I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Southern All Stars -- Tokyo Shuffle (東京シャッフル)

(cover by Southern Band Okinawa)

Hope you all had a good and restful Holidays. For me, it was the usual getting together with old friends and family for noshing inside and outside the home. For New Year's Day, I made it a point to steer clear of the Net and just stick to some reading and watching the polarizing "Cloud Atlas" before my brother's family came over for the special dinner of o-sechi and tons of fatty tuna sashimi.

But of course, it wouldn't be a J-Canuck New Year's without watching and videotaping the annual Kohaku Utagassen (No. 65 for 2014). Since my brother doesn't get TV Japan in his household, we played the tape on the old VCR (yep, we still have one), and it was telling how much of it we fast-forwarded through and where we stopped...which was the enka portions of the show. I would've been far more lenient but my parents and brother had control of the remote. Still, good to hear Shinichi Mori(森進一), Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり)and Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)doing their hits again.

The notable thing, though, was the BIG surprise of the broadcast. And it wasn't seeing Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)again (we had a few weeks' notice of the former, and a few days' notice of the latter), though it was great to do so. Nope, the shock was hearing the hosts announcing the appearance of Southern All Stars(サザンオールスターズ)coming onto the Kohaku for the first time in 31 years! There was an audible gasp from the audience....something that I had never heard before.

As I mentioned for the SAS article, "Chako no Kaigan no Monogatari"(チャコの海岸物語), there was some history between Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)and NHK...bad-blooded history...that had Southern All Stars basically refusing to have anything more to do with the annual New Year's Eve special for years and years. However, apparently, there has been some thawing out of this NHK/Kuwata Cold War, and we got to see Southern All Stars perform again in concert. I mentioned on my Twitter account that Kuwata even looked quite gracious on stage. Perhaps, everything is good now.

But seeing Southern All Stars doing what they do best on stage at the Kohaku on New Year's Eve 2014 had me reminiscing about New Year's Eve 1983 on the 34th Kohaku Utagassen. That was when the band had their last official appearance singing "Tokyo Shuffle". Now at the time, I had no idea about SAS' biggest hits such as "Katte ni Sinbad"(勝手にシンドバッド)or "Itoshi no Ellie"(いとしのエリー), and so I only had their Kohaku performances of  "Chako" and "Tokyo Shuffle" as my only knowledge of them. I just wondered if these guys were more of a novelty band than anything else.

And compared to their usual summery songs, "Tokyo Shuffle" was quite the different animal. As I saw Kuwata, Yuko Hara(原由子)and the rest of the gang come strutting out as if they had just come from the set of "Guys and Dolls", the lead guy looked like a mix of Legs Diamond and Ziggy Stardust while he channeled the Jazz Age. Kuwata was the one who wrote and composed their 19th single as a tribute to all things Early Showa with a shoutout to Benny Goodman and all those flappers dancing away at the speakeasy. It was released in early November 1983 so it was quite the thing that Southern All Stars got to appear on the Kohaku a little less than 2 months later. As it was, it wasn't all that big a hit for the band since it only peaked at No. 23. The single was also a track on the album, "Yuko Hara with Southern All Stars" (released on the same day as the single) as well as their 1989 BEST album, "Suika"(すいか...Watermelon).

It may not have been the usual Southern All Stars song but "Tokyo Shuffle" still has that cheeky playfulness Kuwata is famous for.

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