Bootleg Beatles: The Fab Faux

Whole-legends, half-ghosts. The eerie reincarnations of the world's greatest band ever to walk this planet take centre stage as the Bootleg Beatles for a 5-show only event at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre from the 8-11 of November 2012. Having started my musical journey decades after the Beatlemania phenomena had already swept continents, I have never felt so enveloped by the history, the lyrics and the distinct discographies which transported me back to the days when the Beatles were everything - to a time when mop-top haircuts and bold floral prints were cool. And where wearing long shaggy hair motioned the start of the evolution of contemporary music. If the cheering and dancing from a full-house of Beatles fans are any indication, this homage has expertly brought to life with technical and imagery precision some of the best acts in the history of music.

It all began in 1980, when the original Bootleg John Lennon, Neil Harrison together with Andre Barreau (Bootleg George Harrison), formed the Bootleg Beatles after what seemed to be a natural progression following a shared admiration for all things steeped in the Beatles. "We were all huge fans with a capital F" explained founder Neil Harrison. The tribute band soon earned a solid reputation for its uncanny likeness and astounding performances that on Dave Gilmore's (Pink Floyd's frontman) 50th birthday, the Bootleg Beatles performed in the presence of George Harrison. The Beatle's now famous quote "you probably know the chords better than I do"  - a clear nod to the tribute's achievements, rings loud and true as I watch agape at the brilliant renditions of Help, Yesterday and All You Need is Love.

I had the pleasure of interviewing, well, it was more conversational, the talents behind the roles and find out just what makes the Bootleg Beatles worth catching. Founder and lead guitarist Andre Barreau plays George Harrison, Adam Hastings on keyboard, vocals, bass and guitar as John Lennon, Hugo Degenhardt on drums as Ringo Starr and Steve White plays Paul McCartney.

GGP: So far, how do you find Singapore?

Andre (George): Not seen much of it so far. We've only arrived yesterday and by the time we kinda settled in our hotel, well unfortunately we didn't get much chance to see it.

Steve (Paul): It was a hell of a drive.

Adam (John): I had a lovely steak by the river.

Hugo (Ringo): And it was amazing to look at. The skyline driving through the night was spectacular.

GGP: Well I think you'll have more time to look around Singapore from today until opening night.

Andre: Hopefully.

Steve: We hope so.

Hugo: We have more publicity to do you know.

Adam: Depends on how long this interview is. (laughs)

GGP: Oh, I promise I'll be quick.

Andre: Noo.

Adam: It's fine.

(the rest protest with varied tones of no's)

Andre: I came here actually 5 years ago and it (Singapore) has changed completely.

GGP: Yes, this building (Marina Bay Sands) is new. It was completely built up from reclaimed land so basically, the ground we're standing on didn't even exist then.

Andre: Wow, that's surreal man.

GGP: So tell me what are your most memorable moments while doing this tribute?

Andre: Well, I'm gonna ask these boys here cause I could give you loads since I have been here since, I don't know, stone age? Chaps.

Steve: I would say the police escort in Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. We had a police escort from the airport through to our accommodation. We had a motorcade which was really cool. So we felt very efficient. Well that was my favourite.

Hugo: We had to get a midnight train from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod. We had an amazing show actually. It was my first public show which was incredible. And that was very memorable for me.

Andre: There was a very good photograph of you from that show.

Adam: I can't think really. Well, my favourite moment was when Andre met George Harrison at the birthday party. (laughs)

Andre: Oh yes! Do you know what he says then? Because every time I do an interview I tell the story. Oh playing on the roof of the Apple Building at Savile Row, London was amazing because it was exactly like when they (The Beatles) did it. And then meeting George and Paul was great.

GGP: What did George and Paul comment on the tribute?

Andre: George said many things but one of them he said, "It's all a bit silly. This dressing-up and all". I said, "Well, you know". The best thing about George is that he got it you know. He went, "Oh yeah yeah, and why don't you do your own stuff?" and of course we do. I've got a couple of LPs of my own stuff out and he was a Beatle and he was there. And we're just mere mortals just making a living down here. He's very, very funny. And he said, "Who's the bootleg Brian Epstein? (The Beatles' manager)". Cause he has all the money. And then he introduced me to his wife and Pattie Boyd was there. And he was going this is the Bootleg Patty. And then I said, Who's the bootleg George? And then he went, "You're the bootleg George! We're all living in a bootleg world!". A joke on Living in the Material World. He wasn't like - Oh you're so boring, go away! He was very warm.

GGP: Which one of you personify the Beatle that you are playing the most?

Adam: Oh we'd have to have a fight over that one. I am more John than he is (points to David).

Hugo: I think we'll have to ask the audience that one.

GGP: How about on a personal level? When you are yourselves, do you ever go oh my, that is something a Beatle would do?

Adam: In real life?

Andre: No, we don't really do anything alike.

Steve: Well, not exactly like him but Adam is born the same month as John. I am born the same month as Paul.

Andre: I've got two 'R's in my surname like George Harrison.

Hugo: We've all got hands.

Andre: We're not directly copies of them. I'm sure that on some kind of level there's got to be some kind of similarity in terms of star signs and moon alignments.

Adam: But we don't try to be like them in real life.

GGP: Of course not.

Andre: We'd be a bit sad really. So when we're on stage we really try and get into the voices and singing and mannerisms. And when we're talking to you, even when we're wearing these clothes we're just being ourselves.

Well, I've met people over the years who do this job of other people and it affects parts of their personality or physical movements. I just go no way. I just don't find it very tasteful. I think that maybe they haven't got their own personality. And funny enough one of the most important things is when you're doing a show like we're doing it's really important that you've got your own personality because you've got to get the audience on your side. So if you're just a plastic person mimicking the Beatles, you won't go down as well. Cause you've got to get the audience through the Beatle character.

GGP: So how do you get ready before each performance?

Andre: I try not to be superstitious.

Adam: I listen to Reggae music while I'm getting ready. Toots & the Maytals. I listen to them.

Steve: Well, I tend to do a lot of ironing. I find it quite recreational.

Hugo: Yup, he (Steve) does all our ironing.

Steve: I find ironing very relaxing. I think it's the culmination of perfecting a jacket in steam which kinda opens you up a little bit. Like an ironing spa. But it's not like a ritual or anything.

Hugo: I like to take a nap if I can pre-show.

Adam: He (Hugo) likes to take one during the gig as well.

Hugo: Thanks (the rest laugh)

Andre: Sleepwalking Ringo.

GGP: So which pieces are the hardest to play in terms of technicality?

Andre: Oh all of them. For a start, I don't know if many people know this but Steve is actually right-handed but he plays left-handed on stage. It's all technically difficult because he's going the other way around.

Steve: I have to teach myself the opposite way to play like Paul does. It's tricky but it gets easier with time. The longer you do it - practice makes perfect.

GGP: All right last question, what do you think of other tribute bands like Queen and ABBA?

Andre: The whole thing about tribute bands is that if somebody doesn't exist or if they are dead then I suppose they can't put them back together. I suppose that's a nice way to see it. The thing I feel is a shame is that there aren't really any iconic acts coming out today.

Hugo: If they are doing it for the love and respect for the music then you can't really argue with that.

Andre: I've never seen a good (The) Who. Never, ever, ever. Where all the four members make you go 'Wow'. I think probably because they are more difficult to do so than the Beatles because they're all so weirdly different, quite stretched out talents from the Beatles. While the Beatles are more similar to each other, just have different vocal ranges.

Steve: I would say on The Who one, yea, you're (Andre) probably right. I would say that it's because of the Beatles' fanbase that its probably easier to get members for a Beatles band because they are massively, incredibly popular.

Andre: Well, you could have a bad George Harrison in a band but you can't have a bad Pete Townshend cause the whole thing collapses. Or a bad Keith Moon.

Steve: But it's probably easier to find better Beatles musicians than probably Who because of the fanbase.

Andre: For the Beatles, you can do them badly but it's really hard to do them really well. We'll have to discuss that one. For further discussion Steve.

Boy isn't it fascinating to have sparked of an topic of interest among the fellas about the Who and the Beatles or something? Perhaps the forum did carry all the way through to the hotel room. Perhaps.

Like walking into a time warp in the sixties minus the mod-clothing and Twiggy-esque eyeliner, opening night on the 8th of November was a psychedelic adventure of mayhem and classic Beatles music at its finest. I had the pleasure of taking a trip down Penny Lane being greeted by an atmosphere of full-fledged recreations of eras through remarkable costume changes and hairstyles. The bootleg band backed by an 8-piece orchestra, were simply amazing to watch and marvel at. For young-ins such as myself, this is the closest possible way to experience Beatlemania as it would have been back in the day. Up close, free loving, and the spell-binding guitar riffs that keep coming. It's no wonder the Beatles influence still carries on strongly to this very day. Afterall, love is all we need.

Untagged photos credited to Ace Kindred Cheong of American International News Service 
Special thanks to Fulford PR, Marina Bay Sands and BASE Entertainment Asia.


Occasional hand model with a taste for adventure.


  1. What the wonderful journey of Beatles. Every album of Beatles were got famous like Abbey Road, Help & much more. I just say Beatles were Rock.

  2. Yes, Josie. The Beatles were truly legendary. Their status unparalleled. I've always enjoyed Help. What's your favourite album?