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.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fantastic Plastic Machine -- Steppin' Out

Just some months after my summer 1981 trip to Japan as a high school student, I was just walking around The (Hudson) Bay department store in my neighbourhood (it is still there) when I heard this song over the speakers. It had this good fast beat to it with this feeling of painting the town red. I was automatically drawn to it and so I walked over to the record section at the north end of the store (yep, The Bay actually sold records and tapes even in the boonies way back then).

The song was "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson who I had used to see as this angry New Waver stomping on the piano. But when I saw the video for the song, he looked very urbane in his tux as he sang about his time in The Big Apple. And what better place to step out than in Manhattan? I also liked the album cover for "Night and Day" which had the song as one of its tracks. Very classy.

Several years later, I was well into my Ichikawa stint in Japan, and one night, a few of us got together at a friend's apartment in neighbouring Urayasu (right by Tokyo Disneyland). My friend was not a J-Pop fan by any means but he did enjoy some of the more eclectic and alternative stuff, and that included Fantastic Plastic Machine. As we were all gabbing away in his living room, I suddenly heard a bossa nova version of the already fine "Steppin' Out" playing on his CD player. After doing a quick check of the album covers, it turned out it was indeed FPM behind this more lounge-y and comfy cover. With the bossa rhythm and the synths, I was surprised that it didn't get onto the soundtrack for Steven Soderbergh's version of "Ocean's Eleven" in 2001. However, I think it has made its way onto the background music segments in a number of Japanese variety shows over the years...usually when the topic is of cool relaxing restaurants for the young and hip in Tokyo.

"Steppin' Out" is a track on FPM's debut album, "The Fantastic Plastic Machine" which came out in October 1997. I've already written on a couple of other tracks, "Bachelor Pad" and "Dear Mr. Salesman". Although I never bought the album in Japan, I was able to get my own copy of it, thanks to an old friend here in Toronto.

Ginza's Wako Tower

The Joe Jackson original may have been about the bright lights and big city of New York, but there's also something pretty electric about stepping out into the various areas of downtown Tokyo. I couldn't afford to enter a majority of the happening places in The Big Sushi, but even walking around areas like Ginza, Shinjuku and Akasaka was fine walking entertainment for this old veteran.

Deep in Shibuya

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