Rebuilding The Beatles, Note by Note The Fab Faux focuses on the songs of The Beatles, but don't expect matching suits, shaggy haircuts, or Liverpool accents. Its members are full-time musicians and singers, and all are meticulous in their approach to the band's most complex late-period material.

Rebuilding The Beatles, Note by Note

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Some of New York's top musicians are playing in a tribute band.

(Soundbite of song, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club")

THE FAB FAUX (Beatle's Tribute Band): (Singing) We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. We hope you have enjoyed the show,

INSKEEP: It's The Fab Faux - that's F-A-U-X - in the tradition of The Beatles. They're performing this weekend in Hollywood which is where The Fab Four first appear on the West Coast in 1964.

Journalist Ashley Kahn reports on how this group adds something unexpected when you know every note of the song.

(Soundbite of fans screaming)

(Soundbite of song, "Rock 'n' Roll Music" as performed by the Beatles)

Mr. PAUL McCARTNEY (Singer, The Beatles): (Singing) Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music...

Ms. ASHLEY KAHN (Journalist; Author, "A Love Supreme"): In 1966, a British reporter stopped Paul McCartney outside of Abbey Road studios in London and asked him why The Beatles were no longer touring.

Unidentified Man: If you never toured again, would it worry you?

Mr. MCCARTNEY: Ah, I don't know. No, I don't think so. Because we can't develop when no one can hear us, you know what I mean? So for us, to perform, it's difficult, it gets difficult each time. We want to do it, but if we're not listened to, and we can't even hear ourselves, then we can improve in that. We can't get any better.

(Soundbite of song "Rock 'n' Roll Music")

Mr. MCCARTNEY: (Singing) If you want to dance with me.

Ms. KAHN: Perhaps it was just as well that The Beatles had stopped performing publicly. Much of the music they recorded after 1966 could not be re-created onstage.

Mr. FRANK AGNELLO (Vocalist and guitar player, The Fab Faux): They didn't really have the technology to bring some of those studio ideas to the stage. Right before the Sgt. Pepper sessions is where The Beatles decided to become a recording band.

Ms. KAHN: Frank Agnello plays guitar and sings in The Fab Faux, five musicians who focus on the songs of The Beatles. But don't expect matching suits, shaggy haircuts or Liverpool accents.

Mr. AGNELLO: A lot of the bands who play Beatles music, they go more for the theatrical bent, you know, there's music and there's the acting component. And we concentrate more on the records, I would say, in a way, we're a Beatles records tribute band.

(Soundbite of song "Got to Get You Into My Life")

THE FAB FAUX: (Singing) I was alone, I took a ride I didn't know what I would find there, another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there.

Ms. KAHN: Will Lee plays bass for The Fab Faux.

Mr. WILL LEE (Bass Player, The Fab Faux): On our level, it was to try to see if we could get all these great textures that The Beatles had on their records, for instance, percussion parts, keyboard parts, doubling the vocals.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LEE: When you do see a four-piece look-alike band, you don't really get the satisfaction of hearing all those great textures that the records have.

KAHN: The members of the group are all full-time musicians and singers. Will Lee can be seen on late-night TV as part of the David Letterman band, while Frank Agnello is an in-demand music producer and sideman. With guitarists Jimmy Vivino and Jack Petruzzelli, and drummer Richard Pagano, they are a collective that's about attention to detail.

(Soundbite of song "Penny Lane")

THE FAB FAUX: (Singing) In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs.

Ms. KAHN: Like including a real string section on "Yesterday." Or a real piccolo trumpet on "Penny Lane."

(Soundbite of song "Penny Lane")

Ms. KAHN: Or even a fire-truck bell.

(Soundbite of song "Penny Lane")

THE FAB FAUX (Beatle's Tribute Band): And then the fireman rushes in.

Ms. KAHN: Remember, they're doing all of this while in live performance.

(Soundbite of song "Penny Lane")

THE FAB FAUX (Beatle's Tribute Band): (Singing) Penny lane is in my ears and in my eyes. There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit, and meanwhile back. Penny lane…

Ms. KAHN: All the talent that's in The Fab Faux's makes it possible for them to take apart The Beatles' music, and then put it back together again.

Mr. AGNELLO: It gets really nerdy after a while. Never has so much research got into live performance.

Mr. LEE: And we'll keep researching and keep finding new bits of information and alter stuff, you know, it's a never-ending tweakage(ph) on this music. In the case of "Back in the USSR" there's a couple of bass parts happening, and one of them, I'm pretty sure is something like this.

(Soundbite of song "Back in the USSR")

Mr. LEE: (Singing) Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC.

Right? Real basic.

And I think on another track, there might be something more active going on.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LEE: (Singing) Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC.

With that much movement.

Ms. KAHN: What McCartney had done in the studio was layered those baselines one on top of another, something that's difficult to do on stage.

Mr. AGNELLO: I've economized and made sort of a amalgam of those parts when we do out live version.

(Soundbite of "Back In The USSR")

Ms. KAHN: Not everything The Fab Faux does is about faithful recreation.

Mr. LEE: "Drive My Car" for example, it doesn't have an ending; it has a fade as records often do. And wouldn't it be great to bring to the stage what the song would have sounded like had it continued on into a nice jam?

Mr. AGNELLO: There are a few songs like that, "Hey Bulldog" is another.

(Soundbite of song "Hey Bulldog")

Mr. LEE: We have such great players in this band that it would be a waste not to let somebody take a solo.

(Soundbite of song "Hey Bulldog")

Ms. KAHN: Not long ago, Will Lee actually had a chance to play with Paul McCartney — and felt he had to come clean about The Fab Faux.

Mr. LEE: I approached him, and said, Look, I know that you have a history of low tolerance for Beatles bands, but I just have to admit to you, here and now, that I - okay, I do have a little tribute band. We focus on the later stuff and the stuff that people heretofore thought impossible to do on stage. So he kind of challenged me and said, Do you do "Tomorrow Never Knows?"

(Soundbite of music)

And I said, 'Oh, of course. That was one of the first ones we learned.

(Soundbite of song "Tomorrow Never Knows")

THE FAB FAUX (Beatle's Tribute Band): (Singing) It is not dying, it is not dying.

Ms. KAHN: Because The Beatles stopped performing before they recorded "Sgt. Pepper," means that they never had the chance to perform their most carefully crafted music live.

(Soundbite of song "Day In The Life")

THE FAB FAUX: (Singing) I read the news today, oh boy.

Ms. KAHN: What The Fab Faux do is take away that historical oversight and make it possible to hear what could have been.

(Soundbite of song "A Day in the Life")

THE FAB FAUX (Beatle's Tribute Band): (Singing) I woke up, go out of bed, taxi dragged the comb across my head.

INSKEEP: Not a bad way to wake up this morning.

Ashley Kahn is author of "A Love Supreme," the story of John Coltrane's signature album.

And here are some of The Fab Faux's recreations and find more new music at

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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