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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Haruo Chikada -- Electric Love Story (エレクトリック・ラブ・ストーリー)

In my Author's Picks post from a year back, I covered some of my favorite aidoru tracks from this interesting genre techno-kayo, which filters distinct Japanese melodies through technopop lens to reflect the country's affinity with technological advancements in the late 70's~early 80's. Someday I would like to so something similar with non-aidoru techno-kayo once I consult my sources to make sure I know I'm labeling the songs correctly. For now, I'll go with this quirky tune by one of the genre's pioneers, Haruo Chikada (近田春夫).

Just looking at the line-up, "Electric Love Story" (エレクトリック・ラブ・ストーリー) is intriguing: lyrics by the horror/fantasy mangaka Kazuo Umezu (楳図かずお) and arrangement/performance by Yellow Magic Orchestra. Chikada took care of composition duties. Released in May 1979 as part of Chikada's "Natural Beauty" (天然の美) album, this song aligns with that early YMO era between their self-titled debut and "Solid State Survivor" when they were just starting to shake the previous Japanese music conventions with their techno-tastic arrival. This makes Chikada's treatment of old-fashioned kayo-kayoku as a techno number even more interesting. On the one hand, it's got a melody and guitar riffs reminiscent of a Kyohei Tsutsumi creation while Chikada sings in a manner of suit-clad middle-aged guy, right down to the stretching of low notes at the end of lines. On the other hand, the techno bleeps and the modern beat transform the setting from a smoke-filled izakaya into a modern restaurant filled with neon tubes and strobe lights. Yes, I have a ridiculous imagination. Umezu's lyrics also reflect that old/new dichotomy, as the song's subject associates his lover's departure with modernization and its effect on human attitudes.

As for Chikada, he has made some innovative albeit somewhat unnoticed contributions to the world of Japanese music. He started off as a substitute keyboardist for the Group Sounds band Rock Pilot (ロック・パイロット) and a year later became a leader of a progressive rock band Rashomon (羅生門). From mid-70's to mid-90's, he fiddled with Japanese kayo-kyoku by fusing it with seemingly incompatible genres through various band projects: Punk-Kayo as Haruo Chikada & Haruophone (近田春夫&ハルヲフォン), New Wave Kayo as Vibra-Tones (ビブラトーンズ) and Japanese Rap as President BPM and  Vibrastone (ビブラストーン). Techno-kayo was his solo specialty.

During the same year that "Natural Beauty" came out, he was briefly a member of the band Haruo Chikada & BEEF who changed names to Juicy Fruits after his departure. He still kept writing and composing songs for them, including their 1980 hit "Jenny wa Gokigen Naname".

My copy of "Natural Beauty"

1 comment:

  1. Hi, nikala.

    Nice to hear those old YMO-friendly blippity-bloppity sounds on a song again. Certain parts of "Electric Love Story" had me thinking that it could have been the first techno-enka tune that I've come across. And Chikada's voice kinda reminded me of Kenji Sawada's voice, albeit a bit milder.


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