Last night was the annual "Omoide no Melody"（思い出のメロディー...Melodies of Memories）special on NHK. Often called the Summer Kohaku Utagassen, the focus is on the classic kayo and last night's performances all involved folks up to the 1980s.
One pleasant surprise was seeing the wife of a sumo stablemaster appear on stage to perform some of her old hits when she was but a teen. It was Mizue Takada's（高田みづえ）first appearance in front of the cameras in 31 years, and in my early Kohaku viewing days, she was an annual performer who I first heard on an ancient tape of kayo kyoku. She also had a career as a tarento, often appearing on the old Drifters' variety show and more than willing to get dunked in water and other stuff to get the laugh.
The Kagoshima-born Takada made her debut as an aidoru after winning the championship on the Fuji-TV talent search show, "Kimi koso Star da!"（君こそスターだ!...YOU Are The Star!）in 1976 at around the age of 16. In March 1977, she started off her career with "Garasuzaka" (Glass Slope), the very song she sang last night in "Omoide no Melody".
Written by Takemi Shima（島武実）and composed by rocker Ryudo Uzaki（宇崎竜童）, "Garasuzaka" is a pretty jaunty tune that I found notable for Takada's phrasing. There is this countryside lilt to the song that was also quite appealing to me with Uzaki's lyrics . I'm not 100% sure about the overall meaning but I believe Takada was softly admonishing someone for not having the gumption to relate his/her true feelings for that special someone.
As a debut single, "Garasuzaka" did very well. It broke the Top 10 on Oricon, peaking at No. 9 for Takada, and becoming the 36th-ranked single for 1977. It sold a little over 300,000 copies and earned the singer not only a Best Newcomer prize at that year's Japan Record Awards, but also her first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen.
Unlike Takada, I know little about Midori Kinouchi（木之内みどり）except for whatever I was able to glean from J-Wiki. The Hokkaido native also debuted as an actress/aidoru back in 1974, and has had two pretty famous husbands with Hubby No. 1 being bassist/composer Tsugutoshi Goto（後藤次利）and Hubby No. 2 being actor Naoto Takenaka (竹中直人...who co-starred in the original "Shall We Dance?").
Kinouchi actually first brought "Garasuzaka" into the world a month before Takada's version as the title track of her 5th album. Her version seems a bit more languid but that same syncopated delivery is also there.
Former aidoru-turned-enka singer, Yoko Nagayama（長山洋子）, gave her own version of "Garasuzaka" in the mid-1990s.
And someone was kind enough to actually upload Takada's return to the NHK stage after 3 decades. I was also quite happy to see her sing her most successful single, "Watashi wa Piano"（私はピアノ）last night as well. "Garasuzaka" was actually her 2nd-most successful release.