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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anzen Chitai/Yosui Inoue -- Koi no Yokan (恋の予感)

Anzen Chitai's (安全地帯)7th single was written by their former boss, Yosui Inoue(井上陽水), and composed by their lead singer, Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二), just as was the case with the band's breakout single, "Wine-Red no Kokoro"ワインレッドの心)late in 1983. "Koi no Yokan"(Premonition of Love) was released in November 1984, and peaked at No. 3 on the charts. It was also released on the album, "Anzen Chitai 3"which came out on December 1st of the same year.

Yosui Inoue also covered "Koi no Yokan"on his 1984 album, "9.5 Carat", as have many other artists such as Akina Nakamori (中森明菜)and J-R&B singer Juju.

And this is the video for Inoue's cover of the song.

Akiko Kobayashi -- Koi ni Ochite (恋におちて)

This tune got a lot of heavy rotation at that Yorkville karaoke bar we frequented back in the late 80s. A lot of the Japanese romantic ballads did, and even albums by Akiko Kobayashi(小林明子)were fairly common in the Chinatown record stores.

In Japan, "Koi ni Ochite"(Fall in Love) did even better. Released in August 1985, it took 7 weeks for it to hit No. 1 on the Oricon charts, and not only did it become the 3rd-ranking single of the year but it also became the 6th-ranking single for the next year. It was originally a theme song for a drama sequel titled "Kin'youbi no Tsumatachi e 3"金曜日の妻たちへ 3....To the Wives of Friday 3), but more importantly, it was the debut single and launch pad for Kobayashi's career as a professional singer. Kobayashi composed the song while the prolific Reiko Yukawa(湯川 れい子)provided the lyrics.

Kobayashi was born in Tokyo in 1958 where she earned a degree in philosophy at the prestigious Gakushuin University. She then became a secretary for a professor before working in a similar position for a music publishing company. Her very first work in music was as a composer of a song for the folk duo, Bread & Butter in 1984. Then came "Koi ni Ochite".

The aspect that struck pretty much everyone around her and everyone (including me) who has listened to her is how much she sounds like the late Karen Carpenter. Now, her voice is actually a little higher in register when compared to Karen, but the cadence is there and the songs that she sings are basically in the same genre as that of The Carpenters. Eventually, Kobayashi and Richard Carpenter were introduced to each other, and the result was her 4th album, "City of Angels" which he produced and provided backing vocals. The Carpenters are considered even bigger legends in Japan than in their native United States, so that couldn't have hurt Kobayashi's career.

There was an English version of the song that was released on her second album "Kokoro no Mama ni"心のままに...Still in my Heart) in 1986. The original as above is on her first album titled appropriately "Fall in Love". Kobayashi has been living in the UK for several years after marrying an accountant there, and often sings under the name Holi.

Hiroshi Uchiyamada and The Cool Five -- Nagasaki wa Kyou mo Ame Datta (長崎は今日も雨だった)

Some weeks ago, I had written an entry about the geographic aspect of enka, and my first city was Yokohama. Around the end of the 60s, there was also a kayo kyoku love affair with the city of Nagasaki. A number of songs were written about the city, and "Nagasaki wa Kyou mo Ame Datta"(Raining in Nagasaki Again) is probably the most famous one.

Now, I think probably a few people will argue with me about whether this is really enka, and to be honest, the online documentation supports those people. Wikipedia Japan labels this song to be an example of Mood Kayo(ムード歌謡) or just non-enka kayo kyoku. Still, I've heard this tune since I was a kid, and I just identify it and the lead singer, Kiyoshi Maekawa(前川清), with the bluesy side of enka so much that I just have to give it the two labels.

Hiroshi Uchiyamada and The Cool Five(内山田洋とクール・ファイブ)were examples of kayo kyoku-singing harmony groups that had been popular during those days. The group first formed in 1967 in Nagasaki. Uchiyamada was the guitarist and the other members, except for Maekawa, played an instrument. However on TV, The Cool Five usually appeared on stage without them, with Maekawa out in front. Maekawa himself joined in 1968, and "Nagasaki"was their debut offering the year after. It turned out to be the biggest hit of their career. Released in February of 1969, it broke into the Top 10 four months later where it peaked at No. 2. It would end up as the 8th-ranking single for the year. The song was created by Takako Nagata and Masao Saiki(永田貴子・彩木雅夫).

My biggest memories of the song is the sax and the earnestness of Maekawa as he sings his heart out.

Iruka -- Ame no Monogatari (雨の物語)

When I first started listening to "The Sounds of Japan"on CHIN-FM back in 1982, the first program I taped directly off the radio had the theme of rain. Junko Yagami's "Mizuiro no Ame" was the second song. But this was the first song I heard. Now, after having heard a lot of aidoru and technopop over the past year since my trip to Japan, "Ame no Monogatari"was a revelation. Iruka(イルカ) (nee Toshie Hosaka...保坂としえ) has this soft yet resonant delivery for her genre of folk and light pop. The bluesy electric guitar intro grabbed me right from the start which then led into the singer's tale from a man's point of view about his feelings for his lover during a rainstorm outside. And then the strings come in during the refrain which gives the song a further richer feeling. As you may tell, this song remains a special one for me.

"Ame no Monogatari"was released in March 1977, and peaked at No. 16, ending up at No. 34 in the yearly rankings. It was written and composed by Shozo Ise(伊勢正三), a member of the most famous folk band in Japan, Kaguyahime(かぐや姫), which was responsible for arguably one of the most recognized folk songs in the early 70s, "Kandagawa"神田川)。

Iruka means "dolphin" in Japanese, and Hosaka earned it after some of her friends noticed her walking with her guitar case and thought that she looked like the animal. I guess I had to be there.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Yoko Oginome -- Dancing Hero (ダンシング・ヒーロー)

Yoko Oginome (荻野目洋子)turned some heads with her 7th single, "Dancing Hero", whenever she came onto the ranking shows such as "The Best 10"and "The Top 10". She added some fashion flair and dynamic dance into what was the cover of Angie Gold's disco "Eat You Up". Plus, it didn't hurt that she had perkily pretty looks and a cute nasal delivery. "Dancing Hero"was released only as a single in November 1985 (though it has appeared on any of her Best albums) where it went as high as No. 5 on the Oricon charts and became the 12th-ranking song of 1986. It was the most successful hit that Oginome ever had.

I'd completely forgotten that before she became a full-time singer, she had been the voice actress behind the character of Miyuki in the anime of the same name a couple of years before. For that show, folk-pop band H2O provided the ending theme of "Omoide ga Ippai", which has its own entry.

(Unfortunately that LA video has been taken down
but you can take a look at her Kohaku performance.)

As for the video above, it's actually an excerpt of a video of her trip to Los Angeles that I have somewhere in the recesses of a dusty closet. Despite her costume in the video (that video has been taken down), I don't think Lady Gaga had much influence from her. In fact, this will age Oginome and myself horribly, but Ms. Germanotta was born a mere 5 months after Oginome hit gold with her song.

This is "Eat You Up"by the original singer, Angie Gold. Nope, never heard of her until I started researching for this entry. Eat it up! It was created by Angelina Kyte (which I'm assuming is Gold's real name) and Anthony Baker. For the Japanese lyrics, it was Hitoshi Shinohara (篠原仁志) with Koji Makaino (馬飼野康二) handling the arrangements.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yosui Inoue -- Isso Serenade (いっそセレナーデ)

Yosui Inoue (井上陽水)has been called a folk-rocker, which he is, but I know him better as a balladeer. He was born in Fukuoka where he was inspired by The Beatles to take up music as a profession. He debuted in 1969 and had his first big hit with "Yume no Naka e"夢の中へ...Into The Dream) in 1973. He also gained fame as a songwriter and lyricist for everyone from Akina Nakamori (中森明菜)to Puffy. And along with Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二), he helped create "Wine-Red no Kokoro"ワインレッドの心) which became Anzen Chitai's (安全地帯)first big hit in 1983. In fact, Anzen Chitai was Inoue's backup band in the very early 80s before their very first album.

Inoue has cultivated a larger-than-life figure due to his perpetual wearing of sunglasses, a somewhat eccentric personality (something that he shares with Tamaki), and a taller-than-average height in Japan (178 cm) for that time.

In 1984, he composed and wrote this haunting, atmospheric ballad called "Isso Serenade"(Preferably a Serenade) which was released in October, peaking at No. 4. It also appears on the album "9.5 Carat" which was released a couple of months later. "Isso Serenade" is the only original song on the album which reached No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies. The rest of the album are covers of other artists' hit songs such as the aforementioned "Wine-Red no Kokoro" and Akina Nakamori's"Kazari Janai no yo Namida wa"飾りじゃないのよ涙は), both of which were written by Inoue.

Mari Iijima -- Ai Oboeteimasuka? (愛・おぼえていますか)

The face you see above is that of probably one of the most recognizable figures in anime. Of course, it's Lynn Minmay(リン・ミンメイ )from the 80s anime "Choujikuuyousai Macross"(超時空要塞マクロス...The Super Dimension Fortress Macross). In terms of my ancient history with anime, Macross will be to the 80s as Yamato was to the 70s. Of course, my first exposure to the series was through the American adaptation of it, known as the first part of "Robotech".

Macross has come out in many different incarnations over the decades, but the one that will always resonate with me is not the actual 1982 series but the 1984 movie version titled "Ai Oboeteimasuka" (Do You Remember Love?). The TV series was condensed into a 2-hour cinematic epic with much more textured animation and more explicit scenes.

But the highlight was Minmay's singing of the title song. There was a similar sequence at the conclusion of the original series but with a different tune. It was an interesting contrast: this hopeful ballad sung by a space-age aidoru while the Mother of All Battles is being waged all around her. The entire sequence still manages to put a chill down my spine, as much as hearing the theme song from Yamato still does.

Of course, as all fans know, Lynn Minmay's acting and singing were performed by the same person, Mari Iijima(飯島真理). And "Ai Oboeteimasuka" will be the one song that she will always be identified with. Originally from Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, Iijima actually started out as the voice actress behind Minmay before becoming a professional singer in 1983. The Macross love theme was her 3rd single, and throughout her career has released 30 albums dating up to 2009. A number of her singles are on YouTube, and I'd like to give them a shot as well. She has been living in Los Angeles for almost 25 years.

The song itself was released in June 1984, about a month before the movie's release. It peaked at No. 7 on the Oricon charts and was the 38th-ranked song of the year.

The song was composed by late 60s former singer Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)who became a songwriter and record producer. Sadly, he committed suicide in 2009. The lyrics were provided by Kazumi Yasui (安井かずみ).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Naomi Chiaki -- Kassai (喝采)

This is a wistfully proud elegy. "Kassai"(Ovation) is sung by smoky-voiced Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ). The lyrics by Ou Yoshida(吉田旺)and melody by Taiji Nakamura(中村泰士)tell of a tribute to a dearly departed loved one but Chiaki imbues the song with pride and gratitude at having met this man.

This is Chiaki's most representative song in her long career which began in 1969. She was comfortable in both enka and pop, although "Kassai"would be considered a kayo kyoku pop song. It was a hit right from its release, having started from No. 7 on the charts and then reaching its peak of No. 2 the following week. It also earned a Japan Record Award along with sales of 3 million records.

Chiaki also became a TV personality and appeared in commercials. In 1992, though, with the death of her actor husband, she completely retired from show business.

Miho Nakayama -- C

Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)debut in 1980 may have heralded the start of the 80s wave of aidoru, but I'm not quite who launched the second wave. Perhaps it could have been Miho Nakayama(中山美穂), often called Miporin. Nakayama, along with Shizuka Kudo(工藤静香), Yoko Minamino(南野陽子), and Onyanko Club(おニャン子クラブ)among others, struck me as this second group of fashionably less fluffy, more stylish cadre of female aidoru when compared to their early 80s senpai. Still the music was suitably synthpoppy.

Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)was born in 1970 in Nagano Prefecture but was raised in Koganei City, a suburb of Tokyo. In her first year of junior high school, she was discovered in Harajuku by a modeling agency and worked in commercials and magazines, before her debut as an actress in a drama as a high school punk. As that same drama's theme song, she released her first single, "C"in June 1985. It peaked at No. 12 on Oricon and became the 67th-ranking single of the year. I tried looking at the lyrics but couldn't really understand what the "C" stood for. A couple of months later, her debut album of the same name would be released.

BTW, this is my 100th post!

Naoko Kawai -- Smile For Me

When I was watching my very first Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦)on TV here in Toronto in early 1982 (the original broadcast was on December 31, 1981), the top batter for the Women's (Red) Team was this cute-as-all-get-out 18-year-old girl from Osaka who sang "Smile For Me". She had the typical aidoru looks for the 1980s: short hair, fluffy dress and a snaggle-toothed smile (known as yaeba in Japanese, it was seen as a sign of cuteness) that an orthodontist would love.

Naoko Kawai's (河合奈保子)5th single came out on June 1 1981, exactly one year after her debut single had been released. It peaked at No. 4 on the charts and ended up as the 59th-ranking single of the year. It also earned Kawai a Golden Idol Award at the Japan Record Awards.

I kinda wished that there had been a YouTube video of her performing at that 1981 Kohaku, since there was a story attached to it. A few months before in October of that year, Kawai had suffered a broken bone from a 4-metre fall during taping of a program at NHK Hall in Tokyo. It necessitated wearing a corset until April 1982, but trouper that she was, Kawai still bopped around for her very first Kohaku appearance. Even the fact that she'd had the accident at the same place where she would be performing on the final night of the year didn't faze her one bit. She smiled for everyone!

Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Solid State Survivor (album)

Yup, this is one of the Rosetta Stones when it comes to techno albums. "Solid State Survivor", the 2nd album of YMO, was released in September 1979 and never looked back. It was only at the No. 1 position for 2 weeks in July 1980 but its popularity guaranteed it as the 2nd-most successful album of that year and Best Album honours at the Japan Record Awards. The album sold 2 million amazing feat. Interestingly enough, though, YMO never appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1980. Not sure what the story was, although I could imagine that even if the band had been asked, they probably would've politely declined.

Along with "Rydeen", "Technopolis"is one of YMO's representative songs. It was released as a single a month after the album had come out, and reached No. 9 on the Oricon weeklies. Although it was co-written by both Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一) and Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏), the latter was gallant enough to have the former given full credit. It's a love letter to the Techno Mecca of Tokyo, and the highlight is vocoder-inflected Sakamoto droning "TOKIO, TOKIO, T-E-C-H-N-O-P-O-L-I-S, TOKIO". The Professor even pops up in the official video as some sleepy-eyed alien with a crosshatch for a nose. According to J-Wiki, Sakamoto's repeated mantra was based on train station announcements.

"Behind the Mask"is another composition by the Professor that has gotten even more cachet overseas. It's been covered by artists as varied as Eric Clapton and The Human League, but the singer that got the most attention for it was the late Michael Jackson when it finally got onto his posthumous "Michael"in 2011. The lyrics were written by Chris Mosdell who collaborated on a number of the band's songs.  Mosdell envisaged a Noh mask and thought that it represented a technologically advanced but socially inert society.

Again, as can be seen in the performance video, Sakamoto is providing the vocals while his then-wife, Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)is shimmying at the second bank of synths. Love the suits!

Also, take a look at jari's more detailed look at "Behind The Mask".

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oricon Single Rankings for May 1980

1. The Chanels          Runaway
2. Crystal King          Shinkirou
3. Kaientai               Okuru Kotoba
4. Shinji Tanimura      Subaru
5. Momoe Yamaguchi  Shanikusai
6. Hiroshi Itsuki          Shiawase Sagashite
7. Eikichi Yazawa        This is a Song for Coca-Cola
8. Akihiro Takashima   Theme from "Hige"
   and Electric Shavers
9. Kai Band                Beautiful Energy
10. Sachiko Kobayashi Tomari Ki

Not all that much to say here, except that when the No. 5 ranking song, Shanikusai(謝肉祭), was released in late March 1980, just a few weeks previously, it had been announced that Yamaguchi(山口百恵) would be marrying actor Tomokazu Miura(三浦友和) and retiring from show business.

The Chanels -- Runaway

The doo-wop group, The Chanels, first started coalescing in 1975, when Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)decided to form a group with his high school buddy, Masashi Tashiro(田代まさし), and a couple of junior high school friends. At that time, the four admired the American doo-wop unit,  Sha-Na-Na, and another band called The Channels, and thus the name The Chanels was adopted. Furthermore, the original members wore T-shirts and jackets reminiscent of the gangs in "West Side Story". After the usual paying of dues and various changes in the lineup, one day, Tashiro was watching a movie in which the main character, a con artist, was done up in blackface. A light went off over Tashiro's head and it was decided that the main vocalists would also blacken their faces and don cabaret tuxedoes to impress the audience while the other members would remain sans makeup. By that time, The Chanels' membership had increased to 10 members.

"Runaway"(not to be confused with the Del Shannon classic) was the band's debut single as a professional unit. At the time, there were some interesting trends happening in popular music: technopop was huge, thanks to The Yellow Magic Orchestra, the second wave of aidoru started with Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子), and there was an interest in emulating American pop of the 1950s. Because of that last factor,"Runaway" became a runaway hit for The Chanels with sales in excess of 1 million records. The song also was at No. 1 from late April to early June 1980, and it ended up becoming the 4th-ranking song of that year. The song, by the way, was written by Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔).

A few years later, The Chanels would be forced to change their name since the cosmetics giant, Chanel, started lodging complaints. Therefore, the band became The Rats & Star...which is, by the way, a palindrome. As for the derivation, and I'm getting this from Wikipedia, it was thought that even scurvy rats in the bad part of town could become stars through the singing of doo-wop. Hey, whatever works, man.

Dreams Come True -- Egao no Yukue (笑顔の行方)

The very first video that I'd ever seen on MTV Japan back in the early 90s was the one for Dream Come True's 5th single, "Egao no Yukue"(The Smiling Way...erk, not sure about that translation). It's a cute little production with the then-three members of Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和), Masato Nakamura(中村正人) and Takahiro Nishikawa(西川隆宏) bopping around and making merry.

This was still early DCT, so the arrangement still reminds me of Swingout Sister, minus the brass and plus the synths. The single was released in February 1990 and became the band's first single to break the Top 10 on the Oricon weeklies, peaking at No. 2, becoming the 14th-ranking single of that year. A slightly longer version of the song was released on their 3rd album, "Wonder 3"in November 1990 which hit the top spot on the album charts, and quickly became the 22nd-ranking album of the year.

Hitomi Tohyama -- Our Lovely Days

Hitomi "Penny"Tohyama (当山ひとみ)was another singer that I had only discovered on leafing through "Japanese City Pop", and that was for just one entry, her debut album "Just Call Me Penny"in 1981. I did a bit of cruising on YouTube and found that there were a number of videos of her songs aboard and tried this one called "Our Lovely Days".

Lovely breezy adult contemporary ballad...and then I checked who had composed it. It was none other than Burt Bacharach, the composer of 60s classics such as "The Look of Love"with Dusty Springfield which was probably the only good thing about the very first version of "Casino Royale"with Peter Sellers, and "I Say A Little Prayer" with Dionne Warwick. I've scoured the Net but I've yet to find out how Bacharach made his little contribution to Japanese popular music, but if and when I do, you'll be the first to know.

Based on hearing this song, I went out to that little old shop in Tokyo, Tacto, which sells old and rare kayo kyoku discs, and tried to find the album that this song was on, "Next Door"released in 1983. I did find a number of her other CDs but not that one, so I went for the next best thing which was getting her 2-CD Best album for about 5,000 yen. I've only given it just one listen so far but the overall impression is that her sound is reminiscent of American synth-&-R&B of the mid-late 1980s...kinda like Anri(杏里)of the same period, so the Bacharach-penned tune is perhaps a bit different. But basically speaking, Penny was quite a ways apart from the usual kayo kyoku that was being released at that time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sing Like Talking -- Rise

Sing Like Talking has always had some great hooks to their songs. "Rise"is a funky number which has a great intro as well. It was originally released as part of the band's 5th album in 1992, "Humanity"which peaked at No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies, before it was released as a single in August of that year. It was around this time that SLT started garnering its legions of fans.

Aomori Prefecture(青森県) native Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)got his unusual name in this manner. "Chikuzen"is separated into two kanji characters with the final character, "zen"(善)being the kanji used in the names of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The kanji for "chiku"(竹)represents bamboo, and it was said that it had been hoped that the child who would become the lead singer for SLT would grow as straight and steady as a bamboo stalk.

Taeko Ohnuki -- Aventure

"Aventure" was the 5th solo album by Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), and the 3rd of her "French" albums, which was released in May 1981. It came in between "Romantique", her first full foray into a more European sound, and "Cliche", which mostly focused on a French style. "Aventure" had Ohnuki still extending into different genres. She continued to try French here as well, e.g.. "Ai no Yukue" (愛の行方...The Way of Love) . But there are also a couple of songs which have a Latin flavor such as the above "Samba de mar", "La mer, le ciel" , and a couple of minor, purely pop-for-fun tunes as well. It seems to have been a custom with Ohnuki that along with some of the sweeping epic songs that get on her Best albums, she also enjoyed throwing in some short flittery stuff. Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一)arranged half of the songs on this album, and just in the first song alone, there seemed to have been a New Music celeb reunion of sorts, with Sakamoto in there, former Sugar Babe bandmate Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎) handling chorus arrangement, the Daughters of RCA: Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), EPO and Ohnuki herself as the backup vocals, and YMO drummer Yukihiro Takahashi (高橋幸宏)also filling in.

The above is the first song on the B-side of the album, "Chance" (チャンス。。。when such things as LPs existed to a large degree way back when). This was the second pop-for-pop's sake song, and it's a fun little techno piece....could've made a cute theme for either a romantic-comedy or an anime.

The final song here is "Grand Prix"  (24:28 on the video below). Even the beginning of the song has the sound effects of race cars revving up. The arrangement is 60s French jazz...the song wouldn't have been out of place in films like "Grand Prix" or "Le Mans".

To sum up with a French expression of my own, "Aventure" is an interesting potpourri.

Not sure how long it will stay up but apparently someone decided to upload the entire album!
Also, there is the follow-up for the rest of the tracks now.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Candies -- Haru Ichiban (春一番)

Seeing that Spring has arrived, it's time to introduce the representative kayo kyoku tune for the season, "Haru Ichiban"(First Gale of Spring). It is also the most famous song by The Candies, a trio of women who had been working together on music-variety shows since 1972 until releasing their first single in 1973. "Haru Ichiban"was the group's 9th single, released in March 1976, and peaked at No. 3. However, the song had already been part of a 1975 album by the girls, "Toshi Shita no Otoko no Ko"(年下の男の子....A Younger Man), but due to the popularity of the song, it was given its own single status almost a year later.

The Candies' 3 members were: Ran Ito(伊藤蘭), Miki Fujimura(藤村美樹) and Yoshiko 'Su' Tanaka(田中好子). Even after hitting it big as singers, they still were popular on the variety show circuit, especially on the long-running  Saturday night program "8Ji Da yo! Zen'in Shuugo!"(8時だよ!全員集合!....It's 8 O'Clock! Everyone Get Together!) hosted by the comedy troupe, The Drifters.

Unlike that other big female aidoru unit of the 1970s, Pink Lady, The Candies left the stage still on top of the music world in 1978. Thirty years later, the trio got back together for a reunion. Sadly, though, Yoshiko Tanaka passed away at the age of 55 last year from breast cancer.

The Tigers -- Hana no Kubi Kazari (花の首飾り)

I'll be honest...I was never a huge fan of the Group Sounds period of kayo kyoku. Still, I recognize a few of the songs and I thought that I should give them some representation, too.

As Elvis left his enormous imprint on the world in the 50s, The Beatles did the same for music in the 60s as well. In Japan, the Fab Four planted seeds in a lot of young folks' heads. And pretty soon, before you can say Herman's Hermits three times fast, the Group Sounds era was born. According to Mark Schilling in his book, "The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture", one of the pioneering bands was The Spiders, a former rockabilly group, which released "Furi, Furi"(Shake, Shake) in 1965...perhaps a tribute to The Beatles' "Twist and Shout". 

Pretty soon, you had other bands with names like The Carnabies, The Blue Comets, The Tempters and The Jaguars. Then, there were The Tigers which may have been the most popular GS group of them all. The collective GS band members emulated that early Beatles' look of moptops and turtleneck sweaters and tight suits.

The Tigers debuted in 1967 with "Boku no Mari"(僕のマリー...My Mary). This song, "Hana no Kubi Kazari"(A Flower Necklace) came out in March 1968 and resided at the top of the charts for 7 weeks from April 15 to May 27. The lead vocal here was Katsumi 'Topo' Kahashi (加橋かつみ); he was given the nickname since he resembled the cute Italian mouse character, Topo Gigio. The other vocalist was Kenji 'Julie' Sawada (沢田研二)whose nickname was from singer/actress Julie Andrews. His career seemed to predestine the plot for "This is Spinal Tap" since he went from cute Group Sounds vocalist in the 60s to a David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust rocker by the early 80s. He's the one you see in the video frame before you press 'Play' in the video below.

The heyday of the Group Sounds apparently lasted from 1967 to 1969 with The Tigers disbanding in 1971. After that, the trend of New Rock came into being with bands like Happy End.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mizue Takada/Orquesta De La Luz -- Watashi wa Piano (私はピアノ)

I used to listen to an old audio tape that I'd brought back from Japan during my high school years. It had a mix of enka and mood kayo. But there was one song which stood out for its salsa rhythm. Kayo kyoku often included pop songs that embraced bossa nova, but here was one song which went for the more frenetic salsa. "Watashi wa Piano"(I am a Piano) was sung by Mizue Takada(高田みづえ), who had a relatively brief career of 8 years (1977-1985) until she married a sumo wrestler, the former Wakashimazu(若嶋津), and retired to become a stablemaster's wife at the Matsugane Stable in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture (only 10 minutes away from my old apartment by train).

"Watashi wa Piano"was originally written and composed by the leader of the Southern All Stars, Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐), for the band's 3rd album, "Tiny Bubbles"(notable for the cover picture of the cute Chaplinesque cat), which had been released in March 1980. It was keyboardist (and future Mrs. Kuwata) Yuko Hara's(原由子)first song as the lead singer. The song had also been set to be sung by another singer, but parties representing Takada related that she REALLY wanted to sing "Watashi wa Piano", which gives a respectful shout out to Larry Carlton and Billy Joel in the lyrics. Blessing was given for Takada to take it instead, and her insistence paid off since the song became the biggest hit of her career, peaking at No. 5 on the Oricon weeklies and becoming the 33rd-ranking song of the year after it had been released in July 1980. Takada's version as well as the original rendition by Hara has that salsa infusion but it is still very much a kayo kyoku song.

About a year before Takada resigned from show business, the very first Japanese band dedicated to salsa was formed called Orquesta De La Luz (Orchestra of Light) with the vivacious NORA as the lead vocal. In the summer of 1989, the band participated in a salsa festival in New York City where they basically stunned and delighted the crowds there with their mastery of the music and vocals. Their very first album, "De La Luz" in 1990 was at the top of the Billboard Latin charts for 11 straight weeks! If I can give any example of what a person can achieve that noone else had ever done, Orquesta De La Luz would be that example.

Their next album, "Salsa No Tiene Frontera"(There Are No Borders in Salsa) in 1991, included their version of the Kuwata-penned song as "I am a Piano". It's a wonderfully arranged salsa cover and NORA sings both Japanese and Spanish verses. I've provided the concert version here but there is also the studio-recorded one on YouTube.

Yumi Arai -- Ano Hi ni Kaeritai (あの日にかえりたい)

It's awfully hard to pick one best song from Yuming when she was going by her maiden name of Yumi Arai(荒井由実)in the early 70s. Her voice had been so mellow at that time which especially matched this song "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai"(I Wanna Return to Those Days)...a soft bossa nova-tinged tune talking of a woman's wishes to return to a happier time as opposed to her regret-filled present (probably would've made a great theme song for Mal, the femme fatale character in "Inception"). It was actually the theme song for a TV drama, "Katei no Himitsu" (家庭の秘密....A Household Secret) in 1975, but I think the song has become the much more well-remembered of the two.

"Ano Hi ni Kaeritai", Yuming's 6th single, was released in October 1975 and stayed at the No. 1 spot on Oricon for one week in late December. It had never been a track on an original album but was included in her first Best album, "Yuming Brand"in 1976. Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣) of YMO fame was on bass for this song, and the backup singer you hear right from the start is Junko Yamamoto(山本潤子), lead singer for Hi-Fi Set, the trio which often covered Yuming's songs such as "Sotsugyo Shashin"(卒業写真...Graduation Photo).

Listen to this song over a cup of herbal tea. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Southern All Stars -- Itoshi no Ellie (いとしのエリー)

Another SAS classic, this was the band's 3rd single and the song that got them noticed as more than a novelty act. A bluesy ballad, Keisuke Kuwata's (桑田佳祐)gravelly voice was a good match. It was released in March 1979 and then became the final track on their 2nd album, "Ten Numbers-Carat" a month later. The single didn't get the top spot on the Oricon but it would become the most commercially successful hit for Kuwata and company until 1992; however, the band couldn't have been too sad about getting No. 2 on the weeklies and eventually No. 11 for the year. The album also peaked at No. 2 and became the 3rd-ranking album of 1979.

Another interesting story behind the naming of a song here. Originally, "Itoshi no Ellie"(Ellie, My Love) was to have been titled "Kokoro ni Tsubasa wo Motsu Otoko"(心に翼を持つ男....The Man Who Has Wings in His Heart). However, on one of the music ranking shows popular in the 70s and 80s, "The Best 10", it was related that the final title was derived from a shortening of the name of Eric Clapton, an artist that Kuwata greatly admired. In addition, it's been said that the lyrics may have incorporated impressions of Kuwata's sister, songwriter and lyricist Eriko Iwamoto(岩本えり子). When Kuwata himself was approached about these two theories on a radio show, he basically confirmed them and added that he just liked the sound of "Ellie". In any case, I think this title comes off a whole lot smoother than the clunky original.

In 1989, Ray Charles covered the song as "Ellie, My Love" and sang it as the jingle for a Suntory Whiskey commercial. It became a huge hit on the Oricon charts reaching No. 3, and became Charles' most successful song in Japan. Other Japanese artists, such as EPO and singer/saxophonist Ayaka Hirahara(平原綾香), have also covered it.

Just a bit of trivia here. A pun was made of the English title for "Itoshi no Ellie" when the hit American show, "Ally McBeal" arrived in Japan. Japan's title for it would be "Ally, My Love".

This is Ray Charles' rendition of the song here. It didn't make any huge dents on American Billboard but, still when I listen and see the video, he can do no wrong.

Pink Lady -- UFO


I may have been a bit hasty when I dubbed Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) as the Queen Aidoru. Perhaps, it was better to title her as the Queen Aidoru of the 1980s. Or I should leave Seiko-chan as is, and then name late-70s aidoru sensation Pink Lady Empresses Dowager Aidoru. 

Seiko-chan may have had her bouncy moves whenever she sang her songs on TV or stage, but she couldn't compete with Pink Lady choreography. Even in the 21st century, most Japanese, men and women, know at least the first couple of dance moves from Kei and Mie's most commercially successful hit, UFO.

UFO was actually their 6th single, released in December 1977. The legendary Yu Aku (阿久悠)provided the lyrics while Shunichi Tokura (都倉俊一)composed it. It stayed in the No. 1 position for 10 straight weeks, was the No. 1 single for 1978, earned a Japan Record Award, and sold 1.5 million records. Unsurprisingly, Keiko Masuda(増田恵子) and Mitsuyo Nemoto(根本美鶴代) will probably be always remembered for this one tune.

Any other history about the duo I will leave to another man, Jeff Branch of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, who has this temple of a website devoted to Pink Lady called Pink Lady America. And no, it's not the same Jeff who co-starred with the the ladies in that horrible American variety show (my parents made us watch it because it was Japanese....geez).

My personal memories of Pink Lady were through VHS tapes and Japanese elementary school readers...and, of course "Pink Lady & Jeff" (oh, the horror...). But by the time I really got into Japanese music, the girls were already well on their way to disbanding.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Glass no Yesterday (ガラスのYesterday)

Ruiko Kurahashi (倉橋ルイ子)was born in 1959 in Hokkaido as Shizuko Fujimoto(藤本.志津子) Her first single, "Glass no Yesterday"(Glass Yesterday) was released in April 1981 and it was the template for her brand of singing for the next several years. She specialized in slightly European-tinged light pop songs and ballads which distinguished herself from the aidoru of that time.

"Glass no Yesterday"was the first track on her debut album "Without Sugar". The above YouTube video is of the original song, but there is one more shorter version that is arranged as a jazz torch song which was the first one I'd heard all those years ago. (Unfortunately, that video has been taken down but here is another version.) The song was written by prolific lyricist Fumiko Okada(岡田冨美子)and composed by Kazuya Amikura(網倉一也).

A few years ago, I had the great privilege of seeing her concert in Minami-Aoyama at a classy little place called Mandala, which is now her headquarters of sorts in Tokyo. She had taken a leave of absence from her singing career for most of the 90s, but returned in 1999. For someone like me who rarely goes to concerts, it was a special thrill to get dressed to the nines to watch a singer I'd admired for so long in such a ritzy area. She sang all of my favorites, which was pretty much every song including the one I've mentioned here. And the years haven't changed her at all. It was as if she were still 21 years old.

Mariko Takahashi -- Momo Iro Toiki (桃色吐息)

Released in May 1984, "Momo Iro Toiki"(Peach Coloured Sighs) has become one of Mariko Takahashi's (高橋真梨子)signature songs, winning a Japan Record Prize and earning Takahashi her first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen as a solo artist (previously she had been on the New Year's Eve special as a member of her old band, Pedro & Capricious).

What sets this song apart from some of her other hits such as "for you..." is its exotic rhythm and esoteric lyrics. As an example, here is a translation of the chorus and the first verse:

Bloom, bloom, peach-coloured sighs
When I'm held by you, I become a falling blossom

Greek wine, painted in the colors of the sea
Whenever I'm embraced, my skin takes on an evening glow
On the night we are together, though we start our journey
Noone has seen the country of love
They are lonely things, your words
They resemble the echoes of a foreign country, strange

"Momo Iro Toiki"peaked at No. 4 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up becoming the 23rd-ranked song of 1984. It was a track on Takahashi's 9th album, "Triad" which was released in September of that year. The song has been put alongside Anzen Chitai's(安全地帯)"Wine-Red no Kokoro"ワインレッドの心), which was also a huge hit in 1984, as examples of the genre of Mood Kayo.

Thanks, by the way, to for the lyrics, speaking of which, they were provided by Chinfa Kan(康珍化)with the music by singer-songwriter Takashi Sato(佐藤隆).

Junichi Inagaki/Yasuhiro Abe -- Long Version (ロング・バージョン)

It's 9 p.m. on a Saturday night in your Tokyo loft in Nishi-Azabu and you're tired of hitting the clubs. You decide to make a martini and want to put on a suitable tune on the stereo. You need not go any further than Jun'ichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一). Hailing from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture up in northern Japan, he's been soothing fans for 30 years with his crooning City Pop. 

"Long Version" was composed by fellow City Pop singer Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘) and written by Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)who has also written songs for Akina Nakamori(中森明菜), Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子) and TUBE. The title refers to the fact that a woman who has just had a one-night fling wants a more permanent relationship....a long version, if you will. When it was released in November 1983 as his 6th single, it peaked at No. 50 on the Oricon charts. It was also one of the tracks on his 2nd album, "Shylights".

11 years later, Abe himself did a cover version of his own song on his album "Passages" in 1994. His version is a bit different in arrangement but it's still just as smooth as a fine brandy. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saori Minami/Chisato Moritaka -- Juu-nana Sai (17才)

Although my very first visit to Japan wasn't until 1972, whenever I hear the June 1971-released "Juu-nana Sai"(17 Years Old), I get very wistful about those days traveling through Osaka. It's a very cheerful song about the typical happy-go-lucky pining for love of a teenage girl, and the combination of strings, tambourine, flute and her voice brings back a lot of flashes of memories walking through the streets of Namba Town in downtown Osaka during that summer. Economically, Japan was going through double-digit growth and things were looking very up, just like least until the first Oil Shock in 1973.

The song peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up being the 11th-ranking song of the year. It would become her biggest hit.

Saori Minami(南沙織), who was born Akemi Uchima(内間明美) in Okinawa in 1954, was a huge fan of the lead singer of the most famous Group Sounds band in the 1960s, The Tigers' Kenji Sawada(沢田研二), which got her to try out for show business. She and her parents went up to Tokyo and met with the president of CBS/Sony, who decided to take her on.

The origin of the song is a fascinating one. When Minami first met the composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平) about her debut, he asked her about what she could sing. She responded that she could only do Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden" which had been released several months earlier in late 1970. Anderson's country/pop crossover tune had been a huge hit worldwide, and so Tsutsumi crafted "Juu-nana Sai" with a similar sound for his young charge's sake. Go ahead....listen to the two songs. Mieko Arima(有馬三恵子)provided the lyrics.

Almost two decades later, pop singer Chisato Moritaka(森高千里) did a cover version with a Eurobeat feel. This was her 6th single and was included in her album, "Hijitsuryokuha Sengen"(非実力派宣言...Incompetent Faction Declaration) in 1989. It didn't do quite as well as the original but it still broke the Top 10 at No. 8 and was the 43rd-ranked song of the year.

Moritaka and Minami have something else in common besides this song. They both married celebrities with Moritaka marrying actor/singer Yosuke Eguchi (of "Tokyo Love Story" fame) and Minami wed photographer Kishin Shinoyama.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kazumasa Oda -- Love Story wa Totsuzen ni (ラブ・ストーリーは突然にー)

Well, you can't say that I didn't try. I was just listening to and viewing some random Japanese stuff on YouTube when I came across a video of the pilot episode to Fuji-TV's "Tokyo Love Story"東京・ラブ・ストーリー)...including the opening credits with the theme at around the 2:40 mark. Even the truncated version of an Oda classic is acceptable....even more than 20 years after the show had initially aired. Through the opening, you can get to see what the young folks wore and laugh at the fact that they were still using green public phones and telephone cards.

As for my thoughts on the song itself? Like a John Williams movie theme, "Love Story" acted like that tenth player on a baseball team. It's hard to explain, but it just seemed to enhance the topsy-turvy world of Kanji and Rika. And when I see the opening credits, I just get that urge to return to Tokyo. The song just seemed to fit the life of the world's largest megalopolis.

"Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"(Suddenly, A Love Story) was released as a single in February 1991 before being included in Oda's first Best album, "Oh! Yeah!" later in May. The single became the No. 1 song for the year and the album sold a record-setting 2.7 million discs at that time.

Oda, who has earned a reputation for not being a huge fan of TV appearances, finally relented and made his very first appearance as a solo artist at the 1991 Fuji-TV Song Festival(FNS歌謡際)on December 3 to sing "Love Story". (I remember watching the performance some years later, and it still gave me goose bumps.) I'm sure there was much watercooler talk the next day after that, and such was that appearance that the coverage was shown again on a Fuji-TV New Year's Eve special.

For the CD single, there was a small battle between Oda on one side and Fuji-TV & the recording company, Fun House, on the other about the titling. Fuji-TV and Fun House had wanted to make "Love Story" the A-song, while Oda, who was more partial to the other song "Oh! Yeah!", had insisted on making it the A-song. After a brief tete-a-tete, there was a compromise and both songs became the A-song...which is why the CD case has the same picture of Oda jumping in a tux on both sides but with "Love Story" in large print on one side while the same treatment is given to "Oh! Yeah!"on the other.

Seems like "Love Story" had quite a story of its own to tell. Now, if someone could upload that Oda appearance...

Junko Yagami -- Purpletown (パープルタウン)You Oughta Know By Now

(January 6 2016: I've gotta bit of a revision for this article that is now close to 4 years old down below.)

In 1980, Junko Yagami(八神純子) came up with this funky dynamic number as a love letter to New York City. Yagami had become known for her soaring ballads and Latin-tinged songs, but "Purpletown" takes it straight to the discos. The synths and the guitar don't let you down for a second.

Released in July 1980, her 9th career single peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and finished the year as the 19th-ranked single of the year. Yagami made her first appearance on the 1980 Kohaku Utagassen, and it became the campaign song for JALPAK, a group tour service under the Japan Air Lines banner. Apparently, it also became the name for a shopping mall in Kurayoshi City, Tottori Prefecture(鳥取県倉吉市)in 1981 with Yagami's hit as the official song. It just celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011. No word whether the singer actually visited it. By the way, while Yagami took care of the composition of the song, Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子) wrote the lyrics, and the arrangement was done by one Masaaki Ohmura(大村雅朗).

Well, let's bring things up to 2016, shall we? I was just browsing around YouTube last night when I came across one of my favourite AOR ballads ever, "Tonight, Tonight" by Bill Champlin from 1981. I found out that this was actually the cover version of the originally titled "My Everlasting Love" by the late Ray Kennedy when I'd assumed it was the other way around (I also have his version on a compilation somewhere).

Then, I saw off to the side another video with Kennedy titled "You Oughta Know By Now" which sparked a few engrams of memory, but things didn't quite coalesce. Then, I listened to the song, and I just went "Wait a minute! That's 'Purpletown'." Or at least a significant part of it was.

Well, that teaches me to read things more closely. I found out through the J-Wiki article for "Purpletown" that there was some awkwardness, which wasn't clearly answered in the article, as to who wrote the song first. But as the folks on "Sesame Street" often exhort, apparently Yagami's representing office, Yamaha Music Foundation and Kennedy's people cooperated, so that the singer now shares composing credit with Kennedy, Jack Conrad and David Foster. So now I realize that the "You Oughta Know By Now" subtitle isn't just a Yagami addition but a sign of their cooperation (or detente).

Tower Records

Tower Records in Shibuya 
An outlet in Shidome, near Ginza

Figured since this is a blog about old J-Pop that I should talk about where my old music haunts were. The prime one was Tower Records in Shibuya. I've read that this is the largest store of its kind on the planet according to floor area. I wouldn't be surprised since it has 7 floors with close to three-quarters of a million discs (according to the video below). Tower Records may have died elsewhere (like Toronto and New York) and rivals HMV and Virgin have died even in Japan, but it seems to be thriving in Japan with a lot of branches in Tokyo alone. I went there at least once a month to search for discs, and I often got my magazine fix on the 7th English-language floor.

As I said, branches abound all over Tokyo alone. This one is underground in the Shiodome City Centre, a modern commercial complex between Ginza and Shimbashi. It used to be occupied by the homegrown WAVE CD shop, which had been a popular chain in the late 80s and 90s.

This is what I saw whenever I entered the store. Enjoy Perfume!

Hiromi Iwasaki/Jackey Yoshikawa and His Blue Comets -- Sumire Iro no Namida (すみれ色の涙)

One of the other songs that had resonated with me and launched me on my 30-year odyssey with kayo kyoku was "Sumire Iro no Namida"(Violet Tears) by Hiromi Iwasaki (岩崎宏美). It was just such a beautiful ballad. Iwasaki started out as an aidoru in 1975, but it must've been evident early to producers that she would not stay that way. She has a voice that could only belong to stage musicals....and sure enough years later, she would play a role in the Japanese production of "Les Miserables". Also, "Sumire Iro no Namida" was her 25th single in 6 years, so she was certainly not lacking for work. Iwasaki also stood out physically in a year where a lot of the new wave of aidoru were getting cute Dorothy Hamill bobs or Seiko-chan cuts. She had started her career with a similar short cut in the mid-70s but by 1981, had grown her locks to waist-length. No longer an aidoru, she was very much a songstress.

"Sumire Iro no Namida"was released in June 1981, and peaked at No. 6 on the Oricon weeklies before ending up No. 45 on the annual single charts. She personally won a Japan Record Award and appeared in the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen where she showed her tender side by weeping into the second verse which got all of the other female singers to rally around her.

Iwasaki's heartful rendition, though, was actually a cover. The original singer was Jackey Yoshikawa and his Blue Comets in 1968. It was the B-side to the group's 11th single, "Kokoro no Niji"(心の虹....Rainbow of the Heart)which came out in January of that year. That single peaked at No. 5 on Oricon. (Their cover comes at around 2:45 of the above video)

Here is Iwasaki herself performing the song on stage. By the way, "Sumire Iro no Namida" was written by Yukiko Marimura(万里村ゆき子)and composed by Hiroshi Oda(小田啓義).

Makoto Matsushita -- First Light

Just for the heck of it one day, I decided to check out some of the entries in "Japanese City Pop" on YouTube to see how these musicians sounded. There was one entry in the "1980-1982"section for a fellow named Makoto Matsushita (松下誠)who hails from Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture which happens to be the hometown of an old friend of mine. Matsushita is also a member of the band AB'S.

Just by looking at the cover for "First Light", I kinda surmised that this album would be a bit different from the usual Japanese City Pop. It was an attractive picture of a busy intersection in LA. The video above is for the second track, "One Hot Love", and I was instantly hooked. It had a very Doobie Bros. vibe as the writeup in the book had said.

Track 5 is "Lazy Night"which has Matsushita giving his tribute to Steely Dan. He's not only a guitarist/singer, but an arranger as well. After listening to these two songs and a couple of other tunes on YouTube, I can say that he's not so much a City Pop artist than he is an American AOR artist. The two groups that I mentioned could perform these songs and not be caught out for doing a different artist's tunes. Matsushita has got the mellow groove down. And the interesting thing is that he has helped arrange the chorus part for songs by acts like Kinki Kids, SMAP and Masahiko Kondo(近藤真彦), all of them belonging to the boys' aidoru agency, Johnny & Associates. In addition, he's even composed or arranged songs for female aidoru such as Hidemi Ishikawa(石川秀美)and Maiko Ito(伊藤麻衣子).

I've never made a recommendation on this blog until now, but I can break the rule for this album...if you can get it. According to some of the comments at YouTube, "First Light" may be out of circulation.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Isao Sasaki -- Makka no Scarf (真っ赤のスカーフ)

"Makka no Scarf"(The Scarlet Scarf) was the secondary theme for the first season of "Space Cruiser Yamato"宇宙戦艦ヤマト). Veteran anime singer Isao Sasaki(ささきいさお), who also sang the main title march for the series, gives a wistful ballad here. The lyrics talk about a man, perhaps going off to war, seeing a young girl waving a scarlet scarf and hoping that he can return to see her welcoming him back.

In the original series in Japan, this song was played as the end credit theme of the Iscandar series, but when it was shipped over to North America as "Star Blazers", it was not included, instead having the main march played again. However, in both versions, it was played as part of the background music, and in the episode following the Argo's defeat of that big gun on Pluto where the crew was in a reflective mood, an instrumental of the song was played on "Star Blazers"with the English chorus of "We will return!"I used to get a lump in my throat whenever I heard that.

As with the triumphant march, "Makka no Scarf" was created by lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composer Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰).

Masahiko Kondo -- Blue Jeans Memory (ブルー・ジーンズ・メモリー)

During that graduation trip to Japan in 1981 as I was walking the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, I often saw these huge posters of these 3 teenage boys posing cute with the katakana underneath "Blue Jeans Memory".

This was the Tanokin Trio(たのきんトリオ), the name being derived from the first characters of the boys' last names: Toshihiko Tahara(原俊彦), Yoshio Nomura(村義男) and Masahiko Kondo(藤雅彦)...the first character in Kondo's name can also be read as "Kin". All three of them came from the huge talent agency Johnny & Associates(ジャニーズ事務所), who represent the current (not-so-)boy bands SMAP and Arashi. The Trio was never the official name since they didn't so much perform together musically but first appeared together in the high school drama "San-nen B-Gumi Kinpachi Sensei"(3年B組金八先生....Mr. Kinpachi of 3B)and then just stuck together in a few more projects before "Blue Jeans"came along. According to J-Wiki, the boys' image were meant to evoke memories of the previous generation of Johnny's boy idols: Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ), Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹) and Goro Noguchi(野口五郎)who were known collectively as the Shin Gosanke (新御三家...The New Big Three).

The theme song, "Blue Jeans Memory" was sung by Kondo, or as he is known by fans, Matchy. It was his 3rd single and was a huge success. I remember a couple of my classmates from Japanese school playing the tape of the song over and over again when we all returned to Toronto. It hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies, and was the 11th-ranking single of 1981. In fact, Matchy's first four singles ended up in the Top 30 of the year (3rd, 11th, 20th and 21st), and all of them peaked at either 1 or 2 in the weeklies.

I may have categorized the song as "aidoru" but it comes off as an electric guitar-based rock fest. The fellow, tuberomeotap, who uploaded his video certainly thought so. There was also one line that left the biggest impression: "Sayonara nante...ienai yo....BAKAYARO!"さよならなんて。。。言えないよ。。。バカヤロ!"I can't say something like goodbye.....FxxK!" Well, I'm not sure if Matchy meant to be quite that profane....

Anyways, keep on rockin'.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oricon Single Rankings for March 1990

1. Lindberg                  Ima Sugu Kiss Me
2. Dreams Come True   Egao no Yukue
3. Hiroshi Takano          Niji no Miyako e
4. Rie Miyazawa           NO TITLIST
5. Kyoko Koizumi          Minogashite Kure yo
6. Diana Ross              If We Hold On Together
7. Hideaki Tokunaga      Yume wo Shinjite
8. Go-Bangs               Ai ni Kite I Need You
9. Jitterin' Jinn           Present
10. Hikaru Genji           Kooya no Megalopolis

An interesting mix of the 80s vets (Kyon-kyon, Hikaru Genji) with some of the 90s newbies (Jitterin' Jinn, Dreams Come True). I do have Miyazawa's "NO TITLIST"(no giggling at the title, please); I've listened to it....once.