Thursday, August 14, 2014
Ken Yabuki/Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Ushiro no Sugata/Anata no Blues （うしろの姿・あなたのブルース）
A couple of nights ago I was watching "Kayo Concert", and I was a bit late for the top batter in the singing lineup. It turned out to be enka veteran Yoshimi Tendo（天童よしみ）singing a song that I hadn't heard before, "Anata no Blues" (Your Blues). As I heard the mournful cry-in-your-sake melody and the anguished delivery by Tendo, I wondered out loud to my parents if this had been a Keiko Fuji（藤圭子）song. They didn't know but since I seem to have developed this affinity for this brand of Mood Kayo, I decided to dig further.
Well, I found out that the original singer for "Anata no Blues" was Ken Yabuki（矢吹健）, a Mood Kayo singer from Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture (good grapes there) who came down to Tokyo to study under composer Takuya Fujimoto（藤本卓也）. He made his debut in June 1968 at the age of 22 with "Anata no Blues", written and composed by Fujimoto, and he certainly made the most of his first single in terms of emotion. The songsheet could've wrung out a litre of tears. Listening to the YouTube video above, "Anata no Blues" is the second of the two songs, and as I listened to Yabuki, I thought he sounded a lot like another enka veteran Shinichi Mori（森進一）, something that the J-Wiki article on Yabuki indicated. In addition, my initial thought about it being a Keiko Fuji song also bore some fruit...it was indeed covered by the late singer a few years later. The Yabuki original managed to get as high as No. 27 on Oricon, selling close to 140,000 records.
(Sorry but the YouTube video has been taken down.)
The first song on the YouTube video is also quite appealing for that round in an old-fashioned nomiya. "Ushiro no Sugata" (The Back of You) is Yabuki's 4th single from May 1969, and the man sounds even more like Mori with that yell and vibrato in his delivery. I think the video of Yokohama Bay at night works well with the two songs; I hope it stays up for a good while longer. Fujimoto also composed the music for this one, but the lyrics were by Yoko Yamaguchi（山口洋子）, who would later write the breakthrough hit for Hiroshi Itsuki（五木ひろし） in 1971, "Yokohama Tasogare"（よこはま・たそがれ）.
Going back to "Anata no Blues", a number of other singers have also covered it over the decades, including Kiyoshi Hikawa（氷川きよし）. He also gives the song a goodly amount of anguished heft. I could imagine the poor protagonist having to be dragged out in despair by the exhausted lone bartender at closing time. Hikawa's rendition is on his 17th entry in his album series "Enka Meikyoku Collection 17" （演歌名曲コレクション１７...Famous Songs of Enka Collection 17）from November 2012.