Joe Peppercorn is an insane person.
This could certainly be inferred from the local mainstay’s decision to launch the Beatles Marathon, an annual event now in its fourth year where he performs the entire Beatles catalog start-to-finish alongside a rotating cast of musicians.
But more than that it’s Peppercorn’s decision to order iced coffee during our early December interview — which took place just as temperatures plunged to numbers that threaten the extremities — that had me questioning his sanity. I mean, what kind of sick bastard does such a thing?
The Beatles Marathon takes its inspiration from a January evening in 2006 when Peppercorn and the late Andy “Andyman” Davis sat together at a piano and drunkenly bashed their way through the entirety of Abbey Road.
“We were singing and forgetting lyrics and it was just a train wreck for anyone who wasn’t participating,” the musician said. “But there was something about sitting there with a friend plowing through these songs that really stuck with me.”
A few months after Andyman died in 2010, Peppercorn found himself at the bar reminiscing about that night at the piano, and he half-jokingly told friends he planned to perform the entire Beatles catalog at an upcoming open mic in tribute.
“What’s the Hemingway quote? Always do sober what you said you would do drunk?” Peppercorn said, and laughed.
True to his word, he took the stage at Andyman’s Treehouse (now The Tree Bar) two weeks later, performing every Beatles song during an eight-hour, self-described disaster of a show. And he loved every second of it, saying, “It was exactly the feeling I remember singing Abbey Road with Andyman.”
Over the years the show has increased in size and scope — this year’s concert takes place at The Bluestone on Saturday, Dec. 28, includes 10 musicians and is expected to last almost 12 hours — but Peppercorn has been adamant about maintaining the freewheeling, unpolished spirit at its roots.
“At a certain point midway through it’s not even a show; it’s everybody yelling and singing together,” he said. “We’re just a bunch of dudes onstage, so who cares? It’s more like, ‘These songs are part of our DNA, so let’s sing them together and have this catharsis before year’s end.’”
Photo by Meghan Ralston