Gary James' Interview With Joe Baiardi Of
The Beatles Tribute
The Fab 5
Joe Baiardi portrays Paul McCartney in the Beatles tribute act The Fab 5. Joe's got quite a history behind him. He was formally in the Beatles tribute act Rubber Soul. He was part of the recording act The Elevators. They played original dance music at all the top "hot" spots in New York City. He was part of the national Beatles tribute act Come Together. Joe also filled in for Paul in Beatlemania. And now he's in The Fab 5. What a journey!
Q - Joe, you joined The Fab 5 in February, 2003. It looks like you are the only original member. Would that be right?
A - Well, our drummer is. He's been in it since day one. His name is Rod Robert. He left briefly for six months in the '90s at some point to go to work with some Texas band and then came back, but really he's been in it since day one. We still keep in touch with all the old members that retired or didn't want to play on weekends. One of the guys even had a stroke. He can't play anymore, which was one of the original members. Things happen in the span of 23 years. It's hard to keep a group completely in the same lineup for that long.
Q - You actually met John Lennon back in 1976?
A - Yeah. I'm a New Yorker. I lived in Queens. Actually, my mother and sisters are still there. We were getting off a train, my father and sister, ironically to go buy tickets to Beatlemania on Broadway, which years later I ended up being friends with a lot of the guys there that were in the original bunks. That's what they were called then. There were eight different bunks, I believe, of sets of four guys that kind of rotated to do that show here in New York and California. So, we were going to buy tickets and walking down Broadway. We were somewhere not far from The Ed Sullivan Theater. It was 52nd Street and Broadway. I was already a huge Beatle freak for 10 years before that. John comes walking out of this building which appeared to me to be a studio. I haven't really backtracked to see what was there at the time. He had his little cap on, wearing a black overcoat type of thing with a turtleneck, hailing a cab. He had his round spectacles on. Immediately I saw him and my father turned around and looked at me. He knew right away. For a split second I was like, do I go up to him and say hello? Being a New Yorker he was always on the Eyewitness News, whether he was going to a basketball game or doing something. He was always in the news at some point. So, I decided to just wait and say hello and move on. December 1980 it made me regret not approaching him and saying hello because I thought I'd bump into him again I'm sure at some point in the city, but that never happened. The whole world changed on that day. Just like people remember what they were doing when Kennedy was assassinated, my generation of people that were born in the '60s, you remember the day Lennon was assassinated.
Q - So, you waved to John and he did what? Did he wave back?
A - He nodded at me, so we definitely caught eye contact, which was pretty cool. It was one of those things you never forget. People will say why didn't you get an autograph? Or why didn't you ask him questions? It's like why? It's like you know he lives in the city because he could just walk about and people most of the time would not make a fuss about it. It's almost like I wanted to give him that respect of all that.
Q - Have you seen Paul?
A - I've been to two shows and one of my trips to London drove by his house, but I was never fortunate to bump into him anywhere. Never say never. You never know.
Q - It could happen tomorrow!
A - Yeah.
Q - You are a left-handed bass player in The Fab 5. Is that important?
A - I would think so. And not only a lefty, I'm ambidextrous. I can play both ways being ambidextrous as a child and learned to do some things one way, some things another. But when I first started playing guitar, it was right-handed. Then in New York, I think we were going to a Beatle convention in Secaucus, New Jersey in '80 or '81, I got together with some friends and said, "Hey, let's put a Beatles band together." I bought a left-handed bass and was kind of teaching myself to play that way. That's kind of how I did it. I taught myself in a roundabout way to play that way. 30 years later, I'm just starting to think about.
Q - Some guys have tried but don't succeed in mastering the left-handed bass.
A - If you are totally right-handed I would think it would be really, really tough. I know Mitch Weissman, the original Paul in Beatlemania days. I think tried it once at a show and he just couldn't do it. He went back to playing right-handed. It's tough. It's not easy.
Q - You've got five guys in this band.
A - Yes.
Q - Which means you can do on stage what the Beatles did in the recording studio.
A - Right.
Q - Does the audience get that?
A - Most of them do, but then we get silly questions a lot of times, "Who's the fifth the guy?" How are you going to do "I Am The Walrus" or "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "All You Need Is Love" with two guitars and a bass? (Laughs). Our thing is to make it sound as close to the original records as possible and the only way to do that is to have a guy playing strings and horns and mellotron on keys. How can you begin "Strawberry Fields Forever" without anybody playing that?
Q - That is what makes The Fab 5 stand out from other Beatles tributes?
A - I would think so. There's more material we can cover, where traditionally most Beatle bands will just do from '62 to '66 and then various other ones that they can get away with without too much orchestration. It puts you above the rest because of the material choice and songs you can do, which is a plus.
Q - Being based in Texas and looking at your schedule, Texas really likes The Beatles.
A - Yeah. We travel to some other places in Texas (besides Houston) during the year as well. There are some really big, fanatical Beatles and '60s lovers. We stay busy all the time with corporate parties and festivals. It reaches ages 6 to 60. (Laughs), or 7 to 70, however you want to word it. It's just great music.
Q - You're telling me this band does travel outside of Texas?
A - We have occasionally to Mexico, but generally we'll play different parts of Texas. Texas is so big you can drive ten hours and you are still in Texas. That gives you a scope of how big it is, second only to Alaska. Alaska is the first biggest state. Texas is number two. Some of the places we have to fly, but you're still in Texas. You don't want to be fifteen hours in a car. (Laughs). It's too much. For the most part we just stay within the Texas region 'cause it's big enough to keep us busy.
Q - Joe, which will end first, your engineering job or your job in The Fab 5?
A - I like music, definitely. I like performing and getting dressed up. It's always fun. It's theatrical. It's not just playing music. It's the whole theatrical thing.