Came across this chestnut on tonight's broadcast of NHK's "Kayo Concert" when one of the semi-regular performers sang "Sakaba nite" (At The Bar). The Kohaku Utagassen usually provides some elaborate staging on New Year's Eve, but the staging on even a weekly show like "Kayo Concert" is still pretty impressive. The singer gave her performance on a wide set resembling an old-style cabaret bar with the appropriately dressed dancers twirling around.
As for the song and the singer, "Sakaba nite" was originally recorded by the late Chiemi Eri（江利チエミ）as her 91st single released in September 1974. Eri, who was born as Chiemi Kubo（久保智恵美）in 1937, debuted when she was only 15 years old with Japanese-language covers of American songs such as Rosemary Clooney's "Come On-A My House" as well as "Tennessee Waltz". At one point, the young lady was grouped with Hibari Misora（美空ひばり） and Izumi Yukimura（雪村いづみ） as the "Sannin Musume"（三人娘...The Three Daughters）, since all three were born in the same year and were all following similar career paths. Eri had also been married to actor Ken Takakura, who starred with Michael Douglas in "Black Rain", although they divorced after 12 years of marriage.
"Sakaba nite" was written by Michio Yamagami（山上路夫） and composed by Kunihiko Suzuki（鈴木邦彦）. And as you can see from the record cover, it has a forlorn Eri rooted at the bar, knocking back a few highballs as she laments over a love lost....an oft-used theme for a kayo kyoku. She probably has appeared on shows like "Enka no Hanamichi"（演歌の花道） since the program often came up with some pretty fancy sets for watering holes. As with a number of singers such as Sayuri Ishikawa（石川さゆり）and Keiko Fuji（藤圭子）, Eri has this sad but defiant delivery. Perhaps she may be down but never out.
Eri, who was also an actress and a tarento, enjoyed a bit of a comeback with "Sakaba nite". It may have peaked at No. 22, but it stayed on the charts for a long time and became the 67th-ranked song of 1975. She appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen annually right from 1953 to 1968, and was even the captain of the Red (Women's) team a couple of times. However, she was suddenly dropped from the program after her final appearance since it had been decided that she was no longer wanted for various reasons such as no longer having hit songs and apparently not having quite the chops as she used to. Even with the success of "Sakaba nite", Eri refused to ever appear on the program. She wouldn't be the first singer to leave the Kohaku with sore feelings, though.
Sadly, Eri would die at the age of 45 from a stroke.