When I think of my favourite aidorus from the 1980s, Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori （松田聖子・中森明菜）will always take the top two places. The bronze medal then could be split between two cute singers from Osaka, Naoko Kawai （河合奈保子）and Yoshie Kashiwabara（柏原芳恵）. But while Matsuda and Nakamori, and to a certain extent Kawai, broke out of their aidoru mold a few years into their respective careers to head into full-blown pop superstardom, I always thought that Kashiwabara was the one who kept things close to her aidoru roots although the melodies that were given to her stretched things out more than would be the case for the average teenybopper Japanese singer.
Back in my U of T days, as I did my regular shopping at Wah Yueh, I made my biggest purchase at the Chinese record shop by getting "Yoshie Kashiwabara -- The Best", the 2-LP album which cost 4,000 yen in Japan....I've completely forgotten how much I paid for it in Canadian bucks. All I know is that I didn't say anything to my parents that day. In any case, after having listened to her "Haru Nanoni" on the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen, I knew the opportunity was there for me to get it. And why not? Looking like the most elegant bartender on the cover with that elaborate penmanship on the upper right had me parting with my money quickly.
1. No. 1
2. Mainichi ga Valentine 毎日がバレンタイン
3. Dai Nisho Kuchizuke 第二章・くちづけ
4. Otomegokoro Nani Iro? 乙女心何色？
5. Glass no Natsu ガラスの夏
6. Melancholy Hakusho めらんこりい白書
7. Hello, Goodbye
8. Koibito Tachi no Cafe Terrace 恋人たちのカフェテラス
9. Nagisa no Cinderella 渚のシンデレラ
10. Ano Basho Kara あの場所から
11. Karin 花梨
12. Haru Nanoni 春なのに
1. Chotto Nara Biyaku ちょっとなら媚薬
2. Natsu Moyo 夏模様
3. Tiny Memory
6. Itazura Night Doll 悪戯NIGHT DOLL
1. Saiai 最愛
2. Lonely Canary
3. Machikutabirete Yokohama 待ちくたびれてヨコハマ
4. Taiyo ga Shitteiru 太陽が知っている
5. Shinobi Ai し・の・び・愛
Yep, even for a BEST album, that's a pretty big chunk...almost all of her singles between 1980 and 1985.
My first entry here is from Side A of LP1, "Mainichi ga Valentine" (Everyday is Valentine's) which was her 2nd single from September 1980. Written by Yu Aku （阿久悠）and composed by Makoto Kawaguchi（川口真）, the song has that mix of 70s aidoru and some of that American 50s sound that was getting pretty popular at the time. It only got as high as No. 64 on the weeklies and sold a little under 30,000 copies.
It has been many years since I've listened to this 2-LP set due to the fact that I hadn't had access to a working phonograph during all that time. So it was great to listen to Yoshie-chan's old hits once again. But I have to admit that on hearing the first few singles, I felt that there had been a little work to be done in terms of matching her voice with the right material.
I think things started looking up with this ballad, "Melancholy Hakusho" (Melancholy White Paper). Her 6th single from September 1981 was once again written by Yu Aku with music this time by Katsuo Ono（小野克夫）. As a prelude to her most famous ballad, "Haru Nanoni", "Melancholy Hakusho" had the strings-led romantic sweep with Kashiwabara taking on that certain breathy quality as she sang about a budding romance that quickly went south for some reason. This tune hit higher at No. 23 and sold a little over 50,000 records. Bigger things would be waiting around the corner for her with her next single, "Hello, Goodbye" which became the biggest-selling single of her career.
"Karin" (Rosewood) was her 13th single from October 1982. I mentioned at the top that although Kashiwabara pretty much remained an aidoru, her songs took on different melodies. "Karin" was one such example as it was written and composed by Shinji Tanimura （谷村新司）from the folk group Alice. Tanimura may have performed some pretty muscular folk songs when he was part of the group, but when he went solo or wrote/composed for other singers (such as "Ii Hi Tabidachi" for Momoe Yamaguchi), he created some tenderhearted ballads. And I could clearly hear Tanimura's lilt through Kashiwabara's higher delivery which brought a certain innocence to the proceedings.
"Karin" peaked at No. 10 and ranked No. 97 on the Oricon annual chart. It also won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year.
Following her hit Miyuki Nakajima-penned ballad, "Haru Nanoni", her next (15th) single from April 1983 abruptly changed direction with "Chotto Nara Biyaku" (A Little Aphrodisiac). I'm continuing the Momoe Yamaguchi （山口百恵）association here since the creators of this song were Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki（宇崎竜童・阿木燿子）, the husband-and-wife team behind many of Yamaguchi's harder-edged songs from the latter half of her career. Compared to the lovelorn good girl from her previous single, Kashiwabara is the bad girl in this single as the lyrics mention the title drug being dissolved in a glass of something, running away and smoking. The song does remind me a bit of the tough-and-cynical Momoe of the late 70s although seeing Yoshie performing it in a debutante's dress as above and the Beatles' lyric of "Love me do" easily take the edge off. I'm not sure whether the Japanese authorities cried foul over the contents of the song, but it did hit No. 10 on the weeklies and sold over 120,000 records.
Single No. 16 was "Natsu Moyo" (Summer Pattern) from June 1983, and it was back to the tenderhearted ballad for the singer. Kazuhiko Matsuo（松尾一彦）, Off-Course member, created the music while singer-actress Mariko Fuji （藤真利子）under her pen name of Anri Bibi （微美杏里）provided the lyrics. Once again, the theme is of a girl who has lost or is about to lose that favourite guy of hers. Perhaps the stories in her ballads aren't exactly novel, but hey, I'm still a sucker for a lot of old 80s J-ballads.
"Natsu Moyo" broke the Top 10 and reached No. 8 and later became the 81st-ranked song of 1983, selling about 160,000 records. Now, as for that pen name that Fuji created for herself, maybe the actress was a fan of Vivian Leigh (try reading the name as the Japanese do).
My final song for this article is "Taiyo ga Shitteiru" (The Sun Knows) from July 1985 in which Yoshie sings about desiring to explore the more sinful side of romance. Kazuhiko Matsuo also composed her 24th single which has a bit of summer spice as if the singer is having those desires somewhere in the Caribbean...or Guam. Goro Matsui （松井五郎）provided the lyrics. Although it peaked at No. 10, "Taiyo ga Shitteiru" only sold a little less than 60,000 records.
It was good to go over this particular record set, especially since "Yoshie Kashiwabara - The Best" doesn't seem to exist anymore. I couldn't find it listed in the J-Wiki article for her discography so I could only guess that it was released in 1986 (the last track of "Shinobi Ai" was released in September 1985) and I have no idea how it fared on the Oricon charts. There are, of course, other BEST compilations for the singer; in fact, I bought one such CD a few years ago in my phonograph-less desperation.
But listening to all of the songs again over a couple of days, I wondered what would have happened if Yoshie had decided to push the envelope a bit more and break out just as Seiko and Akina had, or taken a brief detour into something like City Pop or AOR as Naoko Kawai had. Perhaps she would have entered the higher echelons of superstardom (I'm not weeping here since she has been able to carve another career as an actress and photobook model) and earned somewhat more than the modest rankings and sales she did make. Still, the "What If" doesn't take away from some of the nice tracks I re-discovered on her first BEST release, and those songs were able to take me back to those early days of exploring anything and everything of the old stuff.
Still a few more songs on that LP list to explore in individual articles in the future.