not only was it my first time in the UK, but Perry also mentioned that we were going to meet up with Jimmy Page. Perry and Jimmy go way back, so they made plans to have dinner and invited me along. I found Jimmy to be really easy to talk to and a kind soul. It was an honor to meet him.
The cab ride from where we were staying at St. Pancras Station to Abbey Road seemed like it took forever. I was a bundle of mixed emotions as I walked up the steps and into the building. The sense of music history was huge. The night was underway, and by 7pm, Studio Two was filling with people. The room was almost half full when the first act went on around 8pm. The two very talented local musicians (who were also playing Beatles songs) started with a bang. When they hit the last chord of their first song, I was one of the few who clapped. I thought, "Oh, no. If the local act gets treated this way, I'm in for a battle." I had an hour to kill before my set, so I mingled and tried not to drink too much.
I knew this was going to be a tough gig, but I decided long ago to play every show like it was my last. I thought, " If I have the attention of only one person tonight, I'm going to give them everything I've got." So when I was introduced as a singer/songwriter from Durango, Colorado, I stepped to the microphone much like a boxer climbs into the ring, knowing he or she has little chance of winning. As the crowd started to chatter, some turned their backs before I strummed my first chord. As people talked and voices seemed to get louder, I played each verse and chorus with more focus and determination, trying not to concentrate on the imaginary trap door I wanted to fall through. When I bobbed, the crowd weaved. When they jabbed with the left, I countered with the right. And that's how the gig went, back and forth, song-by-song, round after round. By the end of the set I had won the attention of maybe half the crowd, so I'm calling it a draw. After the show, a woman came up to me and said, "Did you know that Jimmy Page was here? He must really like you, because someone was trying to talk to him during your performance and he said," "Please stop talking. I'm here to see my friend Thom sing."