Virgin Festival Preview: The Silver Beats
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The most interesting performance at Virgin Festival promises to be Chuck Berry with the Silver Beats. One of rock-and-roll's founding fathers being backed by a Japanese Beatles tribute band? Yes, please. The Silver Beats play regular gigs at Tokyo's Cavern Club, where the Killers saw them and then decided to bring them along as openers for a U.S. tour a couple years ago. They've since done their own tours and are now preparing for their biggest gig to date. Of course, that preparing doesn't involve actually playing with the notoriously moody Berry. I got Eric Mabuchi - aka "John Lennon," the only (mostly) English speaking member of the group - on the phone and asked him about this weekend's show and the best and worst Beatles tunes.
How did this gig backing up Chuck Berry come about?
We didn't do anything. Geno (their manager), he works so hard, that's a question for him, maybe. But it's great to play with Chuck Berry. We didn't know he was still alive! (Laughs.)
So I guess that answers my question as to whether you've met him.
No, never. I saw his gig a few years ago when he came to Japan.
Are you going to get to rehearse with before you play?
We heard that he never rehearses. We don't know what songs we are going to play until we are on stage.
Yeah, he just expects people to know all of his songs or else they aren't worthy of playing with him. So you think you'll literally meet him when he walks out on stage?
(Asks his manager if they will get to meet him before playing.) Well, probably right before. Geno says it depends on his mood.
Chuck was obviously a huge influence on the Beatles, so is it a real honor to get to play with him?
Of course. We couldn't believe it when we heard it. We're not so nervous but it is a great honor to play with him.
When you formed the band how did you decide who played which role? How did you end up as John Lennon?
We were brought together. We didn't know each other before we formed the band. I played John before the band. Paul played Paul before the band. So we didn't have to decide who to play.
Do you have a favorite era of the Beatles catalogue? Do you like the early stuff, like "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand"? Or the "Rubber Soul"/"Revolver" era or the later stuff?
It changes all the time because we do all those eras all the time, so it changes. I would say the early days.
What is it about the Beatles music that makes it so universal?
That's a most difficult question. I don't know. It's never old, always new, somehow.
Do you have a least favorite song? It has to be "Ob-La-Di" right? That's the worst Beatles song, right?
Well, I still love it! (Laughs.) I would say "Revolution #9."
That's kind of a cheap answer for that one.
You cannot play it on stage, so I hate it.
Have you ever gotten any feedback from the real Paul or Ringo or even Yoko about the band?
Never, never. The Paul guy we have in the band, he met the real Paul. But none of the other three, we've never heard anything from the real ones. We did meet Denny Laine who was the guitarist of Wings. We played with him.
Cool? So you're on tour in America right now. What do you like most about coming over here to play shows?
Japanese audiences are quiet. We really don't know if they like us or not. In American we can see how the audience is feeling. We like that.
You opened for the Killers. You must have gotten some weird looks when you were up on stage.
Yeah, first few songs the audience was quiet and they didn't understand what was going on. But then they went crazy.
How did you end up on that tour?
The Killers filmed "Read My Mind" in Japan. They just happened to come to the Cavern Club, the place where we play, and just asked us if we'd come to Las Vegas.
You mention Las Vegas, have you seen "Love"?
Not yet but we're going to Las Vegas at the end of this tour and we hope we can see it.
Maybe they can have a special show where you play, too.
We were trying to get it but we couldn't make it because we have to play at the Cavern Club in Tokyo, so we couldn't make it.
There are lots of other Beatles cover bands. What makes you guys stand out, besides your nationality?
First of all we don't speak English so it's hard for us to get lyrics. You know, Japanese people work so hard, so we work so hard for the Beatles songs.
I would guess a lot of the English you know is just the Beatles lyrics, right?
So what songs make the least sense? Which ones are just kind of ridiculous?
Um. (Asks his manager the question.)
Maybe "I Am the Walrus"?
I guess "Ob-La-Di" is a very weird one. Yeah, that one doesn't make any sense.
That one doesn't make any sense to people who actually speak English, I'll tell you that.
Is this your biggest show ever coming up this weekend?
Exactly, yeah. Definitely the biggest audience. We cannot imagine how it's going to be. We've never seen that many people.
You guys get your own set then Chuck will come out, right?
Yes, we get 30 minutes with only the Silver Beats. Then Chuck Berry's going to jump in.
Do you ever write your own music?
Some of the members have their own music. We're trying to make some of our own songs. But not yet. We're working on it.
Do you have a girlfriend, a Yoko type, that's trying to break up the band?
(Laughs.) Luckily we don't have that kind of girl around. We are lucky.
What do you think of Yoko? I always thought she got a raw deal. She's pretty much seen as a villain here, is it any different in Japan? Since you're the John Lennon of the band, what do you think?
First I hated her. But I had a chance to ... not meet her, but I got to see her. And I just came to like her. I understood why John loved her. I don't know how, but she's just kind of special.
By David Malitz |
August 6, 2008; 4:13 PM ET
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