I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wink -- Celebration

Vanessa took me a number of minutes to even recall the name. I initially plugged in Deniece Williams into the search engines, only to find out that she was the singer who had that hit, "Let's Hear It For The Boy" in the original version of "Footloose" back in the mid-80s. The target of my search though did, as I recall, appear on the American remake of "Ugly Betty" and a couple of episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". And of course, there was all of that early kerfuffle about her having to resign as Miss America after a scandal arose.

However, all I really had to do was plug in "Save The Best For Last" (January 1992) into YouTube, and out popped her name. I got to see that Xmas video of hers and then the most famous scene of her singing to the camera in black-&-white. And of course, there was the smooth chart-topping radio-friendly ballad which became a theme song for Williams.

I've bought my fair share of Wink albums during the early 90s, and "Nocturne" was my final purchase of the ladies. It came out in November 1992, and a couple of singles were on it: "Real Yume no Joken"(リアル夢の条件...Conditions of a Real Dream)and their cover of the kayo classic "Furimukanaide"(ふりむかないで)by The Peanuts.

However, I was rather surprised to hear a familiar tune done in Japanese on the album. It came under the title "Celebration", but it was no doubt "Save The Best For Last" as done by Shoko Aida(相田翔子). Rui Serizawa(芹沢類)came up with the Japanese lyrics, and the arranger was Satoshi Kadokura(門倉聡), but frankly, I couldn't really tell the difference between his music and the arrangement for the Williams original. I would have said that it was basically Aida doing karaoke...except that Aida's version was beyond-karaoke good! Although it was a pretty straight-on interpretation of "Save The Best For Last", I have to say that it was one of the better covers of an English-language song by a Japanese singer. In fact, it was the one song I remember from "Nocturne". For about three minutes, I rather forgot that she was one-half of a Eurobeat-driven aidoru duo that took the late 80s by storm. Good on her!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kaientai -- Omoeba Tooku e Kitamonda (思えば遠くへ来たもんだ)

Along with discovering new old songs via "Kayo Kyoku Plus", another one of my pleasures from my pet project has been discovering new old songs because commenters or my fellow collaborators wrote about or inquired about them.

The former is indeed the case here with Kaientai's(海援隊)"Omoeba Tooku e Kitamonda" (I've Come So Far When I Think About It). Commenter Ranawaka Aruna asked me about it on the one other song I wrote about the band, the graduation season favourite, "Okuru Kotoba"(贈る言葉). Veteran actor Tetsuya Takeda's(武田鉄矢)folk group released "Omoeba" as its 2nd single under the Polydor label (they had 11 previous singles with 2 other recording companies since their debut in 1973) in September 1978, more than a year before their most famous hit, "Okuru Kotoba" came out.

To be honest, I had thought that the go-to song for graduation ceremonies would be the only song by Kaientai that I would ever add to KKP. Happily, I am wrong. "Omoeba" was written by Takeda and the wistful melody was composed by Yasuyo Yamaki(山木康世), who was one-half of the folk duo, Fukinoto(ふきのとう). In the song, Takeda sings about a man at the ripe old age of 20 as he remembers what he was like 6 years previously when he was still living in his small town. He reminisces about that train track which ultimately led him away from home and that love he left back there, although he also states that he now has a wife and kid(s) and has been hitting the booze at night. Man, middle age already?!

Still, the sentiment is there and I'm sure that there a lot of businessmen in their 40s or 50s who would hear this song and get all swoon-y. And there is something about that melody that gets me all sepia and nostalgic for all those old J-Folk ballads. Incidentally, "Omoeba" was the theme song for a TBS drama of the same name starring Takeda in which he played a substitute teacher straight from Kyushu who had to teach at a school up in the northern prefecture of Akita...perhaps this was good training for him before he got that even more famous teaching role later on.

The song was also included on Kaientai's first album on Polydor, "Tsuirakuhen"(墜落編...Falling Edit), which came out in November 1978. One other thing...on how the group decided on its name. Apparently, Kaientai (Maritime Support Group) came from the first modern corporation in Japan founded by Ryoma Sakamoto in 1865. Sakamoto is one of the most famous folk heroes in Japanese history as he attempted to overthrow the Tokugawa feudal government in its last years.

Courtesy of
Rob Zabroky
from Flickr

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fairchild -- Sagashiteirunoni (探してるのにぃ)

Back in May 2013, I featured a song by former aidoru Yukiko Ehara(江原由希子), "Chotto Dake"(ちょっとだけ). Now, one might think that this 80s J-teenybopper was another one of those female singers who had her 5 minutes in the spotlight before fading into obscurity and ending up as a permanent employee in a company. However, Ms. Ehara merely slid herself from aidoru-dom into the world of TV tarento where she became known as YOU and has since become one of the most recognizable faces (and voices) on terebi for almost 30 years.

But during the transition, YOU also became the lead vocalist of quirky band Fairchild. In fact, as I mentioned in the "Chotto Dake" article, the above commercial was how I was first introduced to the diminutive but feisty lady with the Betty Boop voice. YOU was in this ad for tea-flavoured booze (and I say now as I said then....ick) while costumed as a polar bear rolling down the snow-covered hill (after taking a sip of the liquid?), all the while her song was playing in the background. I'm not sure how popular Kocha no O-sake became, but YOU certainly became the talk of the town, and it's one of the more memorable commercials from my time in Japan.

The song was "Sagashiteirunoni" (Looking For You), Fairchild's 7th single from October 1990. The band was launched in 1988 and was made up of YOU, bassist/programmer Seiji Toda(戸田誠司)and guitarist Hirokazu Kawaguchi(川口浩和). Initially starting out as a technopop act, it made the change into a more regular pop act in the latter half of its existence, although this particular single still has that synthesizer sound. It was written by YOU and composed by Toda with the lead vocal chirping about not giving up that search for the right woman.

"Sagashiteirunoni" was also a track on Fairchild's 4th of 8 albums, "Sekai no Uta"(せかいのうた...World Songs)which was released in November 1990 and peaked at No. 13 on the album charts. 

According to J-Wiki, the band broke up in 1993, and YOU has been on several programs stating that Fairchild ended definitively when bassist Kawaguchi punched out guitarist Toda. However, she later amended this by saying that the decision to break up had already been made and on that last day, Kawaguchi stormed in to vent his feelings via a well-placed fist before quickly making a getaway with his girlfriend at the wheel. Supposedly the seeds of discord were sown with an argument about the guitar-playing. I kinda wonder if Lennon and McCartney experienced the same sturm und drang...

The first time I got to see YOU in a regular TV program was "Gottsu Ee Kanji"(ごっつええ感じ...Downtown's Feelin' Good), the often hilarious skit show starring Osaka comic duo Downtown. Yup, Sunday nights were definitely amusing.

I realize I'm going out of bounds here but I just had to include this excerpt from the program since I remember seeing it in its first run. The point of the skit was to have one-half of Downtown, the volatile Masatoshi Hamada(浜田雅功)beat the tar out of one of the featured players in the show, Hong Kong, while both were costumed. However, in a classic Candid Camera switcheroo, it was decided that Hong Kong would swap places with someone far more famous and venerated without Hamada knowing. Be patient and see if you recognize the poor fellow....he, and his band, have been featured on the blog a number of times. All I can say is that it was the only time that I have ever seen Hama-chan humbled.


Creation -- Lonely Hearts (ロンリー・ハート)

This is a song that proved somewhat elusive to me, but whenever I hear it on some retrospective or on YouTube, I go "Oh, yeah! I remember this song."

Creation(クリエイション)was a rock band that first launched in 1969 under the name of Blues Creation as a 7-member group with Kazuo Takeda(竹田和夫)as the first guitarist with the late Fumio Nunoya(布谷文夫)and Hiromi Ohsawa(大沢博美)as the co-vocalists. According to the Wikipedia article on the band, Takeda was the "brainchild" for Creation which underwent a number of lineup changes, including at one point in the early 70s when the band was down to just Takeda and bassist Masashi Saeki(佐伯正志). Takeda himself took over as vocalist in 1971. The band name even changed a couple of times with Blues Creation becoming Bloody Circus for one year between 1971 and 1972 before settling on Creation.

Apparently, Creation only released two singles, both in 1981, with "Lonely Hearts" being the debut. I've only heard one other song by them along with "Lonely Hearts", so I don't really have the impression of them being a hard-driving rock band. Single No. 1 has a sound more reminiscent of 70s hitmakers Godiego: a good ol' laid-back feeling with a sense of folk in the music which was composed by Takeda. The Akira Otsu(大津あきら)-penned lyrics talk about a lonely young turk on the streets of presumably Tokyo looking for love but just as happy walking through the night life.

By the way, the actual singer for "Lonely Hearts" was the late Ai Takano(高野アイ)who had also been with the Group Sounds band, The Carnabeats, back in the 1960s. He stayed with Creation from 1981 to 1984.

"Lonely Hearts" was released in May 1981 and managed to become the 37th-ranked song of the year. The song was also the theme song for a detective show titled "Pro Hunter" starring Tatsuya Fuji and Masao Kusakari. Kusakari is someone these days that I see fairly regularly on TV Japan as a somewhat befuddled navigator of an NHK arts program titled "Kanshou Manual: Bi no Tsubo"(鑑賞マニュアル 美の壺...Appreciation Manual: Vase of Beauty).

To hear more of Creation's rock sound, you can check out the link above.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Akemi Ishii -- Nettaiya (熱帯夜)

I think that saxophone intro alone had me needing a cold shower. So it figures that this Akemi Ishii(石井明美)song is titled "Nettaiya" (Sultry Night). It comes from her 1990 album of the same name that also included her version of "Lambada"...the one dance that grabbed a lot of attention in Japan for at least half of my time in the mountains of Gunma.

Along with "Lambada", the title track from "Nettaiya" is one of the songs that stood out in the album. There is this sense that the music by Hideya Nakazaki(中崎英也)was a fond echo from another steamy ballad back in the 1960s, "The Look of Love" sung by Dusty Springfield (created by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and used in the first wacky "Casino Royale"; some have said that the song was probably the only good thing about the movie. Kaoru Asagi(麻木かおる)provided the lyrics concerning that torrid romance in the tropics somewhere. That famous image of a woman taking an ice cube and trailing it down her slim neck comes to mind as Ishii is singing away.

Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Dusty Springfield

Courtesy of
from Flickr

Hikaru Genji/Chage and Aska -- STAR LIGHT

While sifting through the various videos featuring medleys of hit songs of the different decades, I thought I had finally found something worth a watch when I came across this one titled "J-History"... the "History" part was in katakana. What came to mind first was that the video would feature Japanese music as it progressed over the years. However, it became evident that the "J" represented "Johnny's (& Associates)" when Hiromi Go (郷 ひろみ)Masahiko Kondo (近藤真彦), and the lot were shown. Turns out it was a medley on the hit songs from some of the Johnny's-spawned Aidoru acts from across the decades... I did not see the words "Johnny's hit song compilation" at the top right hand corner of the video at first.

Though it was unexpected, it was equally as amusing as well as educating. Before it all got boring in the new millenium, I have to say that the acts had the most pizzaz back in the 80's. You know, with fellas doing back flips and were actually dancing (no matter how cheesy the choreography) in weird outfits like their lives depended on it. You can have a look at that in the link above. And then we have Hikaru Genji (光GENJI) that up-ed the ante by having a bunch of adolescent boys with prepubescent voices prancing around and doing dizzying spins on roller-skates.

Despite me finding it odd and difficult to see all 7 of them (I can't tell them apart really) gliding around in circles, I can't help but enjoy their high-octane, disco-like, dramatic at some parts, debut single "STAR LIGHT". In fact, it's one of my favourite Aidoru songs... well, sort of. You'll see in a while.

The song was released in August 1987 with Pop duo Chage and Aska doing the composing duties, while Aska himself took care of the lyrics. It did really well on the charts, peaking at 1st place on the Oricon weeklies before settling at 4th for the entire year. In total, "STAR LIGHT" sold about 850 000 copies.

My memory's a little fuzzy as to where I had first come across "STAR LIGHT", but I think it was a couple of years ago during one of C&A's performances on Music Station (I think) in 1989 where they did a medley of their own songs and of course, "STAR LIGHT" itself. The Genji boys appeared, or should I say, rolled on when their hit came on too. From the looks of it, it seemed like the duo was celebrating their 10th anniversary.

To this day, I still find that C&A's cover - which I had finally found months ago - is better with the reason being it's Chage and Aska! Frankly, that's a good enough reason for me to prefer the cover over the original. Okay, but on a more serious note, it's also because I'm not used to listening to such boyish voices - a couple of them were only 14 at that time!

Good gravy this song is gonna be stuck in my head for a while.

The fan-girls must've gone nuts over this

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kaela Kimura -- Funkytown

Oh my was the best of times and the disco of times. "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. by virtue of its release year (1980) was probably one of the last gasps of disco. I had never heard of this band (from Minneapolis, Minnesota) and would never hear from them again. But they grabbed their 15 minutes of fame and squeezed for all its worth to worldwide success. I used to hear "Funkytown" all the time and then when Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part 1" appeared on the big screen, I saw Gregory Hines funking to it in the commercial...while he was playing an Ethiopian slave in the Roman Era (I did say that this was a Mel Brooks film).

Then, half a decade later, as I was watching local video show "Toronto Rocks" as a university student, I was introduced to the oh-so-80s even more kinetic cover of "Funkytown" by Australian band, Pseudo Echo....complete with mullets. I have to admit that I like this version even more than the original.

Then, when I was looking up material for yesterday's article on Takkyu Ishino's(石野卓球)"The Rising Suns", I came across Kaela Kimura's(木村カエラ)album, "ROCK" which was released in October 2013. It was an album of cover songs performed with artists such as Ishino and reformed J-funkster Yasuyuki Okamura(岡村靖幸). And these covers were of tunes from my ever-fading-past-the-horizon youth. There was stuff like Blondie's "Heart of Glass", Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"....and "Funkytown"

Ishino helped out on Kimura's cover of Lipps Inc.'s big hit, and that collaboration I was very keen on listening to, remembering their work together on "Jasper". And yep, it was very much as I expected from the duo...the Ishino techno touch along with Kimura's bright and slightly clipped vocals although both of them kept things fairly faithful to the original version. Then when I heard her sing "Welllll...", I just thought Lipps Inc. had come on back to the fold. To be honest, I was surprised that in the land where disco never really died...or sucked..."Funkytown" hadn't really got its due from the singers there.

The above is just a highlight video of three of the songs from the album including Kimura's take on A-Ha's "Take On Me" with Okamura, "Funkytown", and "Sunday Morning" with Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣).