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.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Checkers -- Namida no Request (涙のリクエスト)

Checkers were also another Kohaku Utagassen discovery. I just see these guys dressed up like New Romantics who were late for the party singing 50s Rockabilly. My question was "Who the hell are these guys?"

The answer was a social phenomenon. Once "Namida no Request"(A Tearful Request) got out, these guys from Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture probably ended up in every schoolgirl's dreams and record rack. One of my old friends in university who was officially a landed immigrant from Japan repeatedly played "The Checkers"on her stereo in her apartment while whispering the lead singer's name....like the wind.

Fumiya Fujii (藤井フミヤ)is his name, and initially, musical tributes to the 50s was his game. "Namida no Request"was the 2nd single released by The Checkers in January 1984. However, it was the first song recorded by the band. No matter....it zipped up to No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 4th-best selling song of 1984. The lyricist, Masao Urino(売野雅勇) (who has also written songs for that other big doo-wop group Rats & Star), got his inspiration for the hit from watching George Lucas' "American Graffiti". The song was also included as a track on the band's first album, "Zettai Checkers!"(絶対チェッカーズ!....Absolute Checkers!) which reached the No. 1 spot on the album charts. In fact, "Zettai Checkers!" has the record of having the most number of LPs sold in one week., which was attained the week after it had been released in July 1984. The achievement was never eclipsed right until the end of the LP sales statistic in 1989.

The video above has the band singing the song somewhat later in their career, their fashion looking like a cross between M.C. Hammer and United Colors of Benetton.

As I've mentioned before, my university buddies and I were frequent customers at Kuri, the karaoke bar in Yorkville. "Namida no Request"was a popular choice, and the above is the actual karaoke video. One of my friends and I just guffawed at the guys who were dancing in Yoyogi and Harajuku. We were wondering if the employment situation had been that tough in Tokyo....they really must've needed the money.

4 comments:

  1. Checkers was my introduction to J-pop and it was interesting to read about the Zettai Checkers LP sales statistics. The band was huge in my part of the world, and Namida no Request was a popular request on the weekly J-pop dedications radio programme.

    I think lots of young teens went for the Fumiya haircut and wore similar style clothing...they were that popular then!

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    1. Hi, yung.

      Japanese pop music was virtually unknown in my area of Canada in the mid-1980s so to even call it a niche genre here would have been way too generous. Checkers was therefore just popular within a tiny circle within my circle of friends at the Japanese club at University of Toronto. That friend that I mentioned above would just glow and get all gushy whenever Fumiya's name was mentioned. :)

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    2. I'm impressed by your vast knowledge despite living in an area where J-pop was virtually unknown. As a young kid then, I like the fun and happy image of Checkers and their upbeat, melodious songs. I thought Fumiya had pretty strong vocals for what was considered an idol group. To me, Checkers was much more than the typical pretty face idol, and I went on to collect all their albums.

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    3. My knowledge wasn't so vast back then but back in my university days, I had quite the thirst for finding about my favourite Japanese songs so in the pre-Internet era, I just bought a number of the Japanese teen idol magazines, listened to the "Sounds of Japan" radio program on the multicultural station and rented out a lot of videos of "The Best 10".

      Along with his good looks and the unusual fashion sense of Checkers back then, I think Fumiya truly had charisma and talent in spades. Plus at the time, I think there was still a lot of room for doo wop groups.

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