Hole in the Wall: A Guide to Tokyo’s “Listening Bars” ~record bar 33 1/3rpm~

Joe Yokomizo

record bar 33 1/3rpm

“record bar 33 1/3rpm” is located in Tokyo, near Shibuya station on the route 246 side of Inokashira Line, i.e., the cabaret district. Furthermore, the building in which the bar is housed is also a cabaret building, so first time visitors may require a bit of courage to enter this place. But fret not! record bar 33 1/3rpm, located in the basement level, is a listening bar packed with vinyl treasures that makes you forget the surrounding outside world.

Let me cut to the chase: definitely go to this bar if you love ‘60s beat music. This place is the treasure chest of rare and precious ‘60s beat, to be more specific: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Small Faces—the bar has every single one of their UK originals here.

They also have the original press of The Artwoods—a band lead by Art Wood (Ronnie Wood’s brother), originals of Piccadilly Line, and just casually placed there is the masterpiece original record of psychedelic pop band (and friends of John Lennon’s), Grapefruit—this is where the record obsessed come to salivate.

That’s not all. Because they pursue the best sound possible, they also have a serious collection of singles. They went as far as supplementing songs that never came out as singles by finding them on promo discs. (As seen on the photo example of Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground.)

Of course, the bar is set up specifically for maximum enjoyment of the vinyl audio experience—to optimize the true sound of original press and mono. The quantity of records is 4,000 LPs and 2,000 EPs. Roughly 70% of it is rock, and the rest is jazz, film scores, and world music, so the listener can enjoy plenty more outside of ‘60s beat music. There is a notably denser collection of Three Dog Nights, Steve Miller Band and Cold Blood, as they are the owner Mr. Shigeru Ito’s favorite American bands. Progressive rock, metal, and hit song types, however, are not part of the collection.

When you visit this bar, I would love for you to enjoy rare treasures that you cannot find anywhere else, but also, the owner Ito-san’s mixing of songs. For example, if there is a harder song playing, and then comes a request from a customer for a George Harrison tune. A normal bar would go with the order of requests and play George Harrison right there. But Ito-san is more focused on the flow of songs, and he would contemplate the steps it takes to arrive to George Harrison from the current song. Or, if you request one song, he would follow it with songs that branch out from that same artist. Before you know it, you are experiencing a giant tree of rock ‘n’ roll while enjoying a fine drink.

Ito-san is also enjoying himself and sipping a drink while mixing the songs, so nothing is too complicated. But he is definitely thinking about it: how to get from this song to that one?  He is also thinking about the difference in sound densities from song to song, which makes it almost impossible for him to mix drinks, so he has hired a helper to let him concentrate more on his song selecting.

The bar opened four years ago. Ito-san used to work for a food and beverage related business, but at age 51, he retired early to open the bar. For this interview, he introduced to us his original copy of My Generation by The Who, a record from 1965. In the constantly developing city of Shibuya, this is a precious space—to turn up the volume every night and unleash the sounds of the ‘60s.

To add, the drinks are especially tasty when sipped while listening to Lo-Fi sounds of the ‘60s played on vinyl.

record bar 33 1/3rpm
☆Location:Shibuya Five Bld. byCOAST (Basement 1F) 1 Chome-6-2 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0043, Japan
☆Hours:7pm-2am daily. Closed on Sundays and Japanese holidays.
☆Musical Genre: ‘60s and ‘70s rock (especially ‘60s beat music)
☆Record Quantity: 4,000 LPs, 2,000 EPs
☆Approx. budget per person: 3,000 yen
☆Homepage: https://www.33-1-3rpm.com/

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