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.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

JTM's Romantic 80s Playlist

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With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it might be timely to share some of my favorite J-Pop love songs from the 80s. There is certainly no shortage of romantic songs to chose from but I wanted to select songs that may not necessarily be your atypical or conventional love songs. This list is just my personal list of favorite songs that tug at the heart strings.  So without further ado here is my 80s Love Songs Playlist...


「悲しみにさよなら」/Kanashimi Ni Sayonara - 安全地帯/Anzenchitai (6/25/1985)
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もう泣かないでひとりで ほほえんでみつめて
悲しみにさよなら ほほえんでさよなら

"Don't cry alone anymore... Gaze at my smile...
Because I'm by your side..
Goodbye to sadness... Goodbye to your smile...
Love is for our sake..."

As J-Canuck mentions in his great May 2012 post on Anzenchitai, 「悲しみにさよならwas not only one of Anzenchitai's greatest hits, it was also an Oricon No. 1 chart topper as well, that even ranked No. 12 for that 1985 year. It is easily one of the most bittersweet songs ever and has gone on to become one of Anzenchitai's signature torch songs.  Written by Anzenchitai frontman 玉置浩二/Tamaki Koji with lyrics by prolific song writer/lyricist 松井五郎/Matsui Goro, "Kanashimi Ni Sayonara" talks about heartbreak but at the same time also expresses the need to move and have hope for a brighter future. It has one of the most stirring intros and has an infectious and unforgettable melody.  

Ashikawa, Hokkaido native Tamaki Koji first began playing guitar in Junior High School where he initially learned Classic Guitar. He became fast friends with transfer student 武沢豊/Takezawa Yutaka who in addition to being a Karate champ also shared an interest in music. Together with Yutaka's older brother Toshiya, they formed an amateur band called "Invader" in High School. Initially they played mostly covered folk songs of the time but gradually shifted their style to more rock standards. In keeping with their rock sensibilities, they would change their name to "Anzenchitai" getting inspiration from the electric train safety crossing that they would pass by everyday (they thought the "V" mark sign at the crossing resembled the "V for Victory" sign). Interestingly, Tamaki and the band almost went with the name 『危険地帯』/Kikenchitai ("The Danger Zone") but decided against the name as "danger" gave off too many negative connotations, thus the use of "Anzen" or "Safety".

The Anzenchitai group would go through a number of member changes in the late 70s and early 80s (they even merged with another area rock band called 六土開正バンド/Rokudo Haruyoshi Band). By the early 80s, the familiar core Anzenchitai group would comprise of lead vocalist/guitarist Tamaki, guitarist/backup vocalist Takezawa, bassist/keyboardist 六土 開正/Rokudo Haruyoshi, drummer 田中裕二/Tanaka Yuji and guitarist 矢萩渉/Wataru Yahagi.

They would gain attention as the backup band to legendary 70s Japanese folk singer 井上陽水/Inoui Yoshui (who would later become an influential and invaluable songwriting collaborator to Tamaki). They released their first single in 1982 called 萠黄色のスナップ」 /"Hoegiro No Snap". While it was only a marginal hit for them, it would soon establish their signature soft-rock and romantic sound. It would be another year before they would release the first of a steady succession of No. 1 Oricon hits starting with 「ワインレッドの心 」/"Wine Red No Kokoro" (1983) which included songs such as 「恋の予感」/"Koi No Yokan" (1984),  「碧い瞳のエリス」/"Aoi Hitomi No Elise" (1985) and 「プルシアンブルーの肖像」/"Prussian Blue No Shouzou" (1986) which would not only be hits in Japan but also become popular hits in other Asian regions like Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

「待つわ」/"Matsu Wa" - あみん/Aming  (7/21/1982)
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私、待つわ いつまでも待つわ
たとえあなたが ふり向いてくれなくても
他の誰かに あなたがふられる日まで

 "I will always wait for you, even if you
don't turn to look my way...
I will wait for you...
I will always wait for you, 
till the day someone breaks your heart"

This is another bittersweet love song that has not only a haunting refrain and sentimental lyrics but whose melody has become instantly recognizable. While the lyrics are a bit sorrowful (invoking images of longing for a former lover and waiting for the chance to get back together again no matter how long) I still find it a heartfelt romantic song (perhaps even overly sappy). It was a monster Oricon hit when it was released in 1982 and even went on to become that year's best song. Amazingly, this was the debut song for the singing duo of  岡村孝子/Okamura Takako and 加藤晴子/Kato Haruko better known as あみん/Aming.  

J-Canuck has already written much about the duo and song in his April 2012 post but I'll go ahead and add some additional notes.  As J-Canuck noted Okamura and Kato were classmates at the Sugiyama Women's College in Nagoya. Both graduated from different local high schools in the surrounding Aiichi Prefecture and were just one year apart in age. They met while studying in the college's Study Hall where Okamura asked Kato for help studying for an exam. Sharing similar interests in music and other areas, the two classmates became fast friends and were almost kindred spirits.  With encouragement from Okamura, they soon decided to form a singing duo.  They took their name from the bar name that was referenced in prolific 70s Folk Singer さだまさし//Sada Masashi's 1979 song 「パンプキン・パイとシナモン・ティー」/"Pumpkin Pie To Cinnamon Tea".  Although they initially thought to use the Kanji reading for their name 「安眠(あみん)」, the kanji reading often got misread as 「あくむ」/nightmare so they decided to use the hiragana reading instead (albeit this also proved problematic later on as it unfortunately read similar to the name of 70s Ugandan dictator and tyrant Idi Amin).

In 1982, the duo decided to enter the Yamaha's regional talent and "Popular Song Contest". They sang one of Okamura's original song compositions "Matsu Wa" for the contest and made it through to the National Grand Prix Finals.With their stoic expressions, minimalist dancing, flawless and melodic harmony, fresh faced beauty and aura of virginal innocence, they were the complete antithesis to the vivacious, 70s disco duo Pink Lady and would not only win the hearts of audiences but also win the Grand Prix.  They were instantly signed to a recording contract with Japan Phonogram, a division of Phillips Records/Columbia.  Their winning song would be their first debut single and would become an Oricon No. 1 hit and also earn them a spot in that year's 『第33回NHK紅白歌合戦』/33rd NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.  

However their meteoric rise to fame would be fleeting. While the duo would release their first album in April 1983 called 『P.S. あなたへ…』 it came amidst heated creative differences and studio pressure.  After going on a National Tour in 1984 and the release of a second album of covers called 『メモリアル』, Okamura and Kato would part ways, While Kato would site her desire to finish her education as the reason for leaving the group, she would later admit that she lacked the confidence to be a singer and had tired of the hectic, frantic and grueling singing schedule.

Okamura would go on to a successful solo career as a singer and songwriter while Kato would graduate from Sugiyama Women's College and would lead a rather quiet and normal life in Tokyo as an OL, wife and mother. Okamura and Kato would still keep in touch but Kato would hide the fact that she was part of Aming even from her family.

Out of respect and loyalty to Kato, Okamura refused to perform the song "Matsu Wa" without Kato and it wouldn't be until 2007 before she and Kato would reunite briefly as Aming and sing their signature song together.  Even after all those years, they retained their harmonious singing style and neither seemed have aged since their debut, looking just as pretty and youthful as they did in 1982.


「愛が止まらない - Turn It Into Love」 - Wink (11/16/1988)
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  JUST こころごと 止まらない もう

あなたに ドラマ始まっている

"I just can't stop the beating of my heart...
We just started our own drama story...
I can feel the quiver (of my heart/emotion)..."

Wink's superior cover of the Mike Stock/Matt Aitken/Pete Waterman's (SAW) pop classic "Turn It Into Love" made famous by Kylie Minogue and later covered by Hi-NRG UK singer Hazel Dean is one of the iconic J-Pop songs of the 80s. While the original Kylie Minogue version of the song had a more slower tempo, the Hazel Dean version of the song with its disco inspired arrangement was a bit more in line with Wink's version although Wink's version was much better in my opinion.

While both J-Canuck (September 2012 post ), and Marcos V (February 25, 2013) have both talked about Wink in their past posts, I wanted to add just a few more trivia bits regarding the duo.  Both 鈴木早智子/Suzuki Sachiko and 相田翔子/Aida Shoko grew up in the Tokyo Metropolitan area (Sachiko's family was originally from the Aiichi, Nagoya area) and they both were involved with modeling and talent contests at an early age. Shoko grew up idolizing 70s pop sensation Pink Lady and emulated their dance and song style as a child. They would both enter Wani Book's Teen Idol "Miss" Contest publicized in their 1987 "Up To Boy" publication. Sachiko would go on to win the publication's Grand Prize, while Shoko would be a runner-up.  The sponsors of the contest liked both Sachiko and Shoko very much and set out to groom the two into a singing idol unit. Initially, their managers came up with the name "Twinkle" (as they wanted to invoke the image of sparkle, pizazz and shimmering) however the English pronunciation proved too problematic so they shortened the name down to just "Wink".

Their first song wasSugar BabyLove」 (1988), a cover of English pop band, the Rubettes' doo-wop inspired 1974 UK hit. It was a marginal hit for the fledgling duo reaching No. 20 on the Oricon charts. It would not be until later that same year that they would finally get their first hit with this song「愛が止まらない - Turn It Into Love」, which featured Japanese lyrics written by songwriter 及川 眠子/Oikawa Neko (who would go on to collaborate with the duo throughout their career), was an instant smash hit and dominated the Oricon charts for the remainder of the year, even ranking No. 5 for that year.  

The lyrics to the song are touching and sentimental and the Eurobeat hook throughout the song is amazing and catchy. Sachiko and Shoko's soaring vocals just add to the resonance of the song. The PV is also quite memorable with its dream-like imagery and is one of my all time favorites from that decade.

Regarding their Lolita style of dress and expressionless demeanor, Wikipedia Japan mentions that Sachiko and Shoko have remarked in the past that it was purposely calculated and executed. Their handlers wanted them to project an image of pure, virgin-like innocence. Their fancy and flamboyant attire was almost doll-like and just added to their pure image. Their "robotic" dancing style was the polar opposite of the Pink Lady's synchronized and choreographed energetic dancing style (it was to invoke the image of a marionette). Their disinterested facial look was said to be as if they were performing/communicating in front of a older boss or other senior office manager (controlled, indifferent and stoic). Sachiko and Shoko have both said it was difficult for them not to smile or show expression when singing, contrary to what it appeared like.  

They would have a string of subsequent hits to follow including 「淋しい熱帯魚」/"Samishi Nettaigyou", (1989), 「Sexy Music」(1990), 「ニュー・ムーンに逢いましょう」/"New Moon Ni Aimashou" (1990) and 「真夏のトレモロ」/"Manatsu No Tremolo" (1991). With the release of "Sexy Music", the duo gradually shifted away from the Eurobeat style that made them famous and turned more towards a pop/rock sound.  However as they entered the 90s, their fame would start to wane and they would formally disband in 1996. Both Sachiko and Shoko would continue to perform as solo artists and would also go on to become popular TV personalities.

There have been a few covers of the song including a Jazz-flavored version by Puffy, an interesting rock ballad version by 稲垣潤一/Inagaki Jyunichi &相川七瀬/Aikawa Nanase, a version by モーニング娘/Morning Musume, a version by Osaka singing twins マナカナ/Mana Kana, and a techno-dance version by teen pop idol group Dream, which had completely different lyrics from the Wink version.


「ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up)」/"Dancing Hero - Eat You Up"  - 荻野目洋子/Oginome Yoko (11/21/1985) 
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今夜だけでも シンデレラ・ボーイ
Do you wanna dance tonight
Do you wanna hold me tight

ちょっと きどった シンデレラ・ボーイ
Do you wanna dance tonight
銀のシューズで 踊って
Do you wanna hold me tight

"Cinderella Boy, even if it's just for tonight...
Do you wanna dance tonight...
Let's make it romantic ..
Do you wanna hold me tight...

Cinderella Boy, why are you so shy...
Do you wanna dance tonight...
I wanna dance in these silver (high heel) shoes...
Do you wanna hold me tight..."

Some of you may be scratching your heads and asking WTF, why is this song in this list? While more suited to possibly a list of all-time 80s J-Pop Dance/Club songs than romantic songs, I wanted to feature this gem here as I consider it a romantic love song albeit one with a bit of a Hi-NRG, Eurobeat flavor to it..  

With its narrative about an older party girl seducing a much younger "Cinderella Boy" (boy-toy) lover on the dance floor, I couldn't help but think about the recent romances and wedding announcements of 浜崎あゆみ/Hamasaki Ayumi and 宇多田 ヒカル/Utada Hikaru to much younger, 20-something "Gaijin"/foreigners (Ayu to a UCLA Medical School Student and Utada to an Italian Bartender working in London). 

J-Canuck did a write up about the song in his great March 2012 post but I'll just add a few other trivia. As already mentioned this song is a cover of European (UK?) Hi-NRG singer Angie Gold's 80s dance/club classic "Eat You Up". With Angie Gold's aggressive vocal work, its catchy Italo Disco flavored hook and lover scorned/revenge-themed lyrics, it would become a favorite on the European dance floors.

Songwriter 篠原 仁志/Shinohara Hitoshi is credited with the Japanese lyrics for the song with music re-arrangement credited to 馬飼野康二/Makaino Koujji ("Eat You Up's" original composition and lyrics are credited to the duo of A.Kate & T.Baker).

This song marked a dramatic shift for Oginome and turned her from a minor B-Idol to "Pop Princess of Eurobeat". You can read more about Oginome's early years and her rise to fame in my February 2013 for her.  

Oginome did several self-covers of the song over the years including a slow-tempo version ("70s Mirror Ball Mix) and a "Modern Version" with somewhat more faster beat and dance flavored arrangement. The All-English version with its somewhat goofy "Engrish" lyrics is a hoot, featuring such unintentionally campy lyrics as "You don't know how to make love..." and "I'll teach you what to do...Don't be shy"  Oddly, the English version opted not to use the original Angie Gold lyics and instead used a completely new set of English lyrics.

The song with its unmistakeable intro and infectious hook has become an essential and iconic 80s J-Pop staple not only by 40-somethings and 80s Karaoke enthusiasts but also by modern audiences who see it as a sentimental and nostalgic dance classic. Even the PV with Oginome (in a shocking pink wig) is a classic. It has been covered by a few artists including  MAX and Pink Babys.  Even after 30 years, the song is still able to get people to stand up and dance and Oginome herself is practically ageless at 45 as this clip from last year with the EXILE Tribe subgroup 三代目 J Soul Brothers /San Daime No J Soul Brothers shows.

「駅」/"Eki" - 竹内まりや/Takeuchi Mariya  (11/28/87)
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うつむく横顔 見ていたら
思わず涙 あふれてきそう
今になって あなたの気持ち
初めてわかるの 痛いほど
私だけ 愛してたことも

"I get on the car next to yours
And when I see you looking down
I suddenly feel like I'm about to cry
For the first time now
I realize how you felt and it hurts
And I realize I was the only one in love"

Of all of 竹内まりや/Takeuchi Mariya's eclectic and prolific catalog of celebrated songs, 「駅」 is hands down my all-time favorite from her.  With its touching lovelorn and heartbreaking lyrics about regret for a past breakup, it stands as one of the most beautiful and poignant J-Pop songs ever. (I tear up every time I hear this song). While many may consider this more of a breakup or sad song, the powerful. sophisticated, adult lyrics coupled with Takeuchi's haunting vocals give an epic romantic grandness to the song.  While, originally written by Takeuchi for 中森明菜/Nakamori Akina and included on Akina's 1986 『CRIMSON』 album, the song failed to spark much hype. Influential 70s Singer/Songwriter 山下 達郎/Yamashita Tatsuro (Takeuchi's husband and frequent musical collaborator) was unhappy with Akina's interpretation of the song and asked Takeuchi if she would cover the song herself.  After much hesitation and some nudging from her legion of fans, she eventually relented and released her own cover of the song in 1987. Suffice to say, Takeuchi's rendition did much better reaching No. 55 during its initial release and No. 19 when it was re-released in 1991. The song has since become one of Takeuchi's signature songs and is frequently listed at the top of songs requested by her fans.

Interestingly, Takeuchi has confessed that the song is not autobiographical and that she herself has not even remotely experienced the type of heartbreak expressed in the narrative of the song. Yamashita has said that the "station" referenced in the song is the old Tokyu Higashi Ohsen Shibuya Station.

J-Canuck has written at length about Takeuchi in his many posts about her and her songs, however I'll just add a few more notes of trivia about her.  Takeuchi was born into a rather large family of six siblings (four girls, two boys) of which she was the middle daughter. Takeuchi grew up in Shimane Prefecture near the Southern Tip of Japan (near Kyushu). Her father gave her an English-sounding name ("Mariya or Maria") so that she would  be more accepted abroad. In fact, during her 2nd/3rd year of High School, Takeuchi went to Illinois on an ESL homestay/exchange program and studied at an American High School (Rockfalls Township High School ).

After High School, Takeuchi went on to the prestigious Keio University (in Tokyo) where she studied English Literature. While at Keio, Takeuchi got involved in the school's glee club (music circle) group 「リアル・マッコイズ」/The Real McCoy's.  Along with a cousin, Takeuchi was part of the background vocal group.  Eventually the music cicle group started to perform in front of various audiences and began to enter talent contests under the group name 「ピープル」/"People". With Takeuchi's idol looks and natural singing ability, she definitely stood out and was eventually signed to a singing contract with RCA/RCV Japan.  Takeuchi's first single was 「戻っておいで私の時間 」/"Odotte Oide Watashi No Jikan" (1978). Even at that time Takeuchi's flawless English coupled with her powerful vocals impressed.  

While Takeuchi tried to balance her burgeoning singing career with her studies at Keio, she eventually had to give up her course work in order to pursue her dreams as a singer. In 1979, Takeuchi's song 「SEPTEMBER 」 won her the "New Artist" award at the 第21回日本レコード大賞/21st Annual Japan Record Taishou.  Her next song 「不思議なピーチパイ」/"Fushigi Na Peach Pie" (1980) would also be a big hit ranking in at No. 3 on the Oricon charts.

It was during this time she would meet fellow singer/songwriter 山下 達郎/Yamashita Tatsuro who was also a rising star at the time. Takeuchi was a fan of his and had went to some of his live concerts and was very much influenced by his music. She saw him as a kindred spirit, who also had a great command of the English language (thanks to his studio work in New York).  Yamashita was attached to the same record label and they frequently ran into each other during recording sessions. Yamashita would also collaborate with Takeuchi, doing some music arrangement work for her songs.  They would gradually fall in love and Takeuchi would begin living with Yamashita from 1980.  They would marry not long after in 1982.

After marrying Yamashita, Takeuchi took a break from singing to focus on songwriting. Takeuchi wrote a number of songs for other artists including 中山美穂/Nakayama Miho's 「色・ホワイトブレンド」/"Iro White Blend" (1986) , 福永恵規/Fukunaga Satomi's 「心もJUMPして! 夏のイントロ」/"Kokoro Mo Jump Shite - Natsu No Intro" (1987), 薬師丸ひろ子/Yakushimaru Hiroko's 元気を出して」/"Genki O Dashite" (1984), 牧瀬里穂/Makise Riho's 「Miracle Love」 (1991)  and アン・ルイス/Ann Lewis' 「リンダ」/"Linda", many of which Takeuchi would self-cover later.

In the late 80s and early 90s Takuchi would return to singing and have a string of hits including such chart toppers as 「シングル・アゲイン」/"Single Again" (1989)、「告白」/"Kokuhaku" (1990)、「マンハッタン・キス」/"Manhattan Kiss" (1992) and 「今夜はHearty Party」/"Konya Wa Hearty Party" (1994).  Even her minor singles like 夢の続き」/"Yume No Tsuzuki" (1987) did well. Next to 松任谷 由実/Matsutoya Yumi, Takeuchi is perhaps considered one of the most prolific and successful female songwriters in Japanese Pop Music.  

Even after over four decades in the music business Takeuchi is still composing memorable music and shows no indication of slowing down or retiring.  If her recent songs 「たそがれダイアリー」/"Tasogare Dairy" (2013) and "In Your Eyes" (a cover of one of Yamashita's early 80s hits) are any indication, Takeuchi will still be an influential and relevant force in JPop music for many years to come.


  1. Thanks very much for your list of Valentine Day romantic songs. Although there have been plenty of happy-go-lucky-in-love songs throughout kayo kyoku and J-Pop, I think the Japanese seem to have a special place for the bittersweet stuff. I have to say your choice of "Dancing Hero" was something that I hadn't expected.

  2. Hi JTM.

    This special list was a very nice reading. I especially liked all the trivia you provided about Wink. It was great to read their explanation about the Lolita/Doll style they used to portray in the past. Also, I always though it was funny to see them struggling not to laugh in shows like "The Best Ten", for example. This made me remember of a very specific performance of them in The Best Ten, where they're singing (lyp-sinching, tbh) "Namida wo Misenaide ~Boys Don't Cry~" in a strange beach with lots of Western people dancing in a very, very cheesy way while the Wink girls were just doing some lame dance with their signature indifferent facial expressions. It was very funny.

    As for "Dancing Hero", I must agree with J-Canuck. It was very unexpected. At the same time, placing this Hi-NRG classic into this category was a nice change. And it shows that sometimes the lyrics can be categorized differently from the overall music style.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.