On one of my last days of my trip to Tokyo earlier this month, my anime buddy and I met up with a friend who runs a small technology company in Akihabara. My buddy knows him through yet another mutual friend of ours, and I used to teach some of his employees about a decade ago. The president picked us up at JR Shinjuku Station and walked us down all the way to the Yoyogi area where he treated us to lunch at a small restaurant specializing in home cooking. It was definitely homey inside (I could endure the seiza style on the tatami for a few minutes before I cried "Uncle!" and just had to stretch my legs out for the duration) and the lunch set of sumptuous grilled salmon, hot rice and umami-rich miso soup was marvelous.
However, I also noticed that to the left of me was a number of THE ALFEE discs and one picture of the iconic band placed on a slender ledge. When I asked the proprietor whether he was a huge fan, he proudly said that he was, and that Toshihiko Takamizawa, Konosuke Sakazaki and Masaru Sakurai （高見沢俊彦・坂崎幸之助・桜井賢）were regular customers at his place! When I told him that I was also a fan, it was the old man's turn to be surprised since he had never expected a (J-) Canuck to know let alone enjoy the epic sounds of this trio, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Well then....let's go way back to the beginning. In fact, let's listen to the very first single by The Alfee when they were actually known as just ALFIE, and their stock-in-trade wasn't rock but folk. And on top of all that, the band was a group of four.
"Natsu Shigure" (Summer Shower) was released in August 1974 as this sad ballad of someone getting that dreaded Dear John/Jane letter with the precipitation coming down. Another difference to add to the trivia is that ALFIE's debut hadn't been written or composed by any of the band members; instead, it was the famed duo of Takashi Matsumoto and Kyohei Tsutsumi（松本隆・筒美京平）. When I first listened to the song, I realized how far the guys have come. There was that familiar nasal delivery by Takamizawa but the arrangement was definitely not the epic rock that I have been accustomed to hearing. "Natsu Shigure" is 70s J-Folk with a subdued arrangement reflecting the mood and weather within the lyrics. Y'know...when I often listen to some of the folk bands from that era such as GARO and Kaguyahime, I automatically imagine cafes. ALFIE's debut is most certainly a tune for a cafe acting as shelter from the elements.
As for that 4th member, he was Yasuo Miyake（三宅康夫）who played the guitar for Masaru Sakurai's old band, Confidence, before jumping over to ALFIE with his leader. However, he left the band in 1975 for reasons that were never explicitly given, although they may have had something to do with his father suffering from health problems.