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, August 15, 2016

Yuya Uchida and The Flowers -- Flower Boy (フラワー・ボーイ)

Japanese popular culture seems to be making changes pretty frequently these days. There is a new Tokyo governor, the Emperor is thinking about abdication, and SMAP is disbanding. Plus, I heard last week that a Shibuya institution will be going into hibernation for the next few years. The department store Parco on Koen Dori (Park Avenue) has just closed its doors to undergo some major renovations and is supposed to open sometime in 2019 about a year before the Olympics.

Although I was never hip enough to actually dare attempt to go shopping for the clothes inside the place, I did go to the Parco building frequently. I enjoyed browsing inside the bookstore in the basement and up on the upper floors, there was a Korean BBQ restaurant that my friends and I wasn't exactly inexpensive but the meat was darn tender.

Parco was also well known for its rather intriguing commercials. If there is a reason that Japanese ads have been called weird, well, you can partially thank this department store. Case in point, the above ad from the 1970s, I believe, of Hollywood actress Faye Dunaway eating a boiled egg rather frostily for Parco. And here I thought Marlon Brando made easy money for his 15 minutes on "Superman" back in 1978.

Then, there was this ad from the mid-1980s featuring actor Yuya Uchida(内田裕也)swimming off the shores of Manhattan. Why was he doing this? Who knows and who cares? It looked weird and that was all that mattered for the department store. Plus, there is the catchphrase which I'm assuming was uttered by Uchida, "Yesterday, how many hours were you alive?" Okay.

My image, though, of Uchida was that he was and is a pretty scary badass. I rarely saw him on television or in the theatre but he struck me as someone I would never want to meet in a dark alley or even a brightly-lit one. I came across this one movie that he starred in 1983 called "Jikkai no Mosquito"(十階のモスキート...The Mosquito on the Tenth Floor)which also included Beat Takeshi(ビートたけし), rocker Ann Lewis(アン・ルイス)and aidoru Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子). Watching Uchida's immoral cop wreak hell on the folks around him had me thinking about Harvey Keitel in "Bad Lieutenant".

Uchida started as a singer in 1957 and recorded a number of singles including covers of "Viva Las Vegas" and "Roll Over Beethoven". According to Wikipedia, he even became friends with John Lennon of The Beatles after he opened for them during their 1966 tour. But then, he had an epiphany during a 3-month trip through Europe in which he saw Jimi Hendrix perform in London. When he returned to Japan, it was with a desire to realize that same Hendrix sound within a Japanese band so by the end of 1967, he formed Yuyu Uchida & The Flowers(内田裕也とザ・フラワーズ)which included Remi Aso(麻生レミ)as his co-vocalist and guitarist.

Their debut single was "Last Chance"(ラスト・チャンス)in January 1969 but on the flip side was "Flower Boy", a song about a naive kid in love that was created by Jun Hashimoto and Kyohei Tsutsumi(橋本淳・筒美京平). To be honest, I don't know much about Hendrix but I'm not sure if "Flower Boy" had much of an influence from the legendary guitarist. However it does have that Group Sounds beat that was the rage back then. Maybe with that sudden thrust of a lone trumpet in there, perhaps it might even be a bit closer to The Beatles. All in all, "Flower Boy" sounded rather conventional and a bit raw as a pop song although perhaps for the more conservative of citizens back then, the Group Sounds music may have been the radical guff to be feared.

There would be only one more single later that year and an album that came out in July called "Challenge!" until The Flowers called it quits in 1970. But by that time, the Group Sounds had pretty much faded into history. Still, Uchida would release more of his own singles over the decades.

When it comes to Uchida now, I see him as this tall and whispery elderly man with anarchic white hair flowing down. If he tied his hair back, his appearance would remind me of one of Wolverine's oldest enemies, Bloodscream. And even at the age of 76, he still intimidates the hell out of me.

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