Music

Interview

Darren Middleton of Australian Rock Collective on being a Beatles superfan and 50 years of ‘Let It Be’

It's been more than 50 years since The Beatles final album was released – now some of Australia's music greats are paying tribute to it

From shaggy-haired swoon-inducing rock’n’rollers to avant-garde, psychedelic musical pioneers, The Beatles squeezed a lot into their eight-year career. But by the time their twelfth and final album Let It Be was released, arguably the greatest band ever were no more. This September, as part of Night At The Barracks, Australian supergroup, Australian Rock Collective (ARC) are paying tribute to the final piece of The Beatles’ ever-lasting legacy.

Let It Be has been the topic of much discussion since its release in 1970. Home to, what some fans have described as, some of The Beatles’ best songwriting, its legacy is based in controversy, fantasy, and the beauty of time and hindsight.

Released almost a month after The Beatles’ break-up, its recording sessions began months before album number 11, Abbey Road.

Following boundary-pushing releases 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, as well as 1968’s ‘White’ Album, and concerned about recent frictions within the band, Paul McCartney suggested the project as an attempt to reinvigorate the group by returning to simpler times more reminiscent of their early beginnings.

The rest is history – but what we are left with is a record featuring some of The Beatles’ most-loved tracks. Which is a hard feat when you look across their catalogue.

Australian Rock Collective Cover 'Here Comes The Sun' By The Beatles | Hot Breakfast

Lennon-masterpiece ‘Across The Universe’, one of the greatest gospel ballads of all time – the McCartney-written ‘Let It Be’, ‘Two Of Us’ showcasing the power of one of the greatest songwriting partnerships in music history, the gritty blues of ‘Get Back’ – despite what may have been going on within the band, when it came down to it, no one can deny that the Beatles could pen a tune.

Now, 52 years on from its release, supergroup Australian Rock Collective are revisiting the final chapter of The Beatles’ career in the reverent way only truly dedicated fans can. It also helps that the band is made up of musicians from four of Australia’s most-celebrated bands.

“To me, it is both a band going back to being at the start of the journey and the end at the same time. There is a freshness and vibrancy to the recordings but also the wisdom of having travelled far as well. The album captures the heart of the band, in their simplest, rawest form with some of their most beautiful songs. It’s a total pleasure to play.”

DARREN MIDDLETON OF AUSTRALIAN ROCK COLLECTIVE (ARC) ON CELEBRATING ‘LET IT BE’

Featuring Kram (Spiderbait), Darren Middleton (Powderfinger), Mark Wilson (Jet) and Davey Lane (You Am I), the self-confessed Beatles tragics have worked their way through much of The Beatles’ famed discography. Now when they take the stage at Sydney’s newest unique outdoor venue, The Barracks in Manly, the Australian Rock Collective will be revisiting their final chapter from start to finish, giving ‘Let It Be’ the true live treatment it didn’t have a chance to receive five decades ago.

What is Night At The Barracks?

Making its home in North Head Manly, perched high above Sydney Harbour, The Barracks is Sydney’s newest outdoor venue, taking performance outdoors and under the stars. The unique venue will give you the chance to experience your favourite acts in a whole new and unforgettable way.

Its inaugural program of events, Night At The Barracks, will bring 16 nights of music and performance to the venue across September and October.

Alongside Australian Rock Collective (ARC) and their Beatles tribute, Night At The Barracks will also host Jessica Mauboy, David Campbell, James Morrison, Josh Pyke, The Rubens, Something For Kate, Winston Surfshirt, and a stack more.

You can read more about Night At The Barracks here.

ARC perform The Beatles 'Come Together' | Triple M

Originally forming back in 2014 with their inaugural show at the World Cup in Brazil, it wasn’t until 2019 that Australian Rock Collective took their show around Australia, celebrating 50 years of Abbey Road.

Instead of the mop-top wig, replica costume-wearing Beatles tributes you might be used to, ARC opted to focus in on the music, intimately learning every detail of the record and performing each track the way it truly deserved.

That same reverence has gone into each of their subsequent Beatles tribute shows and can be expected when they perform Let It Be from start to finish, alongside a set of their favourite Beatles tracks from right across their catalogue at Night At The Barracks.

Before they take the stage this September, we sat down with Darren Middleton to chat all things Australian Rock Collective, his love for The Beatles, and what fans can expect from their upcoming Night At The Barracks show.

Darren Middleton chats Australian Rock Collective, Night At The Barracks, and being a Beatles superfan

One of the most exciting elements of ARC’s celebration of Beatles’ records is that as well as being incredible musicians, you’re all also self-confessed Beatles tragics. What has it been like taking on the different eras of Beatles music?

Darren Middleton, Australian Rock Collective: “It’s been an incredible journey into the depth, songwriting, and sheer output of the band. Almost every album presents different challenges, yet all feel tied together at the same time. Every night stepping onto the stage to perform their songs is a gift to us.”

What effect has the Beatles’ music had on you – both as a music fan and as a musician?

“As a fan, they are one of a few bands that continue to have me shaking my head in wonder at the songs they wrote. As a musician, it’s similar but I dig a little deeper into the nuances of what they created and how they created it. Either way, they still blow me away.”

Do you remember the first time that you heard The Beatles’ music?

“The first time I heard The Beatles was on my parent’s record player when I was about 10 years old. The album was Help but sadly for me, I didn’t really think much of it. I was young and the ’80s were beginning to bloom. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I finally wisened up.”

What has continued to draw you to The Beatles’ catalogue and how has your relationship with the band changed throughout your life?

“The thing with The Beatles is they wrote so so many songs and, within that, an incredible quality throughout. They simply did things that hadn’t been done before (recording techniques, etc) and I can still feel the band literally jump out of the speakers when I put them on today. As a writer myself, I’m constantly in awe of the depth of their songwriting.”

How has the Australian Rock Collective (ARC) project and dynamic developed throughout the time you have been playing together?

“I would say everyone has grown stronger in their respective roles. When we first put this together, we were possibly a little ‘shy’ about what we were doing, but now we are very proud of it. There is a lot of love and respect among the members, everyone is treated equally, and everyone encourages and supports ideas that come to the table. It is that rare combination of people that make a good band.”

You’re all musicians from your own individual bands, you’ve had all your own individual careers that have intersected with each other. Do you feel like you’ve got that same friendship and familiarity within Australian Rock Collective (ARC) as The Beatles did when you perform?

“Absolutely. What makes any group or business great IS the people in it, and it’s a rare thing to find the right fit all round. I feel we are very lucky to have found that here in ARC. We all get to be who we want in this band.”

For the upcoming show at Night At The Barracks, ARC will be celebrating Let It Be. The record has such an interesting history, as both a fan and a lifelong musician, why do you think Let It Be deserves such a celebration?

“To me, it is both a band going back to being at the start of the journey and the end at the same time. There is a freshness and vibrancy to the recordings but also the wisdom of having travelled far as well. The album captures the heart of the band, in their simplest, rawest form with some of their most beautiful songs. It’s a total pleasure to play.”

Is there a moment or a song that you’re most excited to perform?

“’Get Back’ is a lot of fun. During ’Long And Winding Road’, I stand and sing out front, I quite like that moment as it takes me back to being in the back of my parent’s car, listening to it on the radio.”

You are no stranger to performing much-loved songs – your own catalogue fits that description perfectly – but how different is it when you’re performing someone else’s much-loved music?

“There is a different yet similar joy and privilege when performing another’s work. Whoever’s music it is, I try to offer it the respect it deserves, by playing and singing it as well as I can, and in a sense, I also try to embody the work as if I ‘wrote it myself’ in that I give it the care it should be given.”

 Outside of the general excitement of seeing an album that they love performed live, what do you hope audiences take away from this show?

“The sense of the friends The Beatles were, and the knowledge that they wrote some of the greatest songs in history.”

Australian Rock Collective (ARC) will celebrate 50 years of The Beatles’ Let It Be at Night At The Barracks, Manly NSW on Friday 23 September. The Barracks will host their inaugural series of gigs, Night At The Barracks, from Friday 9 September until Sunday 9 October. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.com.au.