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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carol -- Funky Monkey Baby (ファンキー・モンキー・ベイビー)

I just saw the above commercial this morning. All I could remark about Puppy Monkey Baby was about what kind of horrors those secret genetics labs were creating now. At first, I thought the hybrid creature was uttering "funky monkey baby" which had my memory engrams firing up in the old kayo section of the brain.

"Funky Monkey Baby" has been a song that I've heard off-and-on over the decades but always through its performance covers by some of those middle-aged crooners that have popped up on shows like the recently dearly departed "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート). In fact, up until today, I had never heard the original version by the band Carol(キャロル).

And Carol was a name that I had heard bandied about in kayo kyoku but never really got to know. Of course, I got to know about the band's charismatic leader Eikichi Yazawa (矢沢永吉) in his later years when he provided hits like the sultry "Somebody's Night". So I finally get to hear the band and the original version of the song.

Carol's biggest hit was the band's 7th single from June 1973 which was composed by Yazawa and written by his bandmate, the late Hiroshi (Johnny) Okura (ジョニー大倉). In the early 1970s, when popular music in Japan was about traditional enka, sweet aidoru and long-haired folk music, "Funky Monkey Baby" and Carol in general must have been quite the subversive (and therefore cool with the young crowd) thing with the band members all looking like pompadoured extras from a 60s biker movie. But instead of making trouble, Yazawa and the guys just wanted to make good ol' rock n' roll. The song managed to get as high as No. 57 on the Oricon weeklies and was the title track on their second album which came out a month after the single.

Reading the J-Wiki article on Carol, I found out that although Yazawa was the guy who started up the band in 1972, it was Okura who came up with the concept and look for the band which initially began its short life as a Beatles tribute band when the Fab Four were performing in Hamburg before they made it big in the early 1960s. However, I also discovered that the name for the band came from a rather cute source in that Carol came from Christmas Carol....couldn't really see those guys in Santa suits, mind you.

Carol lasted about 2.5 years before they decided to call it quits. On that J-Wiki article, there was a pretty long section on the band's influence that I will probably cover in any future songs about the band, but frankly I didn't want to destroy my eyes trying to scroll down through all that kanji for the time being. I think one aspect of Carol's legacy has been all those leather-jacketed teens with their pompadours who populated Yoyogi Park on the weekends later in the decade and twisted like all get out. Some years ago, I visited that same park one Sunday afternoon, and there was one fellow around my age still looking like a Carol member bopping away.

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