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, April 17, 2014

The Ventures/Yuko Nagisa/Akiko Yano -- Kyoto Bojou (京都慕情)

On the right side of the Pacific Ocean, when the band The Ventures is mentioned, the fans may remember them for their renditions of songs like "Walk, Don't Run" and one of the best American TV themes in history, "Hawaii Five-0" (if anyone mentions the Aloha State to me, that's the song that gets into my head immediately). But unless someone can correct me, The Ventures are seen here in North America as a musical product of a bygone age who might sometimes pop up whenever a nostalgia tour is advertised on the telly.

However in Japan, just like The Carpenters, The Ventures have been nothing less than music gods for over 50 years. After the band's start in 1959, it didn't take long for Don Wilson, Bob Bogle and the rest of the guys to come over to the left side of the Pacific in 1962 for the first time and pretty much stay there in spirit. For years, whenever I watched TV in the country and heard that The Ventures were coming over for their umpteenth tour, the announcers would always talk about the "teketeke" (テケテケ)sound which was the chromatic run that was the characteristic of the guitar playing. I gather that a lot of teenagers there became rock acolytes from that.

The relationship between The Ventures and Japan wasn't just a one-way thing from fan to entertainer. The band also had their love for the country and also created songs in tribute. One of their earliest creations was "Futari no Ginza"(二人の銀座...Ginza For Two), a Mood Kayo duet from 1967. Then a few years later, they moved their focus to the ancient capital of Kyoto with "Kyoto Bojou" which translates as Kyoto Yearning although the official English title was the more romantic-sounding "Reflections In A Palace Lake".

Released on November 25 1970, "Kyoto Bojou" was an instrumental piece which was a cheerful mix of Ventures and kayo kyoku (although I can imagine a scene in Honolulu as much as a scene in Kyoto). I can easily hear this being played on a koto. On Oricon, it went as high as No. 48.

Less than a week after The Ventures' release of "Kyoto Bojou", singer Yuko Nagisa(渚ゆう子)released her lovely cover from December 1, complete with lyrics by Haruo Hayashi(林春生) and a classic kayo kyoku arrangement with an orchestra. And it wasn't her first time covering a Ventures number. Earlier in the year, she had also given her version of the band's "Kyoto no Koi"(京都の恋...Kyoto Doll) which stayed at No. 1 for 8 straight weeks and is her most successful hit. "Kyoto Bojou" was almost as successful with the song peaking at No. 2 and ending up as the 15th-ranked song of 1971.

Actually, the first time I heard "Kyoto Bojou" in any of its incarnations was through Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)funky & fun version from her 1997 album, "Oui Oui". With all of the geographical hopping I've hinted at in the article, I can say that Yano's version, which is titled "Kyoto", has more of a grounding in The Big Apple. It shares the album with "Cream Stew".

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