Credits

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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ZOO/EXILE -- Choo Choo Train




I came back from Japan after my 2-year stay there in the summer of 1991, but I was still getting some packages from my former residence in the form of old VHS videotapes filled with the latest in  music. One show presented this rather....angular-looking...group of young folk who looked like refugees from early 90s Shibuya doing a corkscrew version of the conga line. I first thought....well....Oooooh K....interesting stuff is still going on there. But the song did catch on with me, especially the intro when singer-songwriter Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三) is providing the chorus lead-in.

"Choo Choo Train" may sound more appropriate as a title for a kindergarten reader, and the English teacher inside of me may cry a bit at some of the lyrics, but it is a fun (fun, we hit the step, step) song! This can even get ME up and boogeying away. And the video takes me back when the ski boom was in full bloom. In fact, "Choo Choo Train" was the theme for the Japan Railways Ski Ski campaign push...I'm not sure, but I think the video was filmed somewhere in Karuizawa, a popular resort town.

The song, ZOO's 4th single, was released in November 1991, just in time for ski season, and peaked at No. 3 on Oricon. It also became a million seller. It was included in the group's first mini-album, "Present Pleasure" , released in December where it reached the top spot. In 1992, it became the 18th-ranking album of the year.

The group itself began in 1989 and disbanded on Christmas Day 1995. There was apparently a revolving-door policy when it came to members but the average size was 9-10. In the group, Satsuki was the lead singer, but a couple of other members also found later fame. YU-KI would front her own group, trf, in the early 90s, and HIRO would start up the singing-and-dancing men's group, EXILE, in 2001. This must be J-Pop's version of the X-Men franchise!

In 2003, HIRO and EXILE covered "Choo Choo Train" which did one better than the original by reaching No. 2 on Oricon. And it was also a million-seller. I'll let you guys decide which version you prefer.

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