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.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seiko Matsuda -- Kaze Tachinu (風立ちぬ)

Probably out of all of the Japanese songwriters I know, the one whose sound just screams his creator's name the most is Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一). Whether it's Shinichi Mori's(森進一) "Fuyu no Riviera"(冬のリビエラ) or Hiromi Ota's(太田裕美) "Saraba Siberia Tetsudo"(さらばシベリア鉄道) or the songs that he did for his own epic 1981 album, "A Long Vacation", there is that flavour from musical sources in the 1960s. Phil Spector, someone who Ohtaki greatly respected is in there, and through my ears I can hear some Beatles. With a number of his songs such as "Siberia", I just get this feeling of a guy on a horse riding full-out or looking over his Big Sky homestead with pride; with some others, Ohtaki creates a scene of Richie and Lori Beth out on the porch swing on a warm spring night in the 1950s. In the kayo kyoku world, that's been called The Niagara Sound based on Ohtaki's own label, Niagara, which was created in the mid-70s.

But lest this article ends up as an Ohtaki article, let's move onto Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)4th album, "Kaze Tachinu" which came out in October 1981. Now, this wasn't produced on the Niagara label but Ohtaki composed the tracks for the first half of the album while Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆), his old bandmate from Happy End took care of the lyrics for the entire album. With Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂) helping out in the second half of the album, it was pretty much a Happy End collaboration for the sake of a singer who would become the biggest aidoru of the early 1980s at least. Not to leave anyone out, Tulip lead singer Kazuo Zaitsu(財津和夫)and Masamichi Sugi(杉真理) also provided melodies.

I bought "Kaze Tachinu" (As The Wind Blows) fairly late in my time in Japan, but just from reading about the pedigree behind the album, I would have felt rather guilty if I hadn't laid out the yen at Ginza Yamano Music. The album not only pops out in my guide on Japanese female aidoru for the 70s to the 90s but it even appears in "Japanese City Pop", although I don't really find the tracks in there to be City Pop in any way. Well, to each his own. In any case, the reviewer in the latter book declared the song "Kaze Tachinu" to be the most nationally recognized title track of any album in the kayo kyoku era. Pretty high praise indeed, and as soon as you hear Seiko's 7th single (October 1981), it's pure Ohtaki. I'd heard the song in the past before I even got the album, and the gorgeous shimmering strings identify the song right away. With her cute-as-a-button vocals matched up with the Niagara Sound, it almost takes "Kaze Tachinu" out of the aidoru genre and into pure pop. Perhaps it's because of the angelic chorus, but I sometimes imagine the singer in some operetta performing this as the showstopper. The single itself hit No. 1 on the Oricon charts and quickly ended up as the 34th-ranked single of the year, winning the Golden Aidoru Prize at the Japan Record Awards.

As for what inspired Ohtaki when it came to the melody, according to J-Wiki, it was this 1962 ballad titled "Venus In Blue Jeans" by American teenage idol Jimmy Clanton.

The opening track is "Fuyu no Yousei"(冬の妖精...Winter Sprite), an appropriately spritely happy-go-lovey musical skip down the lane. If I were to keep holding onto that Seiko-in-an-operetta analogy, "Fuyu no Yousei" would be the opening song in that performance involving the love interests. And there's enough jingle bell in there that it could even be put into the Xmas category.

Track 3 is one of my favourite Seiko songs, period. "Issen Ichi Byo Monogatari"(一千一秒物語...The 1,001-Second Story) falls into that Richie-Lori Beth type of ballad that I mentioned above, especially when it comes to the chorus and the wonderful strings in the bridge. If that couple from "Fuyu no Yousei" were going shopping in that song, this song would have them in the top-down convertible on at Inspiration Point looking at the stars at night (I may be laying down the "Happy Days" comparison rather apologies). The title refers to the girl's plea to the boy not to release her for 1,001 seconds (that would be a little over 16 minutes....yeah, that might work).

 "Ichigo Batake de Tsukamaete"(いちご畑でつかまえて...Grab Me In The Strawberry Field) was one of the weirder Seiko songs that I'd ever heard when I listened to the track on her BEST album. With the Beatle-y guitar (and the title may be another reference) and the bouncy beat, it's also a slightly racy tune lyrically as Seiko dares the guy to come and get a hold of her in that patch and getting that slow kiss on a strawberry (I'll hold back on the quotation marks for that last word). I think what also makes it stand out is that final part where the singer does a tiny scat as if the song belonged in one of those French/Italian comedies that I sometimes encountered on late Saturday nights, and then the fade out which listeners would assume is the end, only for the song to come back for several more seconds.

"Ryusei Night"(流星ナイト...Night of the Comet) is the first song (and my last track for tonight) on Side B and was composed by Kazuo Zaitsu with arrangements by Shigeru Suzuki. Although Ohtaki had nothing to do with it presumably, the song still has that good-time jangly feel.

The second half of the album also contains the more conventionally-sounding but no less appealing  "Shiroi Parasol", her 6th single, that I've already covered.

"Kaze Tachinu" hit No. 1 on the album charts and was the 38th-ranked album of the year, selling a little more than 230,000 copies. I've collected a number of Seiko albums over the years, including "Train" which has all of her best hits composed by Yuming (ユーミン)under her alias of Karuho Kureta. It's interesting comparing those two albums and hearing the different song stylings done by Seiko, but with "Kaze Tachinu", there is something about Ohtaki's influence that put the singer into a different place with that album. I'm not sure about this theory but whereas Yuming fit her songs to fit Seiko, Seiko had to fit herself into The Niagara Sound. And she did well.


  1. Hello! Since fall is coming, could you possibly do a post on Seiko's "Kaze wa Aki-iro"? That was the song that really got me into her.

    1. Hi there.

      I can probably do that one...haven't heard it in a very long time. For me, it was "Natsu no Tobira" that introduced me to the Seiko discography. What are some of your other favourite Seiko tunes?

    2. That's a really hard question because I love most of her 80s songs. I even bought her compilation album in 2011!

      But, my other favorites are Seifuku, Komugi-iro no Mermaid, Himitsu no Hanazono, Sweet Memories, Jikan no Kuni no Alice, and Boy no Kisetsu.

    3. "Komugi-iro no Mermaid" was the first single that I ever got by her. It was quite different from "Natsu no Tobira" so it had to grow on me but it didn't take too long. Now it's one of my classics!

  2. I've been a selective Matsuda Seiko fan for a while now and I only listened to Kaze Tachinu and Shiroi Parasol off this album, despite owning the vinyl. I gave it all a listen before but nothing stuck...but recently after an Airbnb host recommended it again, I've gotten hooked on Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari and Ame No Resort. I have to agree with your rave on the former song! (that chorus!)

    1. Hi, youngheartsparkfire.

      Yeah, I heard "Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari" again tonight and all of that 80s aidoru nostalgia just flooded in again. Ohtaki could really weave those romantic ballads! Any other Seiko-chan favourites?

    2. Many! Sweet Memories, Aoi Photograph, Mafuyu No Koibitotachi and Kaze Tachinu are probably my favourites. I much prefer her earlier work, though, similar to how I am with Nakamori Akina. I've heard nothing that I particularly like from Rock n Rouge and beyond... What about you?

      It's really interesting reading all the details you share on this blog after listening just a little bit more widely and reading/knowing a bit more. That same Airbnb host was an insane Matsumoto Takashi fan, and it's fascinating for example to see the impact of Happy End members on the record you discuss in this post. Deeper down the rabbit hole I go...

    3. Hello again.

      I'm the same as you in that I prefer her material from her debut to the time that she got married. So my favourites along with "Issen Ichi" include "Akai Sweet Pea", "Aoi Sangosho" and "Sweet Memories".

      The thing I've always enjoyed about the blog has been the ability to talk a little about the surrounding circumstances around the song and my purchase of it along with other factors. Keeps things as more of a personal recollection rather than a Wikipedia entry.

      Your Airbnb host has got taste! :) Takashi Matsumoto is one of the very senior songwriters. I also agree that it's amazing what has happened with the Happy End guys since they broke up in the early 1970s. Perhaps at least one of them thought that he would end up in the sales division of some company rather than having a major influence on Japanese pop music.

      Enjoy the journey through the rabbit hole. It can be a Wonderland!


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