Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of entamedata.web.fc2.com/music and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yumi Arai -- Hikoki Gumo (ひこうき雲)

With all of the incredible concerts-turned-cultural experiences and the slick production methods that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実) has demonstrated over the past few decades, it's sometimes nice to go back to the days of Yumi Arai(荒井由実). Until recently, "Hikoki Gumo"(Vapour Trails) was the earliest Yuming song that I'd ever heard, and I was surprised to hear that it never got its own single, instead being a B-side on her 2nd single, "Kitto Ieru"(きっと言える...I Can Tell You Straight), released in November 1973. It sold 3,000 copies, almost four times as much as her very first single the previous year, "Henji wa Iranai"(返事はいらない....I Don't Need An Answer).

It's one of the more tenderhearted ballads that I have ever heard with Yuming initially sounding whispery-soft, almost child-like, before her voice grows up and punches through the air in the refrain. Lyrically, she modeled "Hikoki Gumo" after the premature death of her friend. It may be a time of mourning, but the singer also mentions that her friend is now happy and the feeling in the melody hints that not all is sadness and that he/she is now reaching for that blue sky.

The white hill road kept on going as far as the sky
The shimmering heat haze envelops that child
No one notices, he is just by himself
That child rises up
There is no fear, and then he soars

Longing for the sky,
He runs for it
That child's life is a vapour trail

At that tall window, that child, before he died
Also gazed at the sky, I don't know about now
I don't know about other people
I just think he was too young
But he's happy

Longing for the sky,
He runs for it
That child's life is a vapour trail

Listening to this song has often made me stop and get pretty introspective. With all of the daily spiritual detritus that builds up over time, it's always good when a particular song can help in getting rid at least some of that pile-up. Sometimes, I've thought that Yumi Matsutoya went overboard with a few of her albums and her concerts, and so I've often wondered if she needs to hear some of her earlier, simpler work again.

That 2nd single of hers may not have made much of a dent in the Oricon rankings, but it was included on her 1st album, also titled "Hikoki Gumo". It was released a few weeks after that second single, and although it took a few years, the word of Yumi Arai as the newly-crowned matriarch of this genre called New Music did get around to the masses so that the album eventually got ranked No. 10 for 1976.

"Hikoki Gumo" has also recently been selected to be the theme song for what is Hayao Miyazaki's final feature-length film in 2013, "Kaze Tachinu"(風立ちぬ....The Wind Rises).



courtesy of bugmancx
from Flickr

7 comments:

  1. Thanks J-Canuck for this great post on 荒井由実/Arai Yumi's AKA 松任谷由実/Matsutoya Yumi's 「ひこうき雲」. Great song by ユーミン with very sentimental lyrics indeed. Late last month ユーミン was among 728 awardees honored by the Japanese Government in the Spring Decorations ceremony. ユーミン was among a group of 20 recipients who received the Medal with Purple Ribbon (紫綬褒章) for excellence in the Arts. ユーミン also released a DVD/Blu-Ray concert video 「YUMI MATSUTOYA CONCERT TOUR 2011 Road Show」 this past March. Next year ユーミン will turn 60 and she still looks like she is in her 30s. She is absolutely amazing!

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    1. Listening to "Super Best of Yumi Arai" as I write this. Yep, she's had quite the career although I haven't been much of a fan of her stuff in the last 15 years or so.

      Considering how hard she works in her concerts, no surprise that she's been keeping herself in such great shape. Until I saw her first concert on video, I'd had no idea how physical she was.

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  2. Yeah, "Hikouki Gumo" is definitely one of the most beautiful songs from this marvelous artist. It's not surprising it acquired such a reputation and made fans on the long term.

    The most moving version I've heard of this title was recorded during her famous "Concert with old friends" in 1996 (highly recommended !). It's only a piano-voice but you don't need more for such a gem. And with her more mature voice the song is even more powerful.

    Yumi Matsutoya is the one and unique Queen and will be forever...

    Thanks for your blog.

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    1. Hi, Le singe, and thanks very much for your kind comments. I definitely agree with your opinion that "Hikoki Gumo" is a song that doesn't need a whole lot of instruments to be effective. The piano and her voice are more than sufficient.

      I find that the bulk of her wonderfully introspective material was during her days as Yumi Arai.

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    2. I believe this is the concert you are refering to, with Video

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lWBKDK7hI3c#t=452

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  3. Beautiful beautiful song. Last spring, a friend of mine lost his 4 year old to brain tumor. It immediately reminded me of that...

    The melody has a sad tone but there's also a subtle sunny side to it. Yumi's voice sounds encouraging, and it carries a certain sternness that's very fitting for the lyrics.

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    1. Good point on the layer of steel especially in the final part of the song, Larry. It's elegiac but it's not totally mournful....there is hope and we will all go on.

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