Face of an idol, talent of a songwriter. The wonder-boy Shinji Harada (原田真二) definitely made a lot of girls happy in 1977 when they caught his performances on music shows like The Best Ten and Yoru no Hit Studio. Looking at that picture above, I could easily associate him with singers like Hiromi Go and Hideki Saijo if I hadn't read all that info about him. The media made a pretty big deal of the fact that Harada was 18 years old at the time of his debut and already so accomplished. Indeed, he started playing piano at the age of 3 and eventually became a multi-instrumentalist proficient with guitar, drums, bass and percussion, amongst others. It also helped that Takuro Yoshida (吉田拓郎) sponsored and produced his debut album "Feel Happy" while Yosui Inoue and Shigeru Izumiya participated in the recording.
"Time Travel" (タイム・トラベル; "Joy" was the other a-side) was his fourth single, released in April 1978. It was composed and arranged by Harada, with lyrics provided by the ever-present Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆). This song works for me on many levels. First, it starts off as a gentle 70's-style ballad backed by breezy strings and acoustic piano and then suddenly turns into a groovy number that makes your head bob in different directions. It's a musical equivalent of being awoken from a pleasant dream and then hurriedly getting ready for the day you're really looking forward to. Yeah, those happen from time to time. I also like the whole bounciness of the refrain "jikan ryoko no tour wa ikaga" (="How about a time travel tour?"). Then there's the line that references "The Charleston" and mentions FBI breaking into a tap dance that I found oddly charming, especially hearing it with that tack piano in the background. And of course, Harada's youthful husky voice is quite appealing.
Here's Harada's performance of the song on The Best Ten. The single peaked at 4th spot on Oricon weeklies and eventually became the 50th-ranked song of 1978. It was also the one he performed for his sole appearance on Kohaku Utagassen. From 1979, he pretty much fell off the radar popularity-wise while getting adventurous with music itself. He has since released 40 singles and 22 albums while composing and writing songs for other singers. I gotta admit, his material after those early days has been hit-or-miss for me, and the outfits he sported in the 80's often got ridiculously tacky. But there were real gems like "Ame no Highway" and "Breathe".
"Time Travel" was revived in 2011 as a theme song for the Fuji TV drama Boku to Star no 99 Nichi (僕とスターの99日), this time performed by the band Spitz (スピッツ). The studio version of their cover appears on their album "Orutana". I think Masamune Kusano's voice suits it well.