Beatles music fans in Tokyo are spoiled for choice, with not just one, but two Beatles covers bars, both based in Roppongi. These are theme live houses, with Japanese Beatles look-a-like bands playing covers all night long. Abbey Road and the Cavern Club are located only a few hundred meters from each other, and are both packed to the eyeballs every night.
But according to “Docchi no Beatles-Bar Stippy” which is the better choice for a night out?
The 1960’s in Japan was famous for the Tokyo Olympics, the opening of the first Shinkansen, and Beatlemania. Abbey Road and the Cavern Club on a Friday night provide real flashbacks of this era with many of the clientèle “dankai-sedai” babyboomer salarymen. As the Beatles harmonize on the stage late in to the evening, many of these patrons can been seen sporting their neckties tied around their foreheads, staring toward the stage but with a distant look in their eyes, reminiscing about the past.
Despite the band members being Japanese and not speaking native English, for the most part they are surprisingly authentic in staying true to the original. They really give the impression that each of the band members completely live and breathe the Beatles. In traditional Japanese fashion, they have practised and learned to play the instruments impeccably, and every note is perfect throughout the Beatles extensive catalogue. This is particularly striking in the Cavern Club, which has superb acoustics, and the solo of While My Guitar Gently Weeps is so precise and full in sound that it is worth going just for that.
Both The Parrots at Abbey Road, and The Silver Beats at the Cavern Club have their star member of the band, who really makes it come alive. And in both cases, this member is John. Hidemasa Mabuchi from the Silver Beats has an uncannily resemblance to John Lennon. At only 27, he plays is a Rubber Soul era John, complete with the mop-top haircut, and the shaking of the head made famous in Twist and Shout. He commands a strong stage presence despite his age, and is a natural star.
Mamori Yoshi (Chappy) of the Parrots on the other hand, at 53, is an older era John, with the more respectable haircut, the round glasses, and gestures are identical to John from that period, right down to the over-bite singing style. He is established as world-famous John Lennon, and appears to love every minute on stage. He has an extremely strong voice which John himself would be jealous of, which is only done justice on certain tunes. His superior instrumental and vocal skills, as well as leadership of the band have made the Parrots world famous, and they have been asked to open for bands such as the Arctic Monkeys, who are huge Parrots fans.
Both the Johns are stars. It is the remaining members, and the atmosphere and food of the two clubs which separates them.
Akihiro Matsuyama, who plays George at Abbey Road is a delight to watch. The prodege of Yoshi, he is so precise on every note, and makes obvious effort to enunciate each word perfectly. Both Ringo’s have solid drums, and their vocals are pleasantly off key. Kame-chan at the Cavern Club has developed a cult following due to his average voice and enthusiasm. But the area where both these bands fall down is Paul. Such an integral part of the band, yet while both musicians are talented, neither are as authentic as the other members, which is a shame for those seeking a true Beatles experience.
In musical terms, Stippy rates Abbey Road as the better of the two. However it loses a lot of ground in other areas. The food and drink is expensive, and they don’t serve tap beers. 1500 yen for a bottle of Grolsch is just too much. The food is also expensive, and tastes average at best. It is the band which makes for an enjoyable night.
The Cavern Club has a more underground, crowded, and cosy atmosphere. They sell pitchers of beer at reasonable cost, and the food is all home-made and delicious. The acoustics reverberate extremely through well through the club. For atmosphere and dinner, Cavern Club is the better of the two by a long shot.