The Tigers, the biggest "boy band" from Japan's Group Sounds movement in the sixties, are now reunited after more than four decades and have just completed an extremely successful reunion tour across the nation. When considering the Bee Gees' popularity in Japan during the late sixties, their association with Group Sounds, known as GS for short, in particular, with the Tigers, whose label was Grammophon (Polydor) Japan, cannot be overlooked. You may find more than a few Tigers' fans among Bee Gees enthusiasts in Japan.
And so, here is a report we received from one such enthusiast who caught the Tigers in action during last year's tour:
The Tigers back onstage: From the perspective of a Bee Gees' fan
"Holiday" drew out from the capacity crowd one of the biggest applauses of the evening
The Bee Gees were revered by many groups who made up the Group Sounds movement in the late sixities' Japan. Quite a few of them covered Gibb-penned songs.
The Tigers often spoke about the Bee Gees in interviews. They also said, "In those days if you did "Time Is On My Side" by the Stones first, it meant the song would thereafter be considered yours and the other bands could no longer do it. That was like a basic implicit rule. So everyone was always on the lookout and trying to be the first to discover and do a good song," suggesting why Bee Gees' songs were part of their repertoire.
It seems as a band the Tigers were more oriented to the Stones' type rock'n'roll, but they had several advantages that kept them the hottest group in the entire GS movement, namely: Katsumi Kahashi and Shiro Kishibe's strong vocals, the fact that they could sing in harmony in low and high voices, and their adaptability to different kinds of music as seen in Taro Morimoto's statement that they decided to use keyboards on their records after listening to the "beautiful strings the Bee Gees used."
Quite a few Japanese music fans must have known "Under My Thumb" or "Tell Me" through the cover versions by the Tigers before they knew the Stones' originals. There must also have been many who first heard "Holiday" or "I Started A Joke" by the Tigers' covers and became interested in the Bee Gees.
When the Tigers got reunited and went on the road, there was a major competiton to get the tickets. Two years ago when Hitomi Minoru, the original drummer for the Tigers, joined the lead vocalist Kenji Sawada on tour, I went down to the venue hoping to buy a ticket from a scaler. I had no such luck, though, and went home disappointed. This time as I got off at the subway near the venue, I heard fans emploring, "Can anyone sell me a ticket?" and scalpers shouting, "Extra tickets, anyone? We'll pay you a good price! "
During the first part of the concert that evening, the Tigers only did cover versions of Western music, showing the "rock band" side of them. Their version of "I Started A Joke" inevitably reminded me of Robin and brought tears to my eyes. "Holiday" drew out from the capacity crowd one of the biggest applauses of the evening.
Probably because Tigers was also a Grammophon (Polydor) artist, they did a phone interview wth the Bee Gees for Young Music magazine (something like Japan's Tiger Beat or 16). They said hello to one another, and Barry was surprised when he learned how many records the Tigers were selling. On that occasion, they also promised to "do a joint concert during the upcoming Bee Gees tour of Japan." That did not materialize because the Bee Gees could not make it to Japan during the sixties; by the time the Bee Gees first set foot in Japan in the early 1970s, the Tigers had split up. If that had really happened, two big bands from UK and Japan sharing the stage would definitely have been something to remember.
I know quite a few Tigers fans among my fellow Bee Gees enthusiasts in Japan. I am also quite certain that among the crowds that filled up halls and domes for the Tigers this time, many must also love and appreciate the music of the Bee Gees. The thought makes me both happy and wistful.
Thanks, Sunny, for a wonderful report.
When the Bee Gees first toured Japan in March 1972, ex-Tiger Shiro Kishibe opened for them with his band Bread & Butter. Shiro at the time gave the audience stitches, revealing some interesting episodes about the Tigers meeting Barry in London in 1969 for their film Tigers - Hi London (in which Barry also made a brief cameo appearance). I remember he spoke of how overwhelmed they were at seeing Barry in the luxurious surroundings. When Barry asked them if they also wanted to try go-kart riding, they had to quckly turn down the offer as being from "deep Japan" they had never experinced anything like that. That was really funny.
I also remembered the Tigers were mentioned by the Bee Gees at the press conference during the Bee Gees' second Japanese tour in August/September 1973. When a reporter asked them if they knew anyone in or anything about the Japanese music scene, Robin reversed the question and said, "What about the Tigers?" Then Barry told Robin, "The Tigers split up." It was interesting to see how Robin obviously knew and remembered the Tigers, and it was even more interesting to see that Barry obviously knew or remembered better than Robin.
I do not belong to what is called the Tigers generation over here, and know very little about the band myself. But a quick review of the Tigers' history shows that the two bands had some similarities. Katsumi Kahashi, known for his high, ethereal voice, and for being the more artictic one, shared the lead vocals with Kenji Sawada, the star and "face" of the group. It was Kahashi who was mainly featured when the Tigers did Bee Gees' covers such as "Holiday" and "I Started A Joke." (I wonder who did "Words"?) He supposedly suspected the management's favoritism towards Sawada and eventually left the group. And the Tigers were no more... Being good pals and band mates, some even childhood friends and brothers, the Tigers got reunited after so many years...seemingly not solely for commercial reasons but because they genuinely cared for one another and the music they created together.
We can never hope for a Bee Gees reunion tour now. But we can still hope for Barry to bring his Mythology Tour to Japan. A show at a huge place like Tokyo Dome would certainly be nice, but I would like him to play in a more intimate atmosphere and do album tracks like "Kilburn Towers"...
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