Too many listens to Pink Floyd's 1973 album, "The Dark Side of the Moon," and a man could go mad.
That could have been the fate of J. Willoughby, founder of Black Jacket Symphony, a group that re-creates classic albums on stage, right down to the last note and chord change. The symphony will perform the Pink Floyd album in its entirety Thursday at Pikes Peak Center.
"It's art," said Willoughby about the concept album. "It sounds weird and pretentious, but it really is. It was back when they made art. It's about madness. After a month or so, I thought I was losing my mind. I thought, 'I've got to walk away and do something happy.'"
To re-create the album, Willoughby said, he listened to it repeatedly, going over it with a "fine-tooth comb." He's been doing that deep listening since 2009, after he realized that the Beatles' 1969 album, "Abbey Road," still was being discussed by musicologists and lauded by critics nearly four decades after its release.
"I was in my car and heard there was a Mozart concert coming up," Willoughby said from his home in Birmingham, Ala. "And I thought, 'Why didn't anybody approach albums like Mozart approached a symphony? They just came and played the piece as written.'"
Willoughby, who does mean Tom Petty and John Lennon impressions, gathered a group of musicians to do just that - re-create an album. Their first project? "Abbey Road," of course. Willoughby has gone on to re-create more than 50 legendary albums, including Led Zeppelin's "IV," Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the Eagles' "Hotel California," Nirvana's "Nevermind" and U2's "The Joshua Tree." Next up? Guns N Roses' "Appetite for Destruction."
Not every album re-creation uses the same musicians. Willoughby selects carefully, choosing the right crew from across the country to make the recreation as perfect as possible. Sometimes that means he hires himself, he jokes, and sometimes he doesn't.
"It's a different band every time, though there is some crossover," he said. "It's not just four guys like the Beatles because there's overdubbing (on the album). We'll have three to four guitars and multiple keyboards. We all wear black jackets."
Whereas the first half of the show is devoted to the album, with zero talking between songs, the second half spotlights the greatest hits of the featured band and maybe a deep track or two for fans.
"We have a light show and video show like you'd see at a rock show," said Willoughby. "The second set goes a little crazier. We engage the audience, and it's almost like a celebration of whatever artist we're doing."