Looking at the names of supporting band members in albums' liner notes has been a curious hobby of mine for a while. There are certain names that keep appearing often enough to push me to dig out something on them. One of those names is Tin Pan Alley (ティン・パン・アレー), which I consider one of the most important forces of 70's Japanese scene, particularly New Music. Originally named Caramel Mama (キャラメル・ママ) between 1973 and 1974, it was Haruomi Hosono (細野晴臣)'s next brainchild after the dissolution of Happy End. Hosono invited that band's fellow guitarist Shigeru Suzuki (鈴木茂) to join the new one, along with Tatsuo Hayashi (林立夫) and Masataka Matsutoya (松任谷正隆). The late Hiroshi Sato (佐藤博) replaced Matsutoya for their 1977 album effort. There were other supporting musicians handling wind and percussion instruments who came and went. According to J-Wiki, Hosono chose the name 'Tin Pan Alley' because the vast majority of musicians that he respects come from the New York's Tin Pan Alley collective. They did release two of their own studio albums in 1975 and 1977, though they're mostly known as arrangers and backing players for early work of pretty much a huge chunk of the big names of New Music: Yuming, Akiko Yano, Minako Yoshida, Taeko Onuki, Yoshitaka Minami, Makoto Kubota... you name 'em. They didn't always credit themselves as band in the liner notes, but the members were there. It all started with Yuming's seminal album, "Hikouki Gumo", where it says on the back "arranged by YUMI ARAI and caramel mama". Plus, we all know which of the members she got married to.
So I felt like dedicating some space to one of Tin Pan Alley's own songs, peculiarly titled "Yellow Magic Carnival". That was still three years away from YMO's debut by the way. It was part of the group's first studio album from 1975, "Caramel Mama". Nice reference. I'm no musicologist, so I had to gather my info on this piece from other sources. Hosono's English Wiki notes that during that time he became interest in a genre called exotica, which I'd summarize as pseudo-tropical music that combined sounds of South Pacific and the Orient to create this fantastical world that your average North Americans and Europeans would love to escape to. I can just feel the sound of parasols being folded into a suitcase as I listen to this song. It's so relaxing. The temperatures out here in Toronto are heading to morose levels, a perfect time to truly savor the summer that is gone through music like this. I've remarked once that Hosono's vocals leave much be desired, but I actually don't mind them all here. I still don't know why it's called "Yellow Magic Carnival" though. Any guesses?
In 2000, three of the original members (sans Matsutoya) reunited for a one-off release and a few concerts under the name Tin Pan.
P.S. Take a look at MANNA's cover of "Yellow Magic Carnival".