About a few months back when the much anticipated remake of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire was released, I decided to not be lazy and come out of my shell a little to join some of my Poke-fan classmates on their mission to go purchase the 3DS game, which would then be followed by travelling to this electronics mall in the middle of town that held a Pokemon "convention" to purchase some plushies and cards, and then take photos with the franchise mascot, Pikachu... well, someone in a Pikachu suit. Frankly, it wasn't really a convention as it had been advertised, it was more like a simple gathering of Poke-fans in the gaming and collectors floor in the mall. Not what I, or for that matter my classmates, had been expecting.
So being thoroughly bored and tired (we went after class) I left relatively early - before Pikachu could make his anticipated appearance - with the game and a Tyrunt plushie in hand to face the dreaded after-work rush hour commute. While on board, I decided to listen to something new, and that happened to be "Aoi Hoshikuzu" (Blue Stardust) from ASKA's cover album "Boku ni Dekiru Koto (Ima Utau Series)" (僕にできること（いま歌うシリーズ）) from 2013. I usually listen to the singer-songwriter's renditions of well-known kayokyoku from this album like Akira Fuse's "Kimi wa Bara yorimo Utsukushii" (君は薔薇よりも美しい) and Kyu Sakamoto's (坂本九) "Ue wo Muite Arukou" (上を向いて歩こう), but the characters from "Aoi Hoshikuzu" had always intrigued me - the character "Ao" resembles the Chinese character for "Pale"... Wow, I'm surprised I actually remembered that - and so I finally satisfied my curiosity right there, well, most of it. I still didn't know who the original artist.
Upon hearing ASKA's version of "Aoi Hoshikuzu", I thought that it sounds like a combination of Pop and folk with its easy pace and the constant strumming of the acoustic guitar, which is something I've associated ASKA's current songs with.
Eventually I got myself to look up the song online, and when I did, it led me to discover that it is in fact Yuzo Kayama's (加山雄三) 7th single, released in 1966. The original is one snappy song that has the Wakadaisho singing at breakneck speed and picking at his red electric guitar, which unlike the Pokemon "convention", amused me... It's pretty hard to top an old man at his age playing such an instrument. "Aoi Hoshikuzu" really reminds me of one of those cool retro beach/surfer dude songs with all that electric guitar, and the strings in the background gives some elegance to the song. I personally prefer the original as I enjoy its brisk pace, but I do listen to ASKA's rendition from time to time.
"Aoi Hoshikuzu" was written by Tokiko Iwatani (岩谷時子) and composed by Kayama himself under his pen name, Kosaku Dan (弾厚作). Although there wasn't any information about how well it did, I'm guessing that "Aoi Hoshikuzu" was quite popular since it's a staple in Kayama's recent medleys - I've seen 2 on NHK, and both featured this song.
|Dang, he really was good lookin'!|