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.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Drifters -- Hige Dance (ヒゲダンス)

Now, this entry here isn't so much about a true song actually but about a bass line taken from an American soul tune and imported into Japanese pop culture to become one of the most famous riffs in the country's TV history.

If you were of a certain age and had access to Japanese variety show videos, you may have come across the long-running TBS show "Hachi-ji da yo! Zen'in Shuugo"(8時だよ!全員集合...It's 8 O'clock! Everyone Assemble)starring the comedy group The Drifters which lasted from 1969 to 1985. I used to watch it with my family at the old Toronto Buddhist Church on Bathurst St. on the gigantic VHS player in the basement, sometimes after a couple of episodes of the jidai-geki drama "Mito Komon". Of course, for us kiddies at the time, it was always fun to watch the hijinks by The Drifters, especially the two most unhinged members of the group, Ken Shimura and Cha Kato(志村けん・加藤茶). Often the pair would get away with stuff that probably shouldn't be shown to the children, but there was one safe segment which was arguably their most famous one.

Called The Hige Dance (The Moustache Dance), Shimura and Kato danced out like disco penguins in tuxes and bushy moustaches while pulling off some vaudevillian tricks for the audience. But it was the theme for the Dance which acted like the 3rd member of the act.

That bass riff just kept propelling the boys forward, and I cannot think of any other song, instrumental or otherwise that could accompany The Hige Dance. And the entire segment is one of the lasting images I have of "Hachi-ji da yo!" So it was a surprise to find out from the J-Wiki article on that dance that it actually only lasted for perhaps a year and change from 1979 to September 1980. In a way, it could be analogous to those folks who had thought that the original "Star Trek" TV series lasted far longer than its three years on America's NBC because of all of the reruns. I certainly thought the segment with Shimura and Kato went on for far longer.

The other surprise I got was finding about the bass riff's source. It came from "Do Me" by the late US R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, created by Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble. For The Hige Dance itself, the bassist taking care of the riff was Akihiko Takashima (たかしまあきひこ).

Despite the surprisingly short lifetime of The Hige Dance on the show, the phenomenon became popular with the kids at the time, and even more importantly, it has remained unforgotten over the decades. Singers like Hiromi Go, Rumiko Koyanagi and Kenji Sawada have participated in the hijinks, and even recently, Shimura has been strutting once more as above (I'm sure that it has also popped up in other variety shows all over the networks). In this video, it's with tarento Yuka and the terrifyingly excitable character representative for Chiba Prefecture's Funabashi City (next to Ichikawa), Funasshi(ふなっしー).

And speaking of characters, 141 of them tried to get into the record books dancing to the song.

Also, The Hige Dance has also been used in the dance studios.

And also as part of the entertainment at wedding receptions. I'm sure the beer helped. Over 30 years later, the bushy moustaches are still apparently sold in stores just for that sort of occasion. Thank you, Teddy, Kenny, Leon, Ken and Cha.

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