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, September 18, 2012

Kenji Sawada -- Katte ni Shiyagare (勝手にしやがれ)

There was never anyone quite like Kenji 'Julie' Sawada(沢田ジュリー). Before the Yellow Magic Orchestra started putting on the eye shadow and blusher during concerts, before Anzen Chitai's Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二) equipped himself with his dark brooding appearance and sharp suits, Sawada had already been doing that. As early as 1975, the former member of the Group Sounds band, The Tigers, was getting up on stage looking distinctly dandy-ish with a bit of glam rock makeup, to boot. Those comparisons to David Bowie were probably not too far away.

Sawada was metamorphosizing. The media may have placed him in the company of enka singers Hiroshi Itsuki, Shinichi Mori, and big-voiced singer Akira Fuse as The Four Emperors (as a counterbalance against The New Big Three of Hiromi Go, Goro Noguchi and Hideki Saijo), but it certainly seemed as if he were trying to distance himself with comments like "To be honest, I'm not influenced by the kayo world. The Julie sound is based on Western music.".

In 1976, Sawada had a pretty bad year. Getting into fights on two different occasions on a Bullet Train platform and on the train itself meant that any hopes of earning music awards and an appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen frittered away that year. So it was with some irony that in the next year, Sawada hit pay dirt with "Katte ni Shiyagare". Written and composed by Yu Aku (阿久悠)and Katsuo Ohno(大野克夫), the song was titled after "Katte ni Shiyagare", the famous 60s French movie directed by Jean-Luc Godard known as "A Bout de Souffle" and titled as "Breathless"in English, in which a young criminal leads police and a girlfriend on a nihilistic chase before meeting his end at the end of a gun. Not only does the title of Sawada's 19th single refer to that movie, but the lyrics also hint at a fellow who's on the run.

But for me it was the melody by Ohno. It lifts off right from the start with a rush of piano that sounds as if it were being played to symbolize a Spanish bullfight. And the urgency keeps on going  via shimmering strings and opportune injections of horns.

Sawada's transition from former GS singer to glam rock musician arguably started from this song. His appearance on the 1977 Kohaku Utagassen caused quite a stir as he came on stage wearing a black silk hat, leather pants, a rakishly-angled hat and a razor blade earring on his left ear. It left even kids trying to impersonate his style afterwards. The kayo kyoku singer as dandy fop arrived.

After its release in May 1977, it hit the Top 10 two weeks later and would stay at the No. 1 spot for 5 weeks running and then staying as either the No. 1 or No. 2 song for a total of 10 weeks. "Katte ni Shiyagare"also won a number of awards, such as a Japan Record Award, and became the 4th-ranked song of the year.

As for the literal translation of the title, it means "Do Whatever The Hell You Feel Like". Sawada certainly did.


  1. I found right blog. This summer I had an opportunity to talk a little to Aki Hata when she was visiting here in Finland and she spoke very warmly about her sensei Aku Yuu. We got into conclusion that it was Kenji Sawada who actually made visual kei possible with his groundbreaking and scandalous (at that time) androgynous image.

    I am very fond of 70's-90's singers and here seem to be a lot to read, listen and catch up!

    1. Hi, Jari, and welcome aboard. Thanks very much for your comments. I'm not gonna disagree with anyone who had Aku-san for a teacher. :) Sawada was definitely someone who pushed the envelope in musical presentation. My jaw just dropped when I saw him perform "Stripper" on the 1981 Kohaku.

      Feel free to browse around the Labels section and make comments. Love to hear what you think some of the other singers and songs. There are some other blogs on kayo kyoku but they are not active right now but they can also provide information. You can see the list at the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

      Talk to you again. BTW, how did you get into kayo kyoku?

  2. Oh, I wanted to check quickly was Ai ga tomaranai released 1989 or 1988, and a quick check turned into hours. As usual. ^^;

    1. Ah....according to the Google Analytics I have for this blog, you are not the only one to end up spending hours in here. :)


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