Thursday, December 18, 2014
Yukiko Okada -- Wonder Trip Lover/Bernard Fowler -- Ballet Mecanique/Miki Nakatani -- Chronic Love
A little more than 8 months ago, nikala contributed an Author's Pick in the form of her Techno-Kayo Playlist. Aside from Imokin Trio's "High School Lullaby", I hadn't known about the rest of the list and it was fascinating to read about and hear these songs that were created through that filter of technopop, the genre that was spearheaded by the Yellow Magic Orchestra from the late 70s.
The one entry on nikala's list that especially had my attention was "Wonder Trip Lover" by aidoru Yukiko Okada（岡田有希子）. For one thing, although I hadn't known this song proper, I knew it in its future incarnation as "Chronic Love"（クロニック・ラヴ）by singer-actress Miki Nakatani（中谷美紀）since I sometimes caught her TV detective drama, "Keizoku"（ケイゾク...Unsolved Cases）, which had that particular song as its theme.
Initially, I had been going to talk about just "Chronic Love" and the version of the song that was between it and "Wonder Trip Lover", "Ballet Mecanique" since nikala gave her two cents (strictly speaking in Canada, it should be two nickels since the 1-cent coin has been retired) on the original version by the late Okada. However, listening to "Wonder Trip Lover", I realized that I wanted to give my own brief opinion on the song via follow-up.
My fellow collaborator mentioned about the sax and galloping drumming that set "Wonder Trip Lover" apart from Okada's other songs. I can also go beyond that and say that the song is simply a cut above/apart the usual aidoru tune. It is indeed an aidoru tune because of the vocals behind it but it is also quite different from the run-of-the-mill aidoru song because of that interesting arrangement, and in addition, Okada sounded very unlike her regularly girlish self from her other contributions such as "Kuchibiru Network" and "Dreaming Girl". There was something nearly operatic...even avant-garde...with her delivery. Unfortunately the above YouTube video only has the sound from that Heart Jack Tour of hers so I cannot see how she performed "Wonder Trip Girl"...I couldn't imagine she was sashaying around to this song as would be the case with the usual aidoru and her cute tune. I'd only muse that Yukiko would have been more at home in one of the intriguing outfits worn by members of YMO.
Speaking of one of my favourite bands anywhere, Ryuichi Sakamoto（坂本龍一）composed this song with City Pop princess EPO providing the lyrics. I had a conversation with nikala the other day and I mentioned that The Professor during that time could really do no wrong when it came to creating fascinating tunes for other singers. "Wonder Trip Lover" continued that streak.
Just a month after "Wonder Trip Lover" made its presence felt as the leadoff track for Okada's final album in March 1986, "Venus Tanjo"（ヴィーナス誕生...The Birth of Venus）, Sakamoto made a cover version of his creation under the new title of "Ballet Mecanique", named after the 1924 Dadaist film by Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy. However, instead of the techno kayo march that its predecessor was, Sakamoto's version is a slightly bipolar mix of quiet and innocent dream music and screeching-like-a-rabid-horse electric guitar. The vocals were supplied by Bernard Fowler, a musician and actor who has had a long history providing backup vocals to The Rolling Stones. The lyrics were also changed into English and contributed by Sakamoto's then-wife Akiko Yano（矢野顕子）.
"Ballet Mecanique" first appeared as a track on Sakamoto's 6th album, "Mirai-ha Yaro"（未来派野郎...Futurista）, but I came across it as a part of his live album, "Media Bahn Live" which was released later in the year in September.
The last version is the first version that I ever heard of this ever-morphing song. As I mentioned, this was the theme song for Miki Nakatani's "Keizoku", and Nakatani herself provided the English & Japanese lyrics for "Chronic Love". Her 7th single from February 1999, the music here was a bit flightier and eccentric, kinda like her character of Jun Shibata on the show. The song managed to peak at No. 14 on Oricon and was placed as a track on her 3rd album, "Shiseikatsu"（私生活...Private Life）from November 1999.
The above video has all of the quirky episode openings for "Keizoku" with the theme song by Nakatani.
A few paragraphs above, I mentioned that nikala and I had a good talk. I'm happy to say that for the first time in "Kayo Kyoku Plus" history, I could finally meet a collaborator in person for a coffee the other day. It's not all that easy since most of us are located all over the globe, but it was fortunate that the two of us lived in the general area of Toronto. Hopefully, someday, all of us can somehow meet up whether it be in our respective countries or the nation where our mutual music interest lies.