I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Crazy Cats -- Musekinin Ichidai Otoko(無責任一代男)

The last time I wrote about the comical band Hajime Hana & Crazy Cats(ハナ肇とクレージーキャッツ), it was for a B-side called "Hai Sore Made yo"(ハイそれまでヨ)which also made its way into one of their movies "Nippon Musekinin Jidai"(ニッポン無責任時代...Japan's Irresponsible Generation)which had come out in 1962. The trailer above was interesting to view since Cats vocalist Hitoshi Ueki(植木等)who had the lead role of Hitoshi Taira(平均)looked like a rather nerdy type but with a personality that would more match that of a juvenile delinquent.

Well, that B-side was on the other side of the main song, the theme for the movie itself "Musekinin Ichidai Otoko" (Irresponsible Man of His Generation) also sung by Ueki. Created by the same duo behind "Hai Sore Made yo", lyricist Yukio Oshima(青島幸男)and composer Hiroaki Hagiwara(萩原哲晶), it's a Crazy Cats comical march with Ueki no doubt touting the slacker life. Incidentally, this was also the Cats' 3rd single, and both it and the movie were big hits.

Despite his unrepentant lackadaisical character from the movie, Ueki cut a dapper silver fox figure on the stage, didn't he? I think the above is his appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen doing a medley of Crazy Cats' hits and "Musekinin Ichidai Otoko" comes in shortly after the 45-second mark here.

As I mentioned above, the song was a big hit for Crazy Cats and according to a biography on Ueki by author Juugatsu Toi(戸井十月), it made quite an impact on the postwar baby boomer men of that time, although I think that considering what happened to Japan during and afterwards, not a lot of those guys became Hitoshi Taira. Also from the J-Wiki article on the song, according to lyricist and future Tokyo governor Aoshima, "Musekinin Ichidai Otoko" had a profound effect on comics such as Tamori(タモリ)and Beat Takeshi(ビートたけし)with the latter's view of the world turned upside down. The song would also make an appearance in the Cats' 2nd movie, "Nippon Musekinin Yaro"(ニッポン無責任野郎...Japan's Irresponsible S.O.B.)which was released in December 1962, just 5 months following the first movie.

The Oricon charts hadn't existed at that time, but if they had, I'm pretty certain that the song would have hit the top spot.

Kenichi Asai -- Motor City

After all was said and done once we had caught the finales of the anime from Summer 2019, my friend and I were somewhat ruefully wondering whether Fall 2019's stock would be a bit sparse in terms of shows that we would like to watch. We were happy to see the zany gang from "Boku-tachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai"(ぼくたちは勉強ができない)back in action for a second season, and there is something nice with "Hōkago Saikoro Kurabu"(放課後さいころ倶楽部...After School Dice Club)...that Marrakech game looked pretty interesting. Of course, "En En no Shouboutai"(炎炎ノ消防隊)is continuing its run. Plus, there is "Kandagawa Jet Girls"(神田川JET GIRLS)which seems to be a raunchy mix of "Keijo!!!!!!!!"(競女!!!!!!!!)and "Two-Car" (hopefully, it will be satisfying along the lines of the former rather than the latter).

However, we did get some hope of maybe some more good things to come after watching the premiere of a cyberpunk noir titled "No Guns Life"(ノー・ガンズ・ライフ)back on Sunday. I liked "Blade Runner", and I've enjoyed the separate genres of future dystopia and film noir from the 1940s, so seeing "No Guns Life" especially with Space Dandy himself, Junichi Suwabe(諏訪部順一), starring as the literally hard-as-nails, seen-it-all, heard-it-all detective Juzo Inui(乾十三)made for an intriguing experience. He strikes quite the figure, especially with a gun for a head (maybe his English name is Peter...har de har). The only thing missing was a Mickey Spillane voice over but I think Inui has been handling that part well enough.

It's not bluesy jazz but the opening theme "Motor City" by Blankey Jet City vocalist/songwriter Kenichi Asai(浅井健一)is still pretty darn good. There's something even kinda 1980s rock about this one although I currently can't think of a band from that era that "Motor City" reminds me of. As with a lot of anison that hits me as potentially earworm-y in the early part of an anime season, I often don't wait for the full version but just go ahead with the truncated version within the opening credits, so once again here I go.

There must be something about a detective-based anime that attracts some good hard-driving tunes. Along with "No Guns Life", I've been reminded of the theme songs from "City Hunter" and last year's "Double Decker". Looking forward to some more of this show.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Yujiro Ishihara -- Nageki no Melody(嘆きのメロディー)

It's been a good long while since the last Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)kayo so I figure it is time to put on that trench coat, stick a cigarette between the lips and grab two fingers of scotch.

"Nageki no Melody" (Melody of Lament) is a tango-esque waltz of a Mood Kayo that fits the Tough Guy to a tee. Released in February 1984, it's a typical Ishihara kayo of the 1970s and 1980s in that there is that haunting female background vocal sounding like the cold wind hammering away at a fellow's back, the silky strings, the French accordion and, of course, the Tough Guy's tender vocals. As the title attests, Toyohisa Araki's(荒木とよひさ)lyrics talk about a palooka heading down the Avenue of Broken Hearts and perhaps entering into some hole in the wall for a good slug of Old Parr while bending the bartender's ear. Takashi Miki(三木たかし)was responsible for the shibui music.

I'm not sure if it ever was but I wouldn't be surprised if "Nageki no Melody" had been used as the ending theme for one of Ishihara's cop shows. In any case, this is one for the bars in Akasaka or Ginza.

Satoko Shimonari -- Tameiki Avenue(ためいきアベニュー)

I guess that this would be the ideal autumn-flavoured City Pop tune.


"Tameiki Avenue" (Avenue of Sighs) indeed has the right tone right in its title. Satoko Shimonari's(下成佐登子)5th single from October 1981 is all about the quiet after the storm that was a sad breakup to a relationship, and isn't autumn the ideal time for the death of romance according to kayo tradition? However, the lyrics are buoyed by a fairly lighthearted bossa melody and Shimonari's delivery, and the combination is such that this could be covered nicely as well by another New Music/City Pop veteran, Junko Yagami(八神純子). Shimonari was responsible for the music while Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ)took care of the lyrics.

The song is also a track on Shimonari's debut album "Aki no Ichi Nichi"(秋の一日)from  November 1981. The title track is something that I covered a couple of years ago and is much more folksy in sound. In addition, my first purchase of anything by the singer is her 1987 album "Keep In Touch", and the music there is more of a late 1980s contemporary pop release. Just from the tracks "Aki no Ichi Nichi" and today's "Tameiki Avenue", then, I would like to get my hands on the debut album for the contrast in the sound between the two albums.

Lyrics for Minako Yoshida's "Midnight Driver"?

Received an inquiry from fellow City Pop fan citypoper 234 last night regarding Minako Yoshida's(吉田美奈子)"Midnight Driver" from her 1980 album "Monochrome". Apparently searching for the lyrics for the song online has been fruitless and I myself don't own the album...yet so I can't really assist there. However, if there is at least one of you who may have "Monochrome" and can send a copy of the lyrics via the Contact Form on the right side of the blog (or even in the Comments section) or let me know of a site that actually has the words, then that would be great.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Izumi Kobayashi & Flying Mimi Band -- ORANGE SKY-Endless Summer-

Considering that we folks in America, Canada and Japan are getting back to the rat race after our respective long weekends, the temperatures are getting cooler and the days are getting shorter, perhaps at least some of us are wishing for the summer to miraculously return.

Probably not going to happen but maybe listening to this particular album can provide some seasonal salvation. This is the March 1978 release by singer-songwriter/keyboardist Izumi Kobayashi(小林泉美)and her Flying Mimi Band with their first of two albums "ORANGE SKY -- Endless Summer --". This LP should lend a goodly dollop of warmth and sun and tropical cocktails to last you a few hours.

Right from the beginning is "Santa Monica no Yoake"(サンタモニカの夜明け...Santa Monica Sunrise), an instrumental track that begins with some early 1970s wacka-wacka funk before it dives into a thrilling jazz piano-led ride and then an epic rock/fusion piece. To me, despite the year of release, the song sounds even more ahead of its time especially in the jazzier sections. In the end, it makes me want to do a Google Maps tour of the actual beachfront city.

At 8:54 is "Soyo Soyo"(そよそよ...Soft Winds)which brings things back to some 1970s New Music in the tropics, with the start of each refrain reminding me of an old Tulip(チューリップ)song. Plus, we get Kobayashi's high vocals which are reminiscent of similarly-toned Akiko Kosaka(小坂明子). Welcome to an early example of Resort Pop.

Speaking of refrain beginnings reminding me of other songs, the start of "Coffee"(コーヒー)at 16:46 has me thinking of an old Carpenters tune. Instead of breakfast, though, this "Coffee" seems to be the type of song that is best listened to over an early evening cup of joe, particularly when that saxophone solo comes into play.

"My Beach Samba" (27:21) happens to also be a track on one of my "Light Mellow" CDs and it was released as Kobayashi's debut single back in August 1977. Her voice goes particularly high here as this very 70s City Pop/Resort Pop simply enjoys itself so much that listeners would be forgiven if they decided to book their tickets for Hawaii or Saipan right now.

My final entry here is "Yuugure Toki no Koibito-tachi"(夕ぐれ時の恋人たち...Twilight Lovers)at 37:35 starting with Kobayashi's high tones and a ukelele tackling a wistful old-timey number. I can imagine those titular romancers walking along the beach sporting parasols and pork-pie hats and suspenders. Her voice has me thinking New Wave Miharu Koshi(コシミハル)in spite of the sound of the song. But that surf rolling in at the end is loud enough to be a bit too ferocious.

Looks like "ORANGE SKY" has got some fine variety in there that I will see if I can get my own copy, and Tower Records seems to have a supply of the album.

Junko Mihara -- Sunnyside Connection(サニーサイド・コネクション)

Last night, just for the heck of it, I looked up the expression contralto on Wikipedia and found out that it was the lowest singing voice type for women when compared to the higher soprano and mezzo-soprano voices. According to this YouTube video, singers such as Cher and Annie Lennox have the contralto voice. I think that when it comes to Japanese popular singers, Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)especially after her first few aidoru years and Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)pop up in my head. Perhaps Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)is a mezzo-soprano?

Junko Mihara(三原順子)was a singer that I would also classify as having a voice which is pretty deep. That was certainly the case when I first heard her perform "Honki de Love Me Good"(ホンキでLove Me Good) on the 1982 Kohaku Utagassen. And some further proof in the pudding was provided from this song, her 4th single from May 1981, "Sunnyside Connection".

In fact, listening to Mihara's contralto, I thought of the aforementioned Cher although I realize that this was never a type of song that Cher had ever tackled. Actually "Sunnyside Connection" struck me in terms of the arrangement as a driving song that Akina Nakamori would tackle early in her career. That wailing electric guitar and that piping synthesizer got me rather nostalgic. Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)provided the words while Kazuya Amikura(網倉一也)took care of the music for this single that peaked at No. 14.

As for Mihara right now, she's still a member of the Japanese Parliament.