STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
February 9, 1964. That was the night that The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was their first-ever performance in the U.S.
The Fab Faux, the highly acclaimed Beatles tribute band, returns to the Keswick Theatre to commemorate that momentous occasion and celebrate with a program that includes songs that The Beatles performed on American television shows.
One of the people watching the Ed Sullivan Show that night was Jimmy Vivino, guitarist and vocalist in The Fab Faux. He is also music director of “CONAN,” the late night TV show on TBS. Vivino remembers that night well. He spoke to me by phone from a recording studio in Los Angeles.
“When I was 9, I sat in front of the TV, (and that’s) a really impressionable age. I was already into music. I was playing the trumpet already and fooling around with the piano, which was in the piano room in our house. Of course we watched Lawrence Welk first, because my grandmother was over, and then we (saw) The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. All the parents (left) the room,” he laughed. “The kids — we couldn’t get close enough to the TV.”
And that is what started the love affair between Vivino and The Beatles. Of course Vivino wasn’t alone. A whopping 73 million people watched that historic event. Many musicians describe that as the singular moment that made them want to pick up a guitar or sing. And if you happened to watch the show it is likely something you remember vividly.
Another musician who is equally enthralled with The Beatles is bassist Will Lee of “Late Show with David Letterman” fame. And it is his love of The Beatles that inspired him to form The Fab Faux. He didn’t think there was a Beatles tribute band out there that could perform The Beatles songs as well as they had been recorded.
“We lived in the same building, believe it or not, on Mercer Street in New York,” said Vivino. “So we would come home from work and see each other every day around the same time, and sometimes even share a cab home from Broadway. And he would keep (saying) ‘let’s start a Beatles band’ and I would say ‘oh yeah, right’ … He was serious.
“So I took the elevator up 2 floors to his apartment (for a rehearsal) and everybody was there on the first day. And the first thing we did was Will throws the Beatles Complete book down at me and says ‘here, I know you can play keyboards so you play the harpsichord and we’ll learn ‘Because’ off ‘Abbey Road,’ and if we can do that then we can do anything.’ So we worked on it for a good hour or so and found parts and I realized everybody in this band (is) an incredible singer, which (is) important. And from there on, once we could nail ‘Because,’ we go ahead with the idea of bringing the records to the stage.”
The Fab Faux have been recreating The Beatles’ music and delighting audiences for 17 years. Their annual visit to Keswick Theatre is something that many people look forward to.
“We’re always coming up with different shows. We always try to bring something different every time we go in to the Keswick,” said Vivino.
One thing that makes these performances extra special is that The Fab Faux will be accompanied by Hogshead Horns and Crème Tangerine Strings, in order to authentically recreate The Beatles’ recordings. But don’t expect costumes or funny English accents.
“If you go and see the New York Philharmonic do a Mozart concert, they play the music. They don’t dress in powdered wigs and knickers and frilly shirts. It’s not about making believe you’re The Beatles, it’s about bringing the records to the stage. So we don’t do the corny Liverpool banter that some bands do. We don’t put rubber noses on our drummer. We do the music without pantomiming and without doing an impression of their voices, even. We sing with our own voices and just bring the musicianship and the joy of these songs to the stage.”
He added: “I can’t stress enough that it’s just about the music. If you want to see those other kinds of shows there’s plenty of them out there. But if you really want just the musical experience that changed the world we’re proud to go up there and just keep putting it out as our classical music.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Fab Faux
When: Show is at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21.
Where: Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside.
Tickets: $49 – $125
Info.: Call (215) 572-7650 or check www.keswicktheatre.com. For more on the band, check www.thefabfaux.com.