“Roll up! Roll up for the magical mystery tour! Step right this way!” (lyrics from Magical Mystery Tour from the album Magical Mystery Tour)
This year (2022) the Beatles celebrated exactly 60 years since the release of their debut single Love Me Do in October 1962. I truly believe that the Beatles are the fathers of modern pop music. It is no exaggeration to say that they are the most influential band of all time, and if the Beatles had not existed, the catalogue of music today would be much thinner, and new artists might not have emerged (on a slight side note, I also highly recommend you see the movie Yesterday, which depicts a world in which the Beatles did not exist. It’s superb!) Even today, they continue to have a profound influence on musicians around the world.
Here Comes the Sun
“Here comes the sun, And I say, It’s alright” (lyrics from Here Comes the Sun from the album Abbey Road)
There is a place in Tokyo where you can enjoy the sound of the Beatles: Abbey Road Tokyo, located in Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The Parrots, whom I will introduce today, are a Beatles tribute band that performs here at Abbey Road Tokyo. There are countless Beatles tribute acts around the world, but it is rare to find a band that has been lauded as the “curious-est band on the planet” at the Beatles Convention, the world’s largest Beatles festival held annually in Liverpool, England, where the Beatles were born.
So, what makes them the most curious?
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
“So let me introduce to you, The one and only Billy Shears, And Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (lyrics from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Formed in 1990, the band started performing at live venues in Tokyo and later became the house band at “Abbey Road Tokyo” when it opened. All members are genuine Japanese. (They probably speak almost no English)
The biggest attraction of the band is their ability to play and sing like the Beatles while still putting their own spin on the performance. The original Beatles had four members – John, Paul, George, and Ringo – each with their own instrumental and singing parts, and the Parrots have perfected their tributes to each of them to such a high degree that each member can not only sing well but also play the Beatles’ songs with a comfortable, familiar groove.
The Beatles were a four-piece band, but it is said that there is a fifth Beatle, the famous producer George Martin, and in fact, the Parrots also have their own fifth member who supports the band’s sound. That is Fumin Matsuyama, the keyboardist. He and his keyboard are essential to the performance of songs written especially late in the Beatles’ career that even the Beatles never played live. This includes songs that cleverly incorporate organs, horns, electric piano, sound samples and strings, as well as the sitar, which often appears in Beatles’ songs and gives a magical variety and depth to the music. It is an important part of the band’s ability to reproduce the songs from throughout the Beatles’ career in a live performance, and the perfection of the performance is so great that it is almost as if you are listening to a recording.
Incidentally, the Beatles officially wrote 213 songs before they broke up in 1970, and the Parrots can perform all of them live. The great thing about this band is that you can hear sounds that even the original band never played live. This is not a mere imitation band. If the members of the Beatles could play on stage today without missing a single member, this is what it would be like. They are truly one of the best Beatles tribute bands in the world, and they will definitely make you twist and shout!
Across the Universe
“Words are flowing out, Like endless rain into a paper cup, They slither while they pass, They slip away across the universe” (lyrics from Across the Universe from the album Let It Be)
The Parrots have attracted attention from various media, including the BBC in the U.K., and in August 1994, they participated in the world’s largest Beatles festival, The Beatles Convention, held annually in Liverpool, England, as the first Asian Beatles tribute band.
In 1996 and 1997, they received official invitations from the same convention, and in 2000, they played the last show at the convention, receiving a standing ovation from the fans.
In 2007, the band played as a support act for the Arctic Monkeys at Lancashire County Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground in Manchester, England.
In November 2013, the band was invited to a private party for Sir Paul McCartney during his visit to Japan, where they performed for about an hour. Paul sang “I Saw Her Standing There” with the band and even called out “Hey Paul!” to Gordon Noguchi, who played the “Paul” role.
In January 2017, they attended the “Caroline Kennedy Farewell Party” held at the official residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan after receiving a letter of invitation and performance request from Ambassador Kennedy herself.
In fact, the Parrots are famous among international artists. Many artists come to Abbey Road Tokyo to see them after hearing of them by word of mouth: Steve Lukather (TOTO), Adrian Belew (King Crimson), Paul Gilbert, Bon Jovi, Jeff Beck, KISS, Arctic Monkeys, Stereophonics, Rascals, Jakob Dylan, Liam Gallagher (OASIS), Nora Jones, Sting, Backstreet Boys, and the list goes on and on, from major-label to indie bands. It’s not uncommon to see well-known artists jumping onto the stage with them and playing Beatles songs together.
“And, in the end, The love you take is equal to the love you make” (lyrics from The End from the album Abbey Road)
Whether you are a longtime Beatles fan or not, why not immerse yourself in the Beatles sound that continues to live on in the Parrots?
Which Beatles song is your favourite today? I have only been a Beatles fan for 30-odd years, but my favourite songs vary from time to time. Perhaps this is one of the charms of the Beatles. Right now, Dear Prudence (from the album The Beatles, aka the White Album) is running through my system as I write this article.
I’ve been working at a financial firm for many years. I particularly love rock music, including punk, progressive, alternative, psychedelic, glam and rockabilly.
Music has been an escape from this distorted often-surreal world since my teenage years.