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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tama -- Sayonara Jinrui (さよなら人類)

Back in Gunma Prefecture, I once saw this commercial for shochu, I believe, a fair bit on the telly. Going from the 80s into the 90s with this diversification of Japanese popular music into a number of directions such as ska, glam rock (visual kei) and the like, I was seeing and hearing a lot of new and different acts blossoming like April sakura. And the jingle that went with the above ad struck me as being one of those examples. It was gentle and amiable and unlike anything that I had heard when compared to the synth-driven sounds of Wink and Chisato, the mellow pop of Miki Imai and Midori Karashima, and the sunny, brassy feeling from Dreams Come True.

Then I finally found out what this song was and who originated it. I just saw the hiragana for Tama (たま)down in the corner of the screen during one commercial and then finally caught the band itself on some music show some time later. Man, you know the heavy metal band Motley Crue? Well, Tama was truly a motley crew. I can honestly say that I have never seen a band this weird-looking before or since. It was like seeing a mix of Japanese folklore characters and the membership of the least popular club in university, especially that one guy on guitar who looks like he was the servant to a 12th-century British monk. Definitely unforgettable.

"Sayonara Jinrui" (Goodbye Humanity) was Tama's debut single and their biggest hit from May 1990. Written and composed by Yoichiro Yanagihara(柳原陽一郎), the band keyboardist, the song was a riff off of a number of movies such as "Planet of the Apes" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" as Yanagihara sang comically about the inevitable evolution into monkeys. The adorably odd appearances of the band members, the high-pitched harmonies and a melody that would sound just as appropriate for a walk with Momotaro and his posse as it would in a singalong in a karaoke box made "Sayonara Jinrui" a bona fide hit. It hit No. 1, went Double Platinum, got Tama onto the Kohaku Utagassen and finished the year as the No. 4 song, selling around 600,000 copies.

Tama actually coalesced all the way back in 1984 after Koji Ishikawa (石川浩司...percussion, recorder) had met Toshiaki Chiku (知久寿焼...guitar, mandolin) at an event in Kita-Senju, Tokyo. A year later, they would get acquainted with Yanagihara at a similar function nearby. All three had been solo performers at various live houses in the past but in November 1984, they decided to create their band, Tama...a name that was chosen for no special reason.

Then in 1986, Koji Takimoto (滝本晃司...bass) joined Tama when he was the only one who answered the band's call for a bassist. And at the time, Takimoto had never even played the bass. A few more years later in 1989, Tama got into the popular Battle-of-the-Bands-type program on TBS, "Miyake Yuji no Ikasu Band Tengoku"(三宅裕司のいかすバンド天国...Yuji Miyake's Cool Band Heaven), known by its nickname, Ika-Ten. Tama struck a chord with the viewing audience and ended up becoming not only the 14th Ika-Ten King for 5 straight weeks from November 11th to December 9th but also the 3rd Grand Ika-Ten King (probably like becoming yokozuna in sumo) after Flying Kids and the Okinawan band BEGIN.

Although "Sayonara Jinrui" was their only success story on the charts at least, they continued to release several albums and singles until their final breakup in 2003, and garnered a good following including a number of famous fans such as Masamune Kusano of Spitz, Momoko Sakura who created the long-running manga "Chibi Maruko-chan" (whose anime theme song became the No. 1 song of 1990) and the duo Yuzu. Even enka singer Kiyoshi Hikawa mentioned that "Sayonara Jinrui" was the first single that he had ever bought on his own.

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