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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Southern All Stars -- Chako no Kaigan Monogatari (チャコの海岸物語)

I have to admit that this song has had me scratching my head all these years since Southern All Stars had performed it at the 1982 Kohaku Utagassen on NHK. I certainly couldn't understand Japanese lyrics at the time, and it was my very first time to see or hear this band. They certainly made an impression, though. My parents were just scrunching up their faces and spouting some rather disdainful things about the performance. I just found SAS simply unusual and very unlike the other singers and acts, but even at that time, only the 2nd Kohaku that I'd ever seen, I did notice that Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)was going off-script with some blurted-out phrases. And on something like the year-end Kohaku, ad-libbing is simply not acceptable.

But let's go to the song first of all. "Chako no Kaigan Monogatari"Chako's Seashore Story) was released in January 1982. It peaked at No. 2 and ended up as the No. 8 song of the year. But that is where the normalcy ends. Written and composed by Kuwata, the song was obviously popular amongst the record-buying public, winning awards based on requests, but not the big ones based on artistic merit such as The Japan Record Awards. I went through the lyrics via, and apparently they caused quite a bit of consternation. They perhaps hint at a pretty torrid romance in a tropical setting, but nothing least not to me...maybe there's something between the lines that I just can't get. But according to the J-Wiki writeup, certain lines were actually excised from the written lyrics for the single in its initial release. It was also said there that this was a song that would've elicited gasps if it had been played in public to the extent that it was something that probably was liked and hated simultaneously. In any case, "Chako"was regarded as one of the stranger songs by SAS, but certainly not the band's last song to court controversy. It actually debuted at the No. 46 position, not exactly auspicious for a Kuwata-penned tune but it was said that the news surrounding the wedding between Kuwata and SAS keyboardist/vocal Yuko Hara(原由子) helped in pushing it higher. But it was interesting that when members of the band showed up on a music show years later, they remarked that "Chako"was probably the worst hit they've ever had.

So I'm even surprised that the very conservative NHK actually invited Southern All Stars to perform that song on the Kohaku, considering all the controversy. The Kohaku in those years still retained a certain formality (heck, the singers had to wear appropriately-coloured blazers depending on whether they belonged to the Red or White teams back then), and the appearance of SAS, their 2nd time, was probably seen as being akin to a bunch of drunken hockey fans invading a posh dinner party at a mansion. Keisuke Kuwata appeared in kabuki white face and loud kimono, proceeded to imitate lordly enka singer Haruo Minami(三波春夫), and spouted bizarre expressions such as "I am a god!"and "Pay your bills!" Maybe for the younger members of the audience both at NHK Hall and at home, it was perhaps refreshing in a strange way for SAS to shake up things a bit, but I could imagine the older generation (like my parents) picking up the stakes and swords and heading for Dr. Frankenstein's castle. And later on, the switchboard lit up with some major complaints about the performance which forced an apology from NHK. Kuwata, furious, yelled back that if that's the way the network is gonna react, the band will never appear again on the Kohaku.

(karaoke version)

However, SAS did come back again in 1983 to perform "Tokyo Shuffle", done in a "Guys & Dolls"musical style. Nothing harmful there. But in the following years, negotiations between the band and NHK fell through....apparently unhappily....and the band wouldn't show up again for several years. In fact, it would set up its own New Year's Eve concert opposite the Kohaku.

My thoughts about the song? Well, it's a pleasant enough tune to listen to...very short one, at that since at both ends of it, there are several seconds of waves and seagulls. And living in this year, I can't really make any fuss over the lyrics. But if one of you viewers can give me any further insight about them, I would be more than happy to read about it. Doing the research for this entry, I certainly feel how different the mores were back 30 years ago.

Just one more added piece of information about the song. Kuwata, who has that famous raspy voice, sang the original version differently. He was actually intentionally channeling popular aidoru Toshihiko Tahara(田原俊彦).

Wow! What one barely-3-minute song can do.

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