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, June 26, 2014

Kiyoshiro Imawano & Ryuichi Sakamoto/Asako Toki -- I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic (い・け・な・いルージュマジック)

The late Kiyoshiro Imawano (忌野清志郎)was a figure that I'd seen off and on over the 30-or-so years that I've been involved with Japanese pop music. I didn't get into his music when he was fronting RC Succession or his solo efforts, but he was one that stood out whenever he showed up on television. In his later years, he appeared as a mix between a Japanese Doctor Who and a retired glam rocker, but I also knew him for one excerpt from an old 80s performance that has been the video piece to show whenever 80s Japanese music or his music is discussed. The excerpt was him in Full New Wave mode prancing about the stage and kissing keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一)while he was performing "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic" (Taboo Rouge Magic). Those particular seconds have been shown so often that I wondered whether Imawano was tempted to strangle the host or the director of the show.

Imawano was born Kiyoshi Kurihara(栗原 清志) in Tokyo in 1951 and has worn many hats in the entertainment industry as rock singer, songwriter, producer and actor. Starting a band called The Clovers back in his high school days, that band later turned into RC Succession in 1968 with their official debut in 1970.

"I-ke-nai-i Rouge Magic" was born from a desire from both Imawano and Sakamoto to work together. And with Imawano taking care of the lyrics and Sakamoto creating the music, their New Wave-y love child was born on Valentine's Day in 1982. The two of them embraced their inner New Romanticism for the official music video above by wrapping themselves in what looked like shapeless quilts and putting on the full lip gloss, eye shadow and foundation. What also made the video stand out was all that money that was literally bursting out of their clothes. Supposedly, those were real 10,000-yen bills that were billowing out of them and then off the roof of a tall building one night. And then there was the kiss near the end. It certainly wasn't a boring presentation.

Here is that famous TV performance I was telling you about earlier. Y'know, I'm not surprised that the excerpt was perennially shown during any retrospectives of the old Showa era music. Looking at the video, the music and the performers reminded me of all things 80s: New Wave, MTV and British musicians. Although growing up in Canada, I fully absorbed all of the above from the US and the UK, I don't think they became too mainstream in Japan, so I'm pretty sure several hundred folks at home probably choked on their food or drink when they first caught the scene of Imawano raggedly singing and skipping about like Mick Jagger and planting that big wet one on Sakamoto (along with several licks on his cheek). But that's why he has been called "Japan's King of Rock". I'm not a rock person but my impression of an ultimate rock singer is one who pokes holes in the conventional whether it's singing or stage performing without giving one care to what anyone thinks. I'd say that performance was one example of that.

With the word "rouge" in the title and a No. 1 ranking on the charts, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Shiseido would come knocking and use the song as the campaign jingle. It became the 20th-ranked song of 1982.

I remember when the media announced his passing away due to cancer in 2009. The following days had a lot of time on TV devoted to Imawano...more than what I had usually seen for departed celebrities in recent years. His funeral apparently attracted as many mourners as those for the late Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), perhaps the most beloved kayo kyoku singer in the early postwar period. A tribute concert was also held at the annual Fuji Rock Festival a few months later with artists such as Chara, UA, Tortoise Matsumoto from Ulfuls and Hiroto Komoto from the Blue Hearts performing.

Going back to the official music video for "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic", whatever happened to all those 10,000-yen bills being thrown off the building? Who knows? Apparently a good chunk of them disappeared forever, which goes to show that the Japanese may be some of the most generally law-abiding folks but they also don't ignore it when opportunity knocks.


In 2011, Asako Toki (土岐麻子)gave her own cute cover of "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic" via her album, "Light". There's a lot less of the rock and some more of the AOR feeling here.

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