I have to admit that for a guy who had been into Japanese pop music for nearly a decade (sober-suited enka performers and cheerfully fluffy aidoru), to first see X Japan (at that time, still known as X) perform on TV in the late 80s brought a couple of instant impressions:
1. Holy Crow! It's the Japanese KISS!
2. There goes the neighbourhood!
To see Toshi, Yoshiki, the late hide and the gang wailing away as the pioneers of visual kei on the stage brought a thrill to hundreds of thousands of kids and most likely terror to their parents. I never got into the genre myself, but X Japan was one of my signposts signalling that Japanese music was starting to diversify...or at least, diversify more openly.
Let's move ahead several more years. This time, I was now firmly entrenched in my life living in Ichikawa, Chiba and working there and in Tokyo. There was a new Prime Minister in the saddle by the name of Junichiro Koizumi（小泉純一郎）....a politician who had recently been called a henjin（変人...weirdo）by fellow parliamentarian Makiko Tanaka (herself a daughter of a former PM, Kakuei Tanaka). People soon found out Koizumi was cut from a slightly more different cloth than the other old fogeys in Nagatacho. One of the things that stuck out for me about the lion-maned PM was his taste in music. He was not only a huge Elvis fan but he also had an affinity for the music of X Japan. Usually, my impression of politicians' favourite music had been more akin to the older vintage of enka or Mood Kayo, so it was with some surprise and delight for probably most people to find out that Koizumi was more than happy to declare his love for these musical legends on both sides of the Pacific.
"Forever Love" was X Japan's 14th single released back in July 1996, and is a ballad that Koizumi loved so much that it was even used for a while as a campaign song for his party, the Liberal Democratic Party. And I have to confess that it, along with their earlier "Endless Rain", is my favourite song by the band. Written and composed by Yoshiki, what got me about the song was its epic operatic nature and how Toshi seemed to be plaintively screaming into the dark for some sympathy, any sort of shoulder to cry upon...something that most of us can relate to. I've never been to an X Japan concert but I can imagine that this would be the showstopper every time. Get the hankies out!
The song reached No. 1 on Oricon and became the 47th-ranked song for the year with re-issues happening over the years since its initial release. It was also performed at the Kohaku Utagassen for 1997. "Forever Love" was also performed at hide's funeral in 1998. I remember the days surrounding the guitarist's death with a huge number of fans amassing by his home and then the funeral itself which brought out over 50,000 of them to the Buddhist temple of Tsukiji Hongan-ji in Tokyo.