Entertainment

Local musicians to debut original rock opera score

LYNN – Prominent Boston area musician Brian Maes of Lynn has teamed with George Simpson of Saugus to create the score for an original rock opera that Simpson has spent five years writing, “The Devil and Billy Shake.” And even before the show has been staged locally, the pair has already piqued interest from some titans on Broadway.Maes, Simpson and the cast and musicians of the show have planned a CD release party Monday, Nov. 25 at O?Brien?s Pub in Lynn, where Maes and Simpson met several years ago. The studio version of the roughly 75-minute rock opera, featuring 31 songs, will be played, and details about local live performances early next year will be announced.Maes, 57, is a product of Lynn schools who graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1979 and went on to an impressive career as a touring artist, primarily on keyboards and vocals, in bands that have included Ernie and the Automatics, Peter Wolf?s House Party Five and RTZ, formed by founders of the band Boston, Barry Goudreau and the late Brad Delp. A song he wrote and performed with RTZ, “Until Your Love Comes Back Around,” hit #26 on the U.S. singles chart in 1992. He has been a part of bands that have toured and opened for many rock supergroups, including Aerosmith.Maes has most recently been performing locally and regionally with his own Brian Maes Band, which includes his wife, MaryBeth.Simpson, 51, who manages a rental accessory and cleaning company by day, is a lesser-known local musician who has been writing poetry, mostly focused on love, the human condition and the battle between good vs. evil, since his teen years.?I?ve always been into creative writing and writing short stories,” Simpson, a graduate of Western Oklahoma State College who also served in the U.S. Air Force, said during a telephone interview on Thursday. “When I was younger this girl told me, ?You write better than William Shakespeare.? That?s how I came up with the name Billy Shake.?When I was young what I really wanted to be is the biggest rock star in the world,” he said. His character, Billy Shake, is precisely that.In the story, Billy Shake builds such a following around the world that The Devil, known in the story as Dr. Spark, is counted among them. Shake is lured to Hell to perform hard-edged numbers for Dr. Spark and his legions, but at the same time he fights to retain and express his belief in love of God, country and pursuit of love.Simpson had been working on “The Devil and Billy Shake” for a few years when his guitar instructor, Kook Lawry, a longtime buddy and bandmate of Maes, introduced Simpson to Maes during an open mic night at O?Brien?s.?I?ve known about Brian for a long time, and I knew he?d be perfect to help with this, but he was too busy,” Simpson said. Maes at the time was touring with Ernie and the Automatics, backing up Deep Purple.But Simpson persisted, and a few weeks after their introduction, he saw Maes again, during a break in the tour.?I have him about 100 pages, just words on pages, and I asked him to read it while he was on tour,” Simpson said.Maes agreed to do so, without making any promises.?Before I read it I was interested but just didn?t have the time. When I started reading it, on the bunk of a tour bus, I was intrigued immediately,” Maes said during a separate phone interview Thursday. “There was really something strong on those pages. Being Catholic myself, the story of good vs. evil resonated with me.”About two years ago, after his Ernie and the Automatics tour ended, Maes and Simpson agreed to collaborate on “The Devil and Billy Shake” as equal partners. Since then, Maes helped to complete the lyrics and wrote the score, which makes its public debut Nov. 25 at O?Brien?s.?One of my longtime friends and technicians listened to the whole thing and he described it as ?Jesus Christ Superstar meets the Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Quadrophenia by The Who,?” Maes said. “So it?s classic rock with a lot of down-and-dirty blues. There are 31 numbers, s

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