Steven Van Zandt brings in ex-Beatles drummer as consultant on new film with Sopranos’ David Chase

The forthcoming film “Not Fade Away” gave Steven Van Zandt a chance to reunite with his old Sopranos director, as well as an opportunity to delve back into his love of all things rock ‘n’ roll.

Hired as the music supervisor for the project, which focuses on a group of teenagers in early 1960s-era New Jersey who form a rock group, the E Street Band guitarist helped select the soundtrack music. He was also charged with teaching the movie actors how to appear to be working musicians.

“Not Fade Away,” which also stars fellow Sopranos alum James Gandolfini, arrives in theaters on December 21, 2012. Van Zandt starred in the celebrated HBO series as Silvio Dante.

So everything should have gone as smooth as Italian silk, right? Fuggedaboutit.

One of the most intractable problems on this new project, Van Zandt found, was simulating the period’s style of drumming. Most actors, he tells CBS Local, want to portray themselves in the style of latter-day wildmen like Keith Moon or John Bonham. But in 1964, the setting for “Not Fade Away,” Van Zandt says drummers were still playing in the more subdued jazz style.

For help, Van Zandt turned to Andy White, the drummer that producer George Martin initially hired to take over for original member Pete Best during the Beatles’ earliest recording sessions. White appears on the single versions of both “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.”

White worked with “Not Fade Away” actor John Magaro to get things just right, and eventually Van Zandt says, the group began to coalesce into something that looked very much like an early-rock band.

“George Martin auditioned the Beatles with Pete Best, he signed them, and didn’t like Pete Best’s drumming for whatever reason,” Van Zandt tells CBS Local. “So they let Pete go and they got Ringo and they came back to do their first record. But by then, George Martin had hired a studio guy … that was Andy White. And he moved to New Jersey many decades ago. We found him and brought him in as a teacher.”

The results? Van Zandt says “they can actually perform right now as a band. … Three out of the four guys we had to teach from scratch. And it’s amazing because in three or four months, they learned how to play. They were in my studio six hours a day, seven days a week, but still, you look at this kid playing drums in the movie … and he is playing the drums.”

    

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