‘A mark that no one will ever make again’: Fab Faux return with tributes to the Beatles, George Harrison

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For members of the Fab Faux, the music of the Beatles still holds a talismanic intrigue. Some 15 years into their career as loving interpreters, the magic remains.

That’s because there are always new corners to explore for the group, which features Frank Agnello, Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli, Will Lee and Jimmy Vivino. Over the course of this month, the Fab Faux will be performing in a special concert devoted to the Beatles movie music (on October 19, 2013 at Glenside, Pennsylvania’s Keswick Theatre) and at another celebrating George Harrison’s 70th birthday (on October 26, at New York City’s Beacon Theatre).

The Keswick program will feature key tracks from Hard Day’s Night through Let It Be, as well as select earlier hits and deep cuts. The Beacon bill also includes the Hogshead Horns, the Weeping Atlas Singers, the Creme Tangerine Strings, Erin Hill and Jim Boggia, among others. A portion of the proceeds from the October 26 show got to the Material World Charitable Foundation.

Vivino stopped by, in this exclusive SER Sitdown, to talk about the enduring legacy left behind by the Beatles — and how the Fab Faux keeps things fresh …

NICK DERISO: You’ve been recreating this music for a while now. I wonder what the difficulties are there, with the level of fandom that this band has always generated. In some cases, they may know the songs better than even the Beatles themselves.
JIMMY VIVINO: I always feel like this – an archeologist is never done. He’s always discovering things that we thought might be there, but that we’ve never seen. There’s ghosts in those records. We’re always getting new insights into it. It’s almost like a constant search. What is it about this music? That it was done in, like, a seven- or eight-year period is just mind blowing. Then there’s the fact that the fans still know so much. They’ve become like another member of the band. There’s an advantage to that. If we get close enough, a real fan hears the whole thing — not just our parts. I think the reason the fans keep coming back is because they are as much a part of it as we are.

NICK DERISO: Is there the risk of boredom? After all, these songs are from more than four decades ago.
JIMMY VIVINO: We pick it apart, then put it together and try to make it come out right. It’s like trying to build a human being with the DNA, you know? We have all the parts, but then it becomes: “How do you get the spirit back into it?” We found that the best way was to not try and mimic them vocally or with stage banter — or with wigs and suits. It’s getting the right instruments, and getting the right parts. It’s playing the music, but the Fab Faux takes another step where sometimes we’ll jam out on the endings, because it’s such great music. They were limited, a lot of times, with the length of songs, and we can’t help it: We want to play. We don’t want to run a Broadway show up there. We keep it interesting.

NICK DERISO: Has your appreciation for the Beatles deepened?
JIMMY VIVINO: It’s a funny thing. There is not much music that changed society, and the things we do, and the way we think, like the Beatles did — fashion, politics, bringing world music to the front. I think they were the first ones to really incorporate it into their rock ‘n’ roll. And they wrote lasting music, things that never sound dated. I don’t know if I’ve explained why we’ve kept doing it, but we just can’t stop. It remains interesting! I didn’t think it would last 15 years.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The jumping reunion disc ’13 Live’ finds Jimmy Vivino and the Black Italians picking up like a conversation once interrupted amongst old friends — right where it left off.]

NICK DERISO: After all that time, are there still songs as yet unexplored?
JIMMY VIVINO: We’re still learning stuff. We just learned a couple of tunes we’ve never played. So, we’re still closing in on a finishing the catalog. We’re finishing off songs so that we can do complete albums during a show. We were preparing for a show where we did the Beatles Top 15 songs, so we had to learn “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” and “P.S. I Love You” — two songs we wouldn’t normally have done, because we didn’t think we had any spot for them in what we were doing. But now that we have them, we love them. That happens every time we learn a new one. We’re now going back and getting the covers, which we have stayed away from before. We were just doing the songs they wrote for a long time. So, now we’re having fun with “Twist and Shout” and “Baby, It’s You.” They weren’t classically Beatles songs; they were songs from when they were a club act. But we’re having fun with those, too — because they tend to make them their own. It’s debatable whether they’ve outdone the Isley Brothers on “Twist and Shout.” But most people know the Beatles’ version.

NICK DERISO: And, the truth is, you’ve never really heard “Please Mr. Postman” until you’ve heard John sing it.
JIMMY VIVINO: And we’ve tried that! The last time, we felt like we almost got it. But John’s “Postman” is really, really great. His is kicking, man. (Laughs.) He sings “pleeeease,” and I feel so badly for him! You know, John Lennon was a blues singer, if you think about it. He got right into your soul with his music, so to me they made a mark that no one will ever make again. I can say that confidently.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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