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, August 9, 2012

Pedro & Capricious/Naomi Chiaki -- Go-ban Gai no Mari e (五番街のマリーへ)

Another evergreen kayo kyoku which can soothe all but the most jaded listener. I first heard it when I got a concert audio tape of Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)in the early 80s. I later found out that she had sung it much earlier in 1973 when she was the 2nd female vocalist for the versatile band Pedro & Capricious. Founded by Pedro Umemura(ペドロ梅村)in 1971, his band can perform folk, Latin, jazz and adult contemporary...shades of Santana.The membership has regularly changed over the years, especially the main vocal who is always a woman. The first vocal, the late Yoko Maeno(前野耀子), performed from 1971 to 1973, after which Mariko Takahashi (known then just as Mari Takahashi) took over as vocal for the next 5 years before she herself went solo. The band still continues to perform regularly even today with their 5th-generation vocalist, Mika Sakurai(桜井美香).

But it was during Mariko Takahashi's time with Pedro & Capricious that their definitive hits came out. "Go-ban Gai no Mari e"(To Mary of 5th Avenue) was released in October 1973 as the band's 5th single. The words were by premier lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠) while the melody was given form by Shunichi Tokura(都倉俊一), who would later compose Tomoko Kuwae's(桑江知子) only hit "Watashi no Heart wa Stop Motion"私のハートはストップモーション....My Heart is Stop-Motion) and several of Pink Lady's tunes along with songs for the other big-league singers.

I think Aku's writing is especially tender here as the protagonist asks a friend to see how Mary and his/her old haunt of 5th Avenue is doing after all these years. I'm assuming that this 5th Avenue is not the famed one in Manhattan....Aku's 5th Avenue sounds much more smalltown-ish. Takahashi emphasizes this tender nostalgia for home with her delivery...especially when she comes to the chorus-backed refrain.

The song peaked at No. 18 on the Oricon charts and ended up as the 68th-ranked song of 1974, but it had a good long run throughout that time.

Since its release, in fact, the song has become a kayo kyoku standard, covered by everyone from chanteuse Hiromi Iwasaki (岩崎宏美)to the 90s girl group SPEED. The video is a cover version by another singer with a resonant voice, Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ)who had a huge hit with "Kassai"喝采)in 1972.


  1. Hi there, J-Canuck.

    Wow, this is one beautiful song. Wonder why it never really registered when Mariko Takahashi sang it on last year's Kohaku or when I watched Sayuri Ishikawa sing it on an old "Nippon no Uta" Special Stage performance with Itsuki until now.

    Tender is definitely the word to describe "Go-ban Gai no Mari e"; from it's nostalgic music to the way Takahashi delivers the poignant lyrics. You can feel in her voice the character's desire to meet with this Mary person. Naomi Chiaki's rendition is as good as the original, just huskier in terms of vocals.

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Yup, "Go-ban Gai no Mari e" is one of the classics and it's no surprise that it has been covered over the years by some of the other greats. I think it has that ability to stop folks and make them listen for those few minutes.


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