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, May 17, 2014

Yoko Nagayama/Yoko Oginome -- Venus (ヴィーナス)

Last night as I was watching the news on CTV, I could feel the aging process speeding up. The reason wasn't because of some news story but on the admission by one of the two co-anchors that she had never heard of Bananarama before! Mind you, Michelle Dube was probably born at the same time that the British trio had hit it really big with "Venus", but still.....OUCH! Anyways, Bananarama's cover of the Shocking Blue single from 1969 was truly a heavy-rotation song and video on Canada's Muchmusic and a popular tune on the dance floors at some of our favourite haunts in Toronto such as The Copa or Sparkles.

Now, the danceable appeal of "Venus" was also not lost on the Japanese pop music scene. According to the article on the song on J-Wiki, Kiyohiko Ozaki(尾崎紀世彦)and Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵)in the 1970s had covered it on their respective albums (couldn't find Ozaki's cover anywhere and Yamaguchi's supposed concert cover just turned out to be some sort of stage performance involving a motorcycle while the music only was playing in the background: you can give it a listen here --

If I were to put up an article on a Yoko Nagayama (長山洋子)song from the last couple of decades, the genre tag I would place on the right there would most certainly be enka since she has been an enka singer since 1993. However, for almost a decade previously, Nagayama was one of the many cute aidoru of the 80s from the various talent agencies. She debuted in 1984 with "Haru wa Sa-ra Sa-ra" (春はSA-RA SA-RA...Spring is Refreshing)but her big hit from those days was her cover of "Venus", and probably for most fans who had known her before she sported the kimono and shamisen, this would be the song that she's most identified with. I vaguely remember seeing her on the music shows performing it and nowadays, such video footage is probably shown whenever Nagayama shows up as a guest on some program doing a retrospective on her life. But watching the video above, she cut quite a dynamic figure especially with that Yoko Oginome-esque outfit. Her cover was released as her 8th single in October 1986 and went as high as No. 10, selling 400,000 copies. Shocking Blue guitarist Robbie van Leeuwan wrote and composed the original "Venus" but for the Japanese version, Hitoshi Shinohara (篠原仁志)provided the lyrics.

Speaking of the other Yoko, Oginome (荻野目洋子)also gave her version of "Venus" several weeks following the release of the Nagayama single via her 6th album, "Non-Stopper" which came out in December 1986. If there were anyone who would be picked as the go-to singer for this one, Oginome probably would've been one of the top 3 folks to be selected. Her cover along with the 4 official singles that came out of the album helped push "Non-Stopper" to become the No. 1 album of 1987 on Oricon.

And here is the original by Shocking Blue.

Yoko Nagayama

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