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, June 7, 2014

Tunnels -- Nasakenee (情けねえ)

This was the one song that helped me transition back to Canadian life (briefly anyways) when I returned from Gunma Prefecture in summer 1991 to Toronto. "Nasakenee" (Pathetic) was released in May of that year, just a few months before I left the country and then, thanks to the wonders of friends sending back VHS video tapes, I kept seeing Tunnels (とんねるず)perform the song as the ending theme for their wildly popular Thursday-night show, "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage desu".

The song was the Tunnels' seeming tribute to all things Bruce Springsteen/Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi in terms of the music, but according to the J-Wiki article on "Nasakenee", the song was written by future AKB 48 impresario Yasushi Akimoto (秋元康)and composed by Tsugutoshi Goto (後藤次利)as a satire on Japan's response to the Gulf War cloaked in patriotic pop/rock. Considering that Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi (石橋貴明・木梨憲武)had been poking fun at enka, international pop culture and themselves (not necessarily in that order all the time), I had thought that the guys were actually being somewhat serious with this one, their 17th single. But then, when I saw a recording of the Nihon Kayo Taisho (日本歌謡大賞...Japan Music Awards)on one of those videos I was talking about, and the Tunnels actually won the Grand Prize, I saw Ishibashi and Kinashi look at each other in some gleeful shock as if they were saying "We actually won for THIS?"

Of course, true to their wild n' crazy nature, Taka-chan and Nori weren't going to let their first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen go to waste. I'm sure jaws dropped, laughter roared and the NHK switchboard lit up like a belated Xmas tree when the audience got to see the guys dressed only in fright wigs, underpants, boots and powder. "Nasakenee" had been given heavy rotation for several months, so the song was no longer the thing. It was the Tunnels doing what they did best. And at the end of the performance, they gave one more kick by turning around and showing the message painted on their collective backs, "Pay your NHK fees!" Citizens and foreign residents alike had to pay a monthly stipend to the national broadcaster via visiting middle-aged man if one owned a television set....something that some folks tried to get out of in various ways. For the last several years, NHK basically has been taking it out of the bank account directly. If PBS in the States and Canada tried that tactic, there most likely would be blood spilled.

The song went to No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and was the 20th-ranked entry at the end of 1991. Its staying power even extended to the end of 1992 when it ended the year as the 84th-ranked song.

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