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, May 19, 2012

Hiromi Ohta/Eiichi Ohtaki -- Saraba Siberia Tetsudo (さらばシベリア鉄道)

This song by Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美) wasn't a hit at all when it was first released in December 1980. It only went as high as No. 70 on the Oricon weeklies. But at least for me, it stood out since it had that exotic feel to it, much like the previous year's "Ihojin"(異邦人)by Saki Kubota(久保田早紀)and "Miserarete"(魅せられて) by Judy Ongg which were actually big hits. Unlike those two tunes, though, that exotic feel didn't come from traveling in the more southern parts of Europe. Instead, the song's origins were based solidly in jolly ol' England.

In 1961, the British singer John Leyton crooned a UK No. 1 hit single called "Johnny Remember Me". It was notable for being the most famous of the so-called "death ditties" that had been popular around the first half of the 60s. In it, John sings of his haunting by a now-dead lover, complete with echoing female backing vocals. I've also brought over the video of the song below.

Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧永一), a founding member of the folk-rock band Happy End in the early 70s, had this exact song in mind when he composed it. When you listen to both "Johnny Remember Me" and "Saraba Siberia Tetsudo"(Farewell, Siberian Railroad), the similarities will scream at you. However, former bandmate and prolific lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) wrote far more benign words which talk about a lone wolf character and his lonely adventures in the famous area of the Soviet Union.

Ohtaki did a self-cover of the song a year later for his album, "A Long Vacation" which has become a classic, and actually became the 2nd top-selling album for 1981, just behind Akira Terao's(寺尾聡) "Reflections". For me, both versions sound like a theme from a spaghetti western.

Ohta's version was also included in her December 1980 album, "Juu-ni Gatsu no Tabibito"(十二月の旅人....December Travelers).

Thanks to the English-language Wikipedia for the information on John Leyton.


  1. I can't find a copy of this performance of this song on youtube, so youku will have to do. However, if you can watch this where you are, you should give it a try. It features Hiromi Ohta, Hiromi Iwasaki, and that remarkable singer Minako Honda, who began as an idol with Madonna pretensions, moved into rock with little success, then into musicals with rather more success, and found immortality with a final move into classical.

    I don't know if Minako's classical songs would be out of this blog's remit. However, here is a cover of her beautiful and decidedly kayokyoku Tsubasa by Hiromi Iwasaki.

    1. Can't really say that I was ever a Minako fan, although I am glad that she could find success in the last several years of her life through classical music, and I remember hearing her lovely version of "Ave Maria".


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