To make things more difficult for me is that, as I've mentioned throughout certain articles in the blog, I've been more on the composer side of things than on the lyricist side. I never really paid all that much to the words of kayo kyoku since my understanding of the language at that time was not all that great. However, I figure that if I have this blog, I will have to make some sort of tribute, as inadequate as it will ultimately come out, since there is not a whole lot out there in English about the legendary Yu Aku. The above is a video showcasing a few of those thousands of songs that he wrote.
At the very least, I should give some background on the man himself. Aku was born Hiroyuki Fukada（深田公之）in 1937 on Awaji Island, a part of Hyogo Prefecture. After graduating from Meiji University's Department of Literature in the early 1960s, Fukada joined Senkousha（宣弘社）, a large advertising company, as a copywriter, a broadcast writer and a staffer helping in the production of commercials. Leaving Senkousha in 1966, he continued to work as a writer for music programs and started writing his own songs.
I'm not sure when Fukada took on his pen name of Yu Aku, but the derivation apparently came from a pair of kanji which read "akuyuu"（悪友）or "bad companion". Not sure if that was a reflection on his personal life...hopefully not.
According to J-Wiki, Aku's first song to be released was a B-side, "Monkey Dance", of The Spiders' debut single in May 1965, "Furi Furi"（フリフリ...Shake It）. But it wouldn't be until November 1967 that his career as a lyricist really got off the ground when his "Asa Made Matenai"（朝まで待てない...Can't Wait Til Morning）made it as an A-side of the debut single for another Group Sounds band "The Mops". A groovy (can't believe I said that in the 21st century) psychedelic piece, the lyrics go into how much a guy needs to see that girl again despite trying to forget about her:
Akirame suteta hazu na no ni
Koi wa nemuri wo wasure saseru
Yami ni mukatte, o-mae no na wo yobu
Ima sugu aitai, asa made matenai
Although I tried to give up
The passion makes me forget about sleeping
I face the darkness and call out your name
I wanna see you now, can't wait til morning
I couldn't imagine that Aku actually wrote a song that sounded like something that would be played at Woodstock, but that was one of the main points about the lyricist. He wrote for virtually every genre that existed in Japanese pop music: enka, Mood Kayo, anime, folk, aidoru, novelty tunes...you name it. And he wrote for everyone from Sayuri Ishikawa to Sheena & The Rokkets.
As I write this, I'm still not sure about my approach. But basically what I think I'm gonna do is to take care of Aku in two parts. Part 1 will be on the big hits that I've enjoyed which have already been profiled here. I figure you, the readers, can just as easily go to the Labels section to the right and click "Yu Aku" to get a measure of the man's work but I also think that perhaps it would be nice to have a capsule form of some of those successes. Part 2 will be on the stuff that we can all discover together....namely the tunes that I don't know well or at all.
As I said, there's not much that I could find about Aku in English aside from a brief article on the English Wikipedia. I really wanted to know about how he had approached his songwriting. One thing that I did glean from an article about Sheena & The Rokkets is that he didn't always write about the happy-go-lucky stuff and that "...his lyrics are far removed from the bland “love and friendship” and “follow your dreams” platitudes of most contemporary J-pop."
Perhaps that may have been true, but Aku's words were then cloaked in very cheerful and uplifting melodies. One example was one of his masterpieces with Tsutsumi, "Mata Au Hi Made"（また逢う日まで）from 1971 for the late Kiyohiko Ozaki（尾崎紀世彦）. With that fanfare-like intro and exhorting vocals by Ozaki, I had assumed that the song was about a couple of buddies having a great time and then calling it a day until the next time. Ah, but in actuality, things were more bittersweet, lyrically speaking:
Mata au hi made mata aeru toki made
Wakare no sono wake wa hanashitakunai
Naze ka samishii dake
Naze ka munashii dake
Tagai ni kizu tsuki subete wo nakusu kara
Until that day, until that time we meet again
I don't want to talk about why we broke up
Cause it's just sad
Cause it's just futile
We'll hurt each other and lose everything
Well, I gotta say that Ozaki was quite a bit more nice and succinct about romantic breakups than Dr. Phil. "Mata Au Hi Made" received Song of the Year plaudits at The Japan Record Awards that year, the first of five that would be credited to Aku...still an unbroken record.
1977 was a banner year for Aku. In the Oricon Top 100, 16 of his songs were right in there with Pink Lady at No. 1 for "Wanted" and at No. 95, Yukiko Shimizu's（清水由貴子）"Hotaru Zaka"（ほたる阪...Firefly Slope）. But then, in December of that year came another Aku-Pink Lady collaboration which became the touchstone song for me whenever I think of Mie and Kei, "UFO". To be honest, when I hear Aku's name, Pink Lady will always be my response in that association game. It just seemed that anything he wrote turned to gold with these ladies. This was the 4th Song of the Year for the lyricist.
Of course, with "UFO", it will be about Pink Lady's physical dynamism and the choreography. But Aku put in his own indictment of men in general:
Shinjirarenai koto bakari aru no
Moshi kashitara moshi kashitara, so na no kashira
Sore demo ii wa, chika goro sukoshi
Chikyuu no otoko ni akita tokoro yo
There are nothing but unbelievable things
I wonder if...if it's true
That's all right, if they're a little close by
I'm fed up with Earth men
Man, things must have been pretty dire if Mie and Kei were willing to head off with E.T. and Yoda.
In that same 1977 Oricon Top 100, there was No. 19, Sayuri Ishikawa's（石川さゆり）classic "Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyu Geshiki"（津軽海峡・冬景色）by Aku and composer Takashi Miki（三木たかし）. It is a melancholy enka ballad about a woman heading up north via the Tsugaru Strait to Hokkaido after an end to a romance. Although it doesn't happen all the time, when I've gone through a bad incident, I have sometimes tended to focus a lot more on my surroundings as I head home or out somewhere...perhaps as a defensive tactic. Perhaps I might focus on the traffic or on that couple bickering some distance away. Perhaps that was Aku's approach to the lyrics as Ishikawa sang about that lone and lonely trip from Ueno Station to Aomori Station to the ferry:
Ueno hatsu no yakko ressha orita kara
Aomori eki wa yuki no naka
Kita e kaeru hito no mure wa dare mo mukuchi de
Umi nari dake wo kiiteiru
Watashi mo hitori renraku zen ni nori
Kogoe souna kamome mitsume naiteimashita
Aaa...tsugaru kaikyo fuyu geshiki
Getting off the overnight train from Ueno
Aomori Station is in the middle of snow
The crowds of people heading north don't say anything
I only hear the sounds of the sea
I also get on the connecting ship alone
Seeing the freezing seagulls, I cried
Aah...the Tsugaru Strait in winter
One other thing about Aku's songwriting according to what I read in the J-Wiki article comes from a quote he left: "An impressive story is a long one, not short. A 3-minute song has the same impact as a 2-hour movie." Those two sentences may sound contradictory but they came from his experience not only from songwriting but probably also from his time as a copywriter....trying to size up the situation and the singer and then come up with those killer verses. He wanted to squeeze an entire story into those 3 minutes' worth of verses. There was quite a bit of drama in "Tsugaru Kaikyo", and maybe some time in the last few decades, perhaps a dramatization was actually done of the song.
Not to keep everything in the 70s, there was another fine Aku creation in the 80s as well. Namely, the very karaoke-friendly enka/Mood Kayo tune of "Izakaya"（居酒屋）from 1982. Considering the lyrics, Aku may have been channeling a lot of those movie flirtation scenes in the izakaya between a man and a woman:
M:Moshimo kirai denakattara nanka ippai nonde kure
W:So ne, daburu no baabon wo enryo shinai de itadaku wa
M:Namae kiku hodo yabo janai mashite mi no uebanashi nado
W:So yo, tama tama izakaya de yoko ni suwatta dake da mono
M:If you don't mind, have a drink with me
W:All right, I'll be more than happy to have a double bourbon on you
M:I'm not so much of a boor to ask for your name, let alone your life story
W:That's right. You're just somebody who sat beside me from time to time
A lot of teasing here and there at the bar but did something come out of this? Aku would have been the one to ask. However, Hiroshi Itsuki and Nana Kinomi（五木ひろし・木の実ナナ）pulled this one with the charm of any two thespians with good chemistry.
Obviously, not knowing anything about Yu Aku when I was a kid, the first Aku songs that I heard were probably by Pink Lady. Having said that, the first non-Pink Lady Aku song I heard was most likely the one that had me racing from my junior high school at the speed of a wave motion engine back home to watch one of the first anime that I've ever seen.
Yep, the iconic 1974 theme for "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"（宇宙戦艦ヤマト）was given its heroic words by Aku as well. I remember when I was doing the prep work to write the blog article for one of anime's beloved programs popping my eyes when I saw it was indeed him who wrote up the song that started with "Farewell, Earth...". I've got that urge to salute even now.
Saraba, chikyuu yo
Tabi datsu fune wa
Uchuu senkan Yamato
Uchuu no kanata, Isukandaru e
Unmei seoi ima tobi tatsu
Kanarazu koko e, kaette kuru to
Te wo furu hito ni egao de kotae e
Ginga wo hanare Isukandaru e
Uchuu senkan Yamato
The ship beginning a voyage is
Space cruiser Yamato
Beyond space to Iscandar
We're now off carrying the burden of destiny
When we surely come home
We'll answer with a smile to the waving people.
Leaving the galaxy to Iscandar
With a faint gleam of hope
Space cruiser Yamato
The above translation is, by the way, a mix between my efforts and a translation from www.animelyrics.com. Many thanks to the site. Those lyrics pretty much summarize the story of the good ol' Yamato and her brave crew. Now, mind you, the first version of the song I heard in Canada was the one for the US dubbed version, "Star Blazers", but the same message was basically there. Still, after all these years, it's something to hear the original Japanese version. I just wonder what Aku could have done for "Star Trek".
Again, this isn't anywhere near a full analysis of Yu Aku...more just about some of the music that I've listened to for years that he had a hand in. And I still have Part 2 to consider as well. As for his approach to coming up with the lyrics for his 5000 songs, I'm sure that he wasn't the only one to be bittersweet or relay some particular vignette, but somehow, he just had that ability to couch those words to partially send a good chunk of those songs into kayo timelessness.