So, curious about No. 3 for 1974, I saw Kiyoshi Nakajo's（中条きよし）"Uso" (Lies) up there. I couldn't recognize it from the title or the singer behind it so I gave it a listen on YouTube. I didn't exactly give it a "Ahhh...now I remember it!" but that intro was certainly familiar to me. Probably I've heard it on one of the NHK music programs or it was played on an episode of "Sounds of Japan".
In any case, "Uso" is another fairly mellow enka with a bit more Mood Kayo sung by Nakajo most likely from the point of view of the scorned other woman as she sees her soon-to-be-ex lover sleaze away to be with someone more "wholesome" to start a family. He may be using every platitude in his black book, but the lady can see right through his uso. Listening to this surprisingly wistful take on a bitter breakup, I already had the perfect setting mapped out in my mind. They were probably sitting at some sort of old cafe franchise such as Renoir in Tokyo or a cafe in one of the older hotels such as the good ol' Tokyo Prince. The tension was probably as thick as that strawberry shortcake I had at that cafe in the Prince.
Perhaps it was the knowing lyrics by Yoko Yamaguchi（山口洋子）or maybe it was the music by Masaaki Hirao（平尾昌晃）with that alto sax but "Uso" was that breakthrough hit for Nakajo when it was released in January 1974. It took 3 months for it to crack the Top 10 and another 6 weeks before it finally hit the top spot on Oricon where it would stay for a straight 8 weeks with sales of over 1.5 million records. When it rains, it pours as the saying goes and this time it was raining gold for the singer as it won a few awards at contests such as the Japan Record Awards. Of course, the Kohaku Utagassen dropped by and asked if he had some time on New Year's Eve, and of course, he accepted. However, although Nakajo had some more success, it would be his only time on the NHK special.
All that good news in the last paragraph must have sounded even sweeter and more poignant for Nakajo who was actually born Kiyoshi Shimomura（下村清）in Gifu Prefecture in 1946. It wasn't a particularly smooth ride to the top. After graduating from high school, Shimomura worked on a boat and then joined an acting troupe in Osaka where he tried to become an actor, sometimes coming in as a singer in the warmup before the main performance. A record company executive caught one of his performances and signed up him. Kiyoshi Shimomura was given the stage name of Akira Takanami（高波明）and he debuted in 1968.
Unfortunately, he didn't particularly sell so a second attempt was made in 1971 under the name of Ken Atsumi（渥美健）but the results were the same. So the singer went to a salaryman's life and in his mid-20s, he even set up his own little bar in Tokyo which drew regulars consisting of folks in the mass media industry (did this guy set up in front of NHK studios?!) and was encouraged to try once again to be a singer. In 1973, he tried out for the 1970s Japanese equivalent of "American Idol", "Zen Nippon Kayo Senshuken"（全日本歌謡選手権...The All-Japan Kayo Championships）on Yomiuri TV where he won the title of Grand Champion after winning 10 weeks in a row. The songwriters for "Uso", Masaaki Hirao and Yoko Yamaguchi were actually two of the judges on the show which set up the fateful meeting, and with that final name change to Kiyoshi Nakajo, the stage was all ready for him to finally grab that brass ring.
It still wasn't all wine and roses for Nakajo, though. Between the release of "Uso" and his appearance on the Kohaku that year, he and his manager ended up on a Japan Air Lines flight that was hijacked. They had the bad luck of being seated right up at the front of the plane so that they had to hear all of the vitriol spewing from the terrorists in the cockpit. Then, many years later, it was found out that Nakajo had been playing a round of golf with a mobster so his NHK appearances were curtailed for about a year. Such is life. And he survived both incidents to release a total of 38 singles including his last one to date in October 2015, "Tanpopo"（たんぽぽ...Dandelion）.
|The cake set at the Tokyo Prince Hotel|