The bands Rats and Star (formerly Chanels) and Checkers have a connection: they were both 80s groups which dipped into American pop music of the 50s, with the former going for the doo-wop sound while the latter had a more teenage rock n' roll beat. Also both bands had lead singers who've gone on to bigger and better solo gigs, especially when it came to their balladry.
Case in point: whenever I think of Fumiya Fujii （藤井フミヤ）of Checkers during his solo career in which he has released 31 singles up to 2013, there is one song that comes to mind immediately. His creation of "True Love" may have been his 2nd single but it was his first after the breakup of Checkers at the end of 1992. Released almost a year later in November 1993 and created by the man himself, it's a song that probably has had potential serenaders learning how to play guitar and sing simply for the opportunity to finally woo their loves from below their apartment windows. It is that much of a love song.
"True Love" was the theme song for one of Fuji-TV's jewels in the crown of the 90s, "Asunaro Hakusho"（あすなろ白書...Asunaro White Paper）, a show that was also part of the slate on my university club's Wednesday-night activity of presenting J-Dramas. I remember that there was a pretty full room whenever the episodes were shown at the International Student Centre...right at the same level as "Tokyo Love Story". And not surprisingly, both dramas started out as manga created by Fumi Saimon（柴門ふみ）. At the time, her name was synonymous with prime time pure love.
My memory has gotten pretty hazy over the years when it comes to individual Kohaku Utagassen. But one of the highlights from the 1993 show that I still remember clear as a bell has been Fujii's performance of "True Love". That one part where he played the instrumental bridge on his guitar as the lone spotlight shone on him from behind was one great moment in the history of the show by my estimation. Perhaps even tears were shed from among the audience and viewership. And what made it even more special was that the two leads from "Asunaro Hakusho", Hikari Ishida (as Captain of the Women's Red Team) and Michitaka Tsutsui (as one of the judges in front of the stage) were right there. Ishida even presented a bouquet of flowers to Fujii at the end of the performance.
"True Love" hit the top spot on Oricon for 5 consecutive weeks and despite its late release in the year, it became the 29th-ranked song. A year later, it even rose up to become the 11th-ranked song for 1994. I'm pretty sure if it had been released earlier in 1993, it would have cracked the year's Top 10 easily.
I mentioned about "True Love" being the ideal serenade song. Well, it has also become a very popular ballad to be performed at wedding parties. And Fujii himself has sung it numerous times at those happy occasions which led him to admitting "I've sung it so many times at wedding parties that I don't know how many times I've done it" (translated from the J-Wiki article on the song).
I used to watch a Saturday night program on the same Fuji-TV at 11 p.m. called "Hammer Price" hosted by the comedy duo, Tunnels, in which incredibly weird and/or wonderful artifacts of pop culture were auctioned off to often rabid bidders in the studio audience. Robert DeNiro's rotten Japanese calligraphy? Check! The late porn actress-turned-tarento Ai Iijima's used bath water? Check (and ewwwww)! Well, one of the more wonderful prizes up for bid was the opportunity for a lucky person to have Fujii sing "True Love" at a wedding reception. And it was like watching a shark feeding frenzy. The bidding heated up to the point where there were only two standing: a woman and the president of an event-planner company. The woman finally won and it was the first time in the program's history that the bidding went beyond 1 million yen (a little under $10,000 US today). I'm not quite sure if she had been the bride. The groom should have been enormously proud...or aghast.
I just had to include a sample of "Hammer Price" above. This isn't the crazed bidding war for "True Love", but a chance to go into the ring for 10 minutes with wrestler (and future Upper House councillor) Antonio Enoki.