So, it's Beatles Day, big deal. No, really, it's a big deal! Think about it, what other band has earned their very own special day of celebration? That's right, no other band, because like it or not the Beatles are, have been and probably forever will be just that special. I cannot speak personally about any particular Beatles revelation in my early life, the best I can do being that in my formative years I remember reading interviews with guys from the bands I liked in magazines like Rip and Metal Edge where they'd always, always cite the Beatles as a major musical influence right along side bands like the New York Dolls, Deep Purple and Uriah Heap. I took note, but skipped the breakthrough introductory listen --- my excuse being that Mötley Crüe's version of "Helter Skelter" was enough Beatles for me.
It wasn't until the late 1990's that I finally got the message via Revolver. I listened to it repeatedly for, well, how do you measure time when you've got a new favorite record on repeat? I felt like I finally understood why that "Fab Four" band meant so much to so many and I liken the feeling to recognizing blind love for something after having lived so long in its shadow. I fell for them Beatles pretty hard, but I also kept it a secret. I mean, how would you break your fledgeling Beatles romance to a jaded herd of veteran music-retailer colleagues and still expect to be included in all their future reindeer games? My secret was safe, but one of my most precious Beatles moments was yet to come.
Fast forward to a humid summer night during the mid-oughts and a quaint little English pub I visited with some old friends and a few new faces while out on the town in merry olde Osaka, Japan. The Cavern Club, located in Osaka's very entertaining Umeda neighborhood, is a Tudor-style establishment imported brick by brick from old Britannia herself and features live Beatles cover bands every night and has been doing so, with ever so much attention to detail (haircuts and matching costumes, people!), for over twenty years. The deal is this: you pay a cover that includes a drink or two and then you sit back, relax and get your nostalgia on. If you feel so inclined, use one of the song request forms at your table to choose a song, fill in your name and where you're from, then give it to the waitstaff --- they pass it on to the band and, as the forms are blank, please feel free to request any Beatles song you wish!
I wasted no time in filling out my form, requesting my all time favorite Beatles song, "I'm Only Sleeping." I remember thinking that they might not play it and duly prepared myself for a bit of disappointment. I recalled those many times I spent searching for that title among the pages of Beatles songs listed in karaoke boxes, never once seeing it printed on the page as a possible choice. Besides, though the band had not listed a selection to choose from, how could they know every song in the Beatles catalogue? How could they be ready to get down and jam on any and every random "yes, please!" that comes their way? I'm glad I got all worked up thinking about it because when the band slammed, or I should say eased, into my request minutes after I turned it in I was floored by the quality of the performance. They played superbly with faces that shone with satisfaction for the music they made even though it wasn't their own. And do you know what? They even worked in that crazy backwards guitar part that happens in the middle of the song without any hint of force or awkwardness. And to top it all off, they mentioned me after the song and seemed tickled that my request came all the way from San Francisco. I was simply pleased they could read my Japanese. Aside from such lasting memories as bonding with friends over an a cappella rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever" in the back of a New York City cab to eavesdropping on a hilarious, long-winded argument between two people at Amoeba over whether or not it is possible to reduce the White Album from two discs to one and still retain the overall quality of the whole recording, the fondness I carry for that strange and enjoyable night at the Cavern Club in Osaka makes it my number one Beatles-related experience.
Here is a sampling of some live at the Cavern Club clips, but please do look this special place up if you're ever in Osaka (or in Tokyo's chic Roppongi district --- they have a second location there too) because, there, every day is Beatles Day.