I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yumi Matsutoya -- No Side

Yumi Matsutoya -- No Side

welcome to the 1,000th entry for Kayo Kyoku Plus! Heck, I remember celebrating getting the 1,000th pageview and the 100th entry, but this time a year ago, I never thought I'd hit the big 1 K for entries. I would like to thank everybody who's been taking a peek into the blog and of course, all of the contributors who've helped out since early this year: nikala, Marcos V, JTM and jari. They've come up with articles of singers and songs that I had never come across which is great. I've become more appreciative of folks like Motoharu Sano and Megumi Hayashibara thanks to them. Let's see what we can continue to come up with for the rest of the year.

I was thinking about what to put down for a one-thousandth entry....perhaps a song title with the word "thousand" in it, but the only one I could think up of was "1,000 Knives" by Ryuichi Sakamoto, but that's already up there in one of the YMO entries. So I've decided to go with one of my favourite albums, Yuming's "No Side". As you can see from the above picture, it is notable for not only the gold cover but also for one of the first usages of the Yuming Logo, the merging of her initials concocted by the British art design group Hipgnosis, which designed LP covers for artists such as Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney, as well as for a previous Yuming album, "Sakuban O-Aishimasho"(昨晩お会いしましょう).

"No Side" is Yumi Matsutoya's(松任谷由実)16th album which was released in December 1984. In terms of overall sound, it has struck me as having a transitional one with a mix of the aforementioned "Sakuban O-Aishimasho"'s City Pop groove and relaxed New Music, and the beginnings of what would be the even sunnier straight pop of her late 80s albums such as "Love Wars", although there was no horn section used in "No Side". I know next to nothing when it comes to album production, but Matt Forger is a name that I've seen on those later albums by Yuming, and in fact, "No Side" was his first album helping the singer out as a mixer....a role that he would go on doing up until her 1997 album, "Wave of the Zuvuya". Perhaps he had a role in shaping that sound of hers for the latter half of the decade and beyond.

According to a 1989 "Eye-Ai" article on the singer, Yuming has garnered a reputation for being a harbinger for pop cultural trends in this most trend-happy of countries. With the title track, she apparently foresaw the rugby boom. Perhaps so, but I'm more drawn to what influenced the creation of the song in the first place. In the J-Wiki article on the album, the song "No Side" may have been based on a January 1984 rugby high school championship between Tenri and Oita Maizuru in which the latter team had a chance in the dying seconds of the game to get a goal which would've tied things up and had both teams sharing the championship. It was not to be, though, and the referee blew the whistle for a No Side...the end of the game (I'm not totally sure anymore if the previous account is accurate; check the follow-up article for Reimy). The singer just happened to catch the finale of what could've been that game on TV by chance, and she was touched by that dramatic finish and the idea that no matter the frustration of that ultimate loss, the players will put on the uniform again and slog ahead in the next season. "No Side" comes across as a gentle, wistful and hopeful ballad which incorporates those feelings-turned-lyrics. I could picture this song being played as a player or a manager is watching the empty rugby field.....of opportunities lost and potentials to be attained. I think of all of the titular tracks Yumi has written and composed, this is her most affecting one.

(excerpt only)

The opening track, though, is an interesting one to start this album off. Titled "Salaam Mousson Salaam Afrique", it starts off with this slow rumbling of marching drums before Yuming softly croons about a scene on an African savannah before she bursts into a proud refrain about that herd of zebras running and creating that huge billow of sand and dust. It could've made for a nice alternate theme for Osamu Tezuka's "Kimba The White Lion". I couldn't find the original version by Yuming, but I could bring over a cover by the unit Candy Jam.

(Miku Hatsune)

"Downtown Boy" was created as an answer song to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl"....really. Compared to Joel's ode to the 50s with this song (as he did with all of his tracks on "An Innocent Man"), Yuming's reply is representative of that transitional sound I mentioned between her early 80s and late 80s sound. Sung from the point of view of that Uptown Girl (a Japanese-speaking Christie Brinkley?), regrettably for her and Billy, that torrid affair didn't last too long and it seems like the two are still mourning the end of their time together due to the usual problems of different worlds.

I saw Yuming and her backup dancers putting a cute little Vaudevillian spin while performing "Issho ni Kuraso"(一緒に暮らそう...Let's Live Together)on the concert video "Wings of Light", complete with walking canes. The song has that whimsical happy-go-lucky quality, and as the title suggests, one of the happy couple decides to ask that question of living in sin, jokingly or not. According to the J-Wiki article on the album, Yuming created the song based her images of shopping at a Sony Plaza store in a Takashimaya Department Store in western Tokyo.

The ski slope-friendly "Blizzard" is also part of the album. Perhaps Yuming may have had a vision about the late-80s ski boom as well.

The album is quite a potpourri of Yuming music which probably explained its popularity with the population...and me. There is even somewhat of a comically Halloween-ish track that I will cover when October 31 comes around. As for the success of "No Side", it did hit the top spot on Oricon shortly after its release, and ended up as the 6th-ranked album of 1985. It also won an "Excellent Album" prize at that year's Japan Record Awards. As much as "Love Wars" symbolized my image of her music at the end of the decade, "No Side" will always represent her early 80s period.

The 1981 "Eye-Ai" article

Inside cover of "No Side"


  1. I thought that Issho ni Kurasou video was a live video, but those crowd dancer looks pre-choreographed. Very fun video :)

    1. Hello, Azam, and thanks for your comments. It's not all that often that Yuming actually shows up on TV for a performance, but when she does, she does give it her all.


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