That old video of "Kanpai"at Kuri never showed the young Nagabuchi. In fact, I only got to see him in Japan as this tough-as-nails rocker/balladeer who often played rough-hewn roles like yakuza enforcers in movies and TV dramas. So it was with some surprise to see his picture in the video above looking like a well-dressed hippie.
It was during my 2 years in Gunma Prefecture that I came across the 1988 CD single of "Kanpai". This version, released as a single for the first time, has Nagabuchi singing in a much more gravelly voice...kinda similar to Tom Waits or a later-day Bob Dylan. Also, the melody comes off as being more stately and elegiac...as if the celebration came after quite a bit of sacrifice. It sounds just as much as a tribute to lost ones as it is a toast to the ones who made it. Released in February 1988, it hit No. 1, as did the album it came on, "Never Change", a release of covers of his old songs. The single eventually became the 5th-ranked song of the year.
In 1990, Nagabuchi had his premiere appearance on that year's Kohaku Utagassen. In what became the longest individual performance in the history of the annual NHK special, he performed "Kanpai"and 2 other songs in succession in front of what was left of the Berlin Wall, about a year after its downfall. Definitely a fine place to give a toast to.