Another sign I got that Japanese popular music was undergoing some big changes during my time in the country at the turn of the decade was from hearing this song and watching its video. Until I saw it again on YouTube yesterday, the scene that I had always remembered from the video was the one where Flipper's Guitar was strumming their guitars in that oh-so-fashionable apartment room with all of the pictures behind them. The entire video played out like a cute 60s Euro-comedy where a badly-executed art heist was taking place by the world's worst but lovable thieves. And the thing that really stuck out was that the song was all in English.
The embryo that would gestate into Flipper's Guitar sprouted from a band called Pee-Wee 60s in 1987 with Keigo Oyamada（小山田圭吾） as the vocal and guitarist while Yukiko Inoue（井上由紀子）was on keyboards. Any other members with them soon dropped out, and the pair changed their name to Lollipop Sonic and did the live house circuit for a while before gaining three more members, the final one being fellow guitarist and vocal Kenji Ozawa（小沢健二）, nephew of world-famous conductor Seiji Ozawa. Just as they were about to hit the majors, the final name for the band was established as Flipper's Guitar in 1988.
Flipper's Guitar created their 1st album, "three cheers for our side～Umi e Iku Tsumori Ja Nakatta"（海へ行くつもりじゃなかった...Didn't Mean To Go To The Sea), an album that had Ozawa in charge of the lyrics which were all in English. With Ozawa's direction seeming to take precedence, most of the group members decided to leave right after the album was done, leaving Flipper's Guitar as a duo consisting of Oyamada and Ozawa.
"Friends Again" was the duo's first single released in January 1990. Written and composed by them under the name of Double Knockout Corporation, I think the best adjective to describe it is "effervescently sunny". Along with the music, the lyrics spoke about a pair whose relationship was so sweet and light that even after a spat, they could reconcile with a cute line.
The sound was indeed different from a lot of what Japanese pop sounded like at the time which put them on a par with groups like Jitterin' Jinn and Pizzicato Five. In the case of Flipper's Guitar's case, their sound was influenced by 80s upbeat British bands such as Haircut 100 ("Boy Meets Girl") and The Style Council ("My Ever Changing Moods"), although "Friends Again"has got more of a Frenchness to it, thanks to that accordion. In that way, I think the duo perhaps had some stylistic connections with the higher-profile Dreams Come True. The single hadn't originally been part of any album, but was included on their BEST compilation and in the 2006 remastered release of "three cheers for our side". By the way, I think that album title is innately British....I would almost expect a subtitle of "Hip Hip Hoorah!"
Shibuya-kei has been considered to be the successor to Japanese City Pop, something that I hadn't been quite sure about. But I think my opinion has started to mellow a bit if only to say that Shibuya-kei would be another name for International City Pop since the sounds of London, Paris and perhaps even Stockholm filtered into Tokyo's Teen Mecca. Flipper's Guitar has been mentioned as one of the pioneers of this internationally-known Japanese music genre; a bit ironic since the unit would break up by 1991 just when the genre was revving up and perhaps even before its name was fully-formed. Ozawa would go on to solo success into the 90s, and Oyamada went into new musical directions under his new moniker of Cornelius.