Hear Haruki Murakami Play Beatles Covers on His Radio Show, Murakami Radio

Now ramp­ing up to a wide release is a film that will draw in no few fans of Haru­ki Muraka­mi around the world: Dri­ve My Car, adapt­ed by film­mak­er Ryusuke Ham­aguchi from Murakami’s short sto­ry of the same name. That name itself comes, of course, from the Bea­t­les song, their knock­out open­er to Rub­ber Soul. It was­n’t the first time Muraka­mi had bor­rowed a title from the Fab Four. The nov­el that made him a house­hold name, in his home­land of Japan and sub­se­quent­ly the rest of the world, was called Nor­we­gian Wood.

The Bea­t­les’ albums have also pro­vid­ed him with inspi­ra­tion, as evi­denced by his sto­ry “With the Bea­t­les,” pub­lished in trans­la­tion last year by The New York­er. It takes place in 1965, when the Bea­t­les had become huge­ly pop­u­lar in not just the West but Japan as well. “Turn on the radio and chances were you’d hear one of their songs,” says the nar­ra­tor. “I liked their songs myself and knew all their hits,” but “truth be told, I was nev­er a fer­vent Bea­t­les fan. I nev­er active­ly sought out their songs. For me, it was pas­sive lis­ten­ing, pop music flow­ing out of the tiny speak­ers of my Pana­son­ic tran­sis­tor radio.” Despite being a high-school, then col­lege stu­dent in the 1960s, “I didn’t buy a sin­gle Bea­t­les record. I was much more into jazz and clas­si­cal music.”

This sto­ry is fic­tion­al; its nar­ra­tor is not its author. Yet Muraka­mi, who hap­pened to come of age in the same era, made sim­i­lar remarks about his expe­ri­ence with the Bea­t­les a cou­ple of years ago. His orig­i­nal­ly one-off ses­sion as a disc jock­ey on Tokyo FM has become a more or less full-fledged show, Muraka­mi Radio. Each of its broad­casts he ded­i­cates to a dif­fer­ent musi­cal theme, and it was thus only a mat­ter of time before he got around to the Bea­t­les.

Despite his ear­ly indif­fer­ence, as Muraka­mi explains between songs, he lat­er, in his thir­ties, came to sense the genius of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, dur­ing a stay in Greece with their self-titled 1968 “White Album” on tape in his Walk­man — which, despite lack­ing its title song, inspired him to start writ­ing Nor­we­gian Wood. Apart from that mem­o­ry, the late-peri­od Bea­t­les fig­ure only sec­on­dar­i­ly into Murakami’s “Bea­t­les Night.” He focus­es instead on their ear­ly, pre-Rub­ber Soul work, or rather, on a vari­ety of less­er-known cov­ers there­of.

You can hear eight of those num­bers in the Youtube video above, includ­ing Lit­tle Richard’s inter­pre­ta­tion of “I Saw Her Stand­ing There”; “All My Lovin’ ” as per­formed by Chet Atkins and Suzy Bog­guss; and even “Tu Perds ton Temps,” Eng­lish pop star Petu­la Clark’s French-lan­guage ver­sion of “Please Please Me.” If you lis­ten to the actu­al broad­cast on Japan­ese video-stream­ing site Nicon­i­co, you’ll also hear such addi­tion­al Bea­t­les cov­ers as “Do You Want to Know a Secret” by Motown singer Mary Wells and “She Loves You” by Rita Lee of Brazil­ian rock titans Os Mutantes. Obvi­ous­ly, the appeal of the Bea­t­les tran­scends cul­tur­al bound­aries, as does that of the exten­sive­ly trans­lat­ed Muraka­mi. What explains it? Per­haps, in both cas­es, that they cre­at­ed their own gen­res — or rather, their own won­drous real­i­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 100 Amaz­ing Cov­er Ver­sions of Bea­t­les Songs

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Became a DJ on a Japan­ese Radio Sta­tion for One Night: Hear the Music He Played for Delight­ed Lis­ten­ers

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

Stream Big Playlists of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Vinyl Col­lec­tion and His Strange Lit­er­ary Worlds

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Day: Stream Sev­en Hours of Mix­es Col­lect­ing All the Jazz, Clas­si­cal & Clas­sic Amer­i­can Pop Music from His Nov­els

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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