This morning on the NHK "News at 9", I saw a couple of interesting things. One was that even the Japanese network was now covering the antics of Rob Ford, the mayor of our city. At this rate, I wonder if he's gonna end up becoming TIME Magazine's "Man of the Year" for all the wrong reasons.
The other interesting thing was seeing the main newscaster interviewing Yumi Matsutoya (nee Arai). I think she's popped up on more interviews in the last couple of decades, but whenever she appears on a show that I can access, I want to be there watching in, especially when she talks about how her hits came about. She said something (and I'm paraphrasing here) that has stuck with me today so far, and that is "I just want to make the everyday special". And I think she has done that over the past 40 years, whether it be to add something to vapour trails, central highways, anniversaries or the end of a rugby season.
So, I wanted to take things all the way back to her very first single, "Henji wa Iranai" (I Don't Need An Answer). Released in July 1972, Yuming（ユーミン） was only 18 years old at the time when she created this debut song about not being able to continue a romance and moving on. It only sold 300 copies (although apparently some reports have been more gracious in stating the number at 800) and perhaps it's not as memorable as a lot of the other big hits that would start arriving soon afterwards, but the melody and her vocals are still unmistakably hers, and they were quite different from the music that was swirling about in the record shops and TV shows from the time.
(Unfortunately, the video described below has been taken down but the above link will take you to the actual single.)
The above video has Yuming in 1996 in concert performing "Hikoki Gumo"（ひこうき雲） and then "Henji wa Iranai". Yellow Magic Orchestra's drummer, Yukihiro Takahashi（高橋幸宏）, is there to help out on drums, and I think he and perhaps members from the band GARO had assisted on the original recording of her debut single. As for the video at the very top, it was too bad that I couldn't import it directly, but the photo of a young Yumi Arai（荒井由実） on the cover of the single was quite poignant considering the very glamourous image she has had for decades through her music videos and elaborate concerts. It just shows a teenager in a Superman T-shirt noticing something innocently....no indication whatsoever of the stardom that she would achieve in a short while.
The other statement she made in the interview this morning that also stuck out to me was that she considered her biggest rivals to not be the current top singers or the in-vogue musical trends, but the songs that she put out as Yumi Arai. A lot of people consider her career peak to have been in the mid-70s which is quite an albatross to wear around one's neck for a superstar pop singer years later. But for me, like others, I think she still had plenty to offer even when her name changed to Matsutoya（松任谷由実）. The songs may have been even more on the pop side but they are no less listenable and they still make the everyday special.