Over the years, bits and pieces of information flew in and out of my head about this legendary band that lasted only 3 years (1973-1976) and released only one studio album, "SONGS", near the end of their time together. J-Wiki has a very dense blow-by-blow account about how Sugar Babe got started, but suffice it to say, I will just provide a very quick Reader's Digest for Dummies account and say that the various members got together through the usual encounters of people in Tokyo via their music. By the time the band was ready for the recording of the album, the lineup was Yamashita, Ohnuki and Kunio Muramatsu（村松邦男） on vocals (and many instruments), Kikuo Wanikawa（鰐川己久男） on bass, and Akihiko Noguchi（野口明彦）on drums, although there were changes in the final year of Sugar Babe's existence, which included the inclusion of Ginji Ito（伊藤銀次）on guitar. nikala has written a fine profile for one of Ito's later solo albums on the blog right here.
"SHOW" is the first track, and Yamashita takes the lead here. Written and composed by Yamashita in 1973 when he was doing his one-man concerts, he used the bright song to launch things off as in "The show is about to begin!"To me, it sounds as bracing as that first swig of OJ in the morning and as effervescent as sparkling soda. The first several bars of the song and Yamashita's wail have been used in the opening credits of a number of radio and TV programs, and why not? It has that clarion call impact. Of the two vocals of Yamashita and Ohnuki, I think the former stayed closer to his roots, but even so, it's interesting to hear a "rawer" version of Tats singing a style that's further inland from the beach.
For the record (no pun intended), the A-side consists of:
3. Shinkirou no Machi （蜃気楼の街）
4. Kaze no Sekai （風の世界）
5. Tameiki Bakari （ためいきばかり）
6. Itsumo Doori （いつも通り）
7. Suteki na Melody （すてきなメロディー）
8. Kyou wa Nan daka （今日はなんだか）
9. Ame wa Te no Hira ni Ippai （雨は手のひらにいっぱい）
10. Sugi Sarishi Hibi "60's Dream"（過ぎ去りし日々"60's Dream")
"Itsumo Doori"(As Usual) was probably the first song that I heard that was connected with this album. And it was just by going through YouTube during my initial infatuation with Ohnuki's material that I came across a 1984 self-cover. That version had that somewhat technopoppy feel but the original version on "SONGS" had a certain funkiness combined with another recurrence of Spector. Ohnuki had written this during a time when Sugar Babe was on a roll getting plenty of work at the live houses. She may have been referring to this actual groove-settling although the lyrics seem to cheerfully hint at getting into a rut. Although it's difficult to pick an absolute favourite on this album, I would put "Itsumo Doori" and Yamashita's "Downtown" up there. Both songs did get placed on opposite sides of a 45". The other interesting point about the song was that it apparently was influenced by the late singer Syreeta Wright, according to J-Wiki.
I could write down information on the other tracks, too, but I'll hold onto those for separate articles since by this point, the skin on your index finger may be peeling off scrolling down with the mouse. As for Kunio Muramatsu, I will also come to him soon enough. "Downtown" already has its own entry.
In my last several months in Japan, I mentally thought about what my last CD purchases should be. "SONGS" wasn't at the top of my list but it was in there. I was able to find it at a used CD shop called RecoFAN in Shibuya. In fact, I found two versions. One was an original version with those 11 tracks which cost close to 8,000 yen while the one that I eventually got was a reissue with an extra 9 tracks of demo and live versions and a price tag of 2,000 yen. Let's say I like my past in music cheap and fattening....like a buffet.