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The Rocking Reality of The Les Fradkin News

The Rocking Reality of The Les Fradkin News

The Rocking Reality of The Les Fradkin News

Les Fradkin is an Award Winning Composer and Virtuoso Midi Guitarist and is best known for performing the role of George Harrison in the the Original Cast of Beatlemania.  Perhaps also possessing the powers looking into the future, Frakin’s visionary recording of  Reality – The Rock Opera foretold the trials and tribulations of what we are all currently experiencing in the pandemic / social unrest year of 2020.  On The Les Fradkin News, the artist revisits his prophetic compositions first envisioned on Reality – The Rock Opera with absolutely mesmerizing results.  Highwire Daze recently interviewed Les Fradkin to discuss the unveiling of The Les Fradkin News, the Beatlemania experience, his connection with The Ventures, composing music for soap operas, and other intriguing topics.  Read on…

Is there any overall story or concept behind your CD The Les Fradkin News?
This album condenses and edits for Radio play, the essence of various essential Reality The Rock Opera tracks. The Les Fradkin News is both a story of a possible Dystopian Future and a realization of that Dystopian Moment we are now experiencing as “Reality”. The songs were composed by my wife, Loretta and I in 2003 and have since come true.

 Select two songs from The Les Fradkin News and what inspired the lyrics.
System Crash was written from multiple perspectives – the past, the present and the future. An observer in the distant future looking back at events that hadn’t happened as of the creation of the song and from the perspective of an observer in the present, looking at events that are happening now and that might be happening in the future!

Reality predicts the intense Identity Politics and censorship which envelop Social Media these days. But it also offers the possibility of a “Rebirth Of Hope”.

When you first wrote Reality: The Rock Opera what were your initial inspirations for it?
I wanted Reality to reflect my Orchestrated Progressive sound which had been a part of my music since my debut MGM/Sunflower Single Song Of A Thousand Voices back in 1970. Reality – The Rock Opera was a solo album released back in 2003. I have released 18 more solo albums and 7 repackages since 2003. With Reality – The Rock Opera, some of what my wife and I envisioned in those lyrics would not occur for another 17 years!

What has it been like to write and release music in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
I haven’t written anything during the pandemic. I continue to practice my Midi Guitar and Mellotron. I’ m still waiting for the audience to catch up to the message which, 17 years ago, predicted, with prescience, the current Social unrest in the world. But it has been exciting and gratifying reading the reviews of System Crash and seeing the response on Spotify. We have gotten over 40,000 streams on System Crash and over 22,000 streams for Reality sine July 30, 2020.

How did you wind up in Beatlemania on Broadway and what was that experience like?
From 1973 through 1976, I had been working as a Record Producer, Songwriter and Artist for Laurie Records and ESP-Disk as well as doing dozens of sessions in Studios around New York City and London, England. I saw an ad in the June 1976 Village Voice advertising for Beatle lookalikes, Singers and Musicians. Given my agenda, in those days, to raise my star above the level of a Session musician and songwriter without having to sacrifice my intellectual property, I appeared at Studio Instrument Rentals (S.I.R.) on July 6, 1976 with my 12 String Rickenbacker and Vox Amplifier and was selected that day to portray George Harrison in the Original Cast of Beatlemania. It was obvious to me that I was hired for my experienced professionalism and my guitar playing. I was the first Original Cast member selected. The experience of performing in the show was wonderful. The Cast and our Producers made a great team and of course, the Show was a Mega Broadway hit, unique for its time and arguably, it signaled the birth of the Tribute Band Industry. The show in New York City was sold out for every one of its 1006 performances.

You played George Harrison on Broadway. What do you relate to the most about George Harrison?
The spirituality of his music.

Did you ever meet him or any of the Beatles and have they ever commented on your performance?
Never met George that I can recall. I worked at Apple Records as a session musician in 1969-1970. I met and became friendly with John there. I Recorded with “Paul” on my songs God Bless California and Black Gypsy in the early 1970’s. Met Ringo at a club in Los Angeles 1978. As to comments on our performances, John liked the show. When I mentioned to John in response to his query as to what I would do “when the bubble bursts” after performing in Beatlemania, I opined that I thought I was being typecast as “George Harrison,”  John replied: “Once you’ve been a Beatle, it’s hard to get out!” Took that as a compliment, and to this day, that remains a fact. As a matter of fact, Paul McCartney at MPL advertises my covers of his music to this day on his website.

Tell me about your connection with The Ventures and performing live with them.
Around 2004, I was endorsing their Wilson Bros. Ventures Model Guitars which resembled the Mosrite Ventures Model instruments they played in the 1960’s. I met Nokie Edwards for the first time at Louiefest 2004 in Tacoma, Washington. He and I enjoyed playing together at Louiefest so he suggested to The Ventures that I guest with them on stage which I did in Issaquah, Washington later in 2004. This led to my recording a couple of duets with Nokie which saw release later. In recent years, I have performed with various Ventures members at Ventures Fest in the Philadelphia area. Those Jams have been interesting, particularly when I played my Ztar with them.

What is your connection to the soap opera One Life To Live and are you a fan of soap operas?
I worked for Score Productions in New York City as a Composer and Midi Programmer in the mid to late 1980’s. Score productions controlled almost all the music for all the major soap operas on television in those days. I co composed and programmed 4 years of cues and music for One Life To Live, Capitol and All My Children. I never watched the shows except to check on music placement. But I can justifiably say that my work with Sequencers, Synthesizers, Composing and Synclavier Sound Design at Score Productions changed the sound of Television music. I was inducted into the Television Production Music Hall Of Fame as a result. Truly, an honor.

With the holiday season on the way, tell me about your Spirit Of Christmas album why you chose some of the songs to record, and would you like to record more holiday music in the future?
My wife, Loretta, and I co-wrote a number of new original tunes for that album. We were trying to design a Christmas album in a retro style so that other Artists may be interested to cover the songs. Some of the songs, such as Say You Love Me For Christmas could be hits for other Artists. One of the songs, There Won’t Be Christmas This Year had been previously recorded by The Drifters. Actually, that song very well fits the current times that we’re all living through in 2020 Holiday Season.

What is your favorite guitar and keyboards of choice and why?
My favorite keyboard is the Mellotron. Originally designed as a tape playback keyboard instrument of Orchestral sounds such as Flute, Violins, Brass and Cello, Mellotrons were used extensively by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues and King Crimson, to name a few. I owned two of them back in the 70’s- a MkII and an M400. I play Mellotron on virtually every recording I have done. I now trigger those sounds from my Ztar Midi Guitars connected to my Mac Book computer and Apple iPad (GForce MTron Pro, Arturia Mellotron V, and Streetlytron) and Mellotron M4000D Micro which forms a much more portable system without the intense maintenance of the original instruments. My favorite electric guitars include my Hallmark Guitars “Les Fradkin” Sgnature Model, Rickenbacker 12 string, and my various Fender Stratocaster guitars. My favorite instrument of choice remains my Starr Labs Ztar Midi Guitars which act as controllers for my array of software instruments to realize my Orchestral approach. The Ztar offers the possibility of playing any sound you can imagine, from a single controller, in any tuning as a one-man band.

The NAMM Show has been canceled in 2021 due to Covid-19. Have you ever been to The NAMM Show, and if so, what are some of your favorite memories of the event?
I have performed at The NAMM Show three times- once back in 1978 for Rickenbacker Guitars, once in 2005 for Epiphone and once in 2008 for Starr Labs demonstrating the Ztar. My performance on the Ztar at NAMM 2008, was the beginning of my development of my sonic approach on the instrument.

What do you hope 2021 has in store for you and your music projects?
I am continuing to promote The Les Fradkin News album. I am waiting for the future to present itself to see what happens next.

Any final words of wisdom?
To borrow a quote from Robert Fripp, “May we wish for others what we wish for ourselves.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

Les Fradkin Official Home Page

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