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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hitomi Shimatani/The Village Singers -- Amairo no Kami no Otome (亜麻色の髪の少女)

This was another one of those songs that seemed to be everywhere at every time during the space of a year. I had heard of Hitomi Shimatani(島谷ひとみ) previously, through her cover of the Janet Jackson hit "Doesn't Really Matter", but she really hit the pay dirt with this souped-up cover of a song by a band from her own (rhythm) nation from decades back.

I hadn't heard the original version of "Amairo no Kami no Otome" (The Girl With The Flaxen Hair), and I suspect many of the fans of this new version probably hadn't either, but it was one of those tunes that seemed to prick up everyone's ears and get them moving. Released in May 2002 as Shimatani's 7th single, the 21st-century dance arrangement was such that I hadn't realized that it was a cover of something from the 60s, and just thought it was Avex Trax coming up with another rumbly hit a la Namie Amuro or Tomomi Kahala. In any case, the infectiously happy melody, the video, Shimatani's vocals and looks all helped to get the song up to No. 4 on Oricon. It sold about 375,000 copies and got the Hiroshima-born singer an invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen. Ultimately, "Amairo no Kami no Otome" became the 22nd-ranked song for 2002.

The big hit for Shimatani also brought attention to the original song which had been released in February 1968 and sung by The Village Singers (ヴィレッジ・シンガーズ), a Group Sounds band that was around from 1966 to 1971. "Amairo no Kami no Otome" was written by Jun Hashimoto (橋本淳...who also came up with the classic "Blue Light Yokohama" for Ayumi Ishida) and composed by Koichi Sugiyama(すぎやまこういち). However, the song had a proto-existence of sorts when it was initially made for singer Michi Aoyama(青山ミチ) under the title of "Kaze Fuku Oka de"(風吹く丘で...On The Windy Hills)in 1966; but it got put into the vaults instead until it was dusted off a couple of years later with the new title.

It has that breezy Hawaiian twang feel that was common to a lot of Group Sounds songs. The 1968 "Amairo no Kami no Otome" went as high as No. 7 on the then-newborn Oricon chart. It was also used as the theme song for a TBS talk-music variety show aimed at the younger generation titled "Young 720", and from last year, it has been used as the train departure warning chime at Isesaki Station on the Tobu-Isesaki Line going through Gunma Prefecture.

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