Credits

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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Rock n' Roll Widow (ロックンロール・ウィドウ)


And here I thought that Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)kicked up her heels when she performed "Imitation Gold" and "Playback Part 2". In the latter half of her career in the latter half of the 1970s, she took on that persona of that jaded and tough seen-it-all heard-it-all woman, thanks partially to the songwriting by the husband-and-wife team of Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木燿子). Well, just a couple of singles away from retiring the mike, Yamaguchi, Uzaki and Aki decided to REALLY knock it up a notch.

"Rock n' Roll Widow" was on my compilation CD of her BEST songs (as it probably has been on any of her BEST discs), and unlike those two other Uzaki-and-Aki productions, there was much more of a feeling of fun and abandon despite the "widow" part of the title. Perhaps the widow was dancing on top of her hubby's grave but that is about as dark as I will get in my speculation. In any case, the song was Yamaguchi's 30th single released in May 1980 (I realize that she was not far from retirement, but it's hard to imagine her as anyone other than that representative 70s songstress), and on hearing the song, it seems like her two collaborators just told her to go nuts. And she truly thrust in the growls and the yells. I'm sure her fans launched their eyebrows when they first heard the song. My favourite part of the song is when she belts out the "Kakko, kakko, kakko..." with the harmony gradually phasing in.

Then I saw her performance of the song on shows such as "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ). She sported that big hair, the face paint and the fashion, and put on some rather interesting dance moves such as a furyo stance at the very beginning. In the J-Wiki article for "Rock n' Roll Widow", the writer also mentioned about her sashaying up and down her guitarist's back during the instrumental. For a lady who I usually imagined as being pretty static in her performances, Momoe-chan just went Disco Queen...or Rock Queen, perhaps. In a way, it was like watching Olivia Newton-John's Sandy character undergoing that transformation at the end of "Grease" from Sandra Dee to leather-wearing she-devil.


The song hit No. 3 on Oricon and ended the year as the 40th-ranked song. It was also a track on Momoe's 20th studio album, "Moebius Game"(メビウス・ゲーム)which was released at the same time as "Rock n' Roll Widow". The album peaked at No. 6.

The lady still had a couple of more singles before entering domestic bliss but with this song, it was Momoe's way of saying "I have just LEFT the building!"

2 comments:

  1. A few notes. Rock n Roll Widow probably refers to the amount of time her partner spends away as a rock star, presumably being flagrantly unfaihful as they do. "Cricket widows" are the partners of cricketers who spend months away at a time, for years, on interminable cricket tours.

    The song apparently came about because Momoe wanted to sing a rock song before she retired, and Aki/Uzaki came up with the goods. The trio's taste for contemporary western influences extends to the Andy Warhol style artwork.

    The album version differs from the single version, most notably with an extended sax instrumental in the middle. In her final concert, she performs the album version with 8 male dancers, and the sax instrumental sees another dancer come out and dance solo with her. The song ends with the dancers raising her, lying down, on their hands. It's not hard to read what the routine means.

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    1. Hello, there.

      Thanks for your comments. To be honest, I hadn't been aware of the term so that does clear up some of my musings about the song. I think Momoe must have wanted to leave the stage with a bang with this one. I had read that she was more than happy to retire from singing but I wonder how things would have proceeded if she had continued far into the 80s.

      The one thing I forgot to mention in the article was how her performance of the song reminded me of some of the stuff that Akina Nakamori would do later on.

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