I'd only heard about the band Mr. Children by hearsay and reputation when I was back in Toronto in the early 90s, but such was their growing popularity that the news about them managed to filter all the way to eastern Canada.
Then, just 6 days after I arrived at Narita Airport in November 1994, the band released their 6th single, "Tomorrow Never Knows", a song whose video was a regular fixture on the music shows. I will always remember seeing lead vocal Kazutoshi Sakurai（桜井和寿）belting out the refrain on that dramatic cliff over the ocean (according to J-Wiki, it's on the Great Ocean Road in the State of Victoria, Australia). I never became a huge fan of Mr. Children (something that in my doddering middle age, I may try to change by getting a BEST compilation sometime) but this song was something that I was drawn to. It just seemed to remind me of the great song "The Way It Is" in the piano line by US band Bruce Hornsby & The Range almost a decade prior.
The lyrics and music were provided by Sakurai, and they express a warning about the costs of too much ambition as the protagonist speaks from a position of superior wisdom and superior regret. The beautiful melody as well hints at innocent but cocky youth progressing to mature and wistful adulthood through the keyboards, while Sakurai gives a heartfelt plea to those young folk who would listen. His voice is especially soulful here....right up there with Chikuzen Sato（佐藤竹善）of Sing Like Talking. By the way, the translated lyrics and the original version written in romaji can be found at the "Mr.Children English Fansite".
According to Sakurai who later appeared on music show "Utaban"（うたばん）: before its release in November 1994, the song had had the temporary title of "Ashita e no Kakyou"(明日への架橋....Bridge To Tomorrow), but advance reviews of the song brought so many comments such as "This will be SO money!". I got this information via J-Wiki, and although the article doesn't directly say that Sakurai had changed the title for that reason, I could imagine the leader trying to stave off any over-optimism by using the new and permanent title. Officially, the song was titled after The Beatles song by the same name. Interestingly, Mr. Children has been compared to The Fab Four.
Mr. Children had already been enjoying a huge year which included the band's 4th album, "Atomic Heart"(released in September 1994) which would sell over 3 million in sales, when "Tomorrow Never Knows"came out. The song itself would nearly hit 3 million on its own, and quickly become the 22nd-ranked song of the year (peaking at No. 1 on the weeklies). And in fact, it is currently the 7th-ranked song in the entire history of Oricon. "Tomorrow Never Knows" would get on the band's 6th album, "Bolero", which was released in March 1997.
"Tomorrow Never Knows" is also apparently one of those miracle songs that got written in the proverbial wink of an eye. On the English Wikipedia article for the song, it's mentioned that it had been written during the band's "Innocent World" tour. The J-Wiki equivalent had something more interesting about the song's origins in that Sakurai had come up with a portion of the lyrics while jogging through Shakujii Park in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, and that his 'A' melody and producer Takeshi Kobayashi's（小林武史）ideas for the chords matched up immediately; the two of them had been so energized by the song that it was written up within 30 minutes. Kobayashi had gotten inspiration for those chords from Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time".
The song also became the theme song (and a good match) for the Fuji-TV drama, "Wakamono no Subete"（若者のすべて....The Young's All) starring Masato Hagiwara, Takuya Kimura and Anju Suzuki, a story about twentysomethings trying to make their way into a harder world....this sort of drama had become popular in the early 90s as Japan entered its economic malaise compared to the bubblier trendy dramas during the more successful 80s.
Years ago, I heard an admittedly odd theory that during economic recessions, ballads become more prominent. I'd probably say that based on that theory, "Tomorrow Never Knows"came at the right time. Even now, almost two decades later, it's a song that still resonates with a lot of people, within or without the karaoke lounge.
|Mr. Children -- Tomorrow Never Knows|