Been a while but I got to meet a few old friends tonight (Saturday night) down in Greektown on the Danforth at the Pantheon Restaurant. It was busy as all heck and there was a sizable lineup but we got in easily due to some wise reservations, and I can understand why. Tasty souvlaki and flaming saganaki came courtesy of a friendly and witty waiter along with endless bread and butter, and some honey cake for dessert on the house. I gave an appropriately generous tip.
The event tonight gave me an in to talk about the singer Nanako Sato（佐藤奈々子）for the first time on the blog. For years, I've been seeing her visage on the pages of "Japanese City Pop" but never really got to know her at all. The notable thing about her is that when I first saw her face on the albums that were listed, she reminded me a bit of current R&B songstress Thelma Aoyama（青山テルマ）.
She's got an interesting backstory according to the J-Wiki article on her. Sato was born in Tokyo in 1955 and she had been groomed to become a gymnast along the lines of her aunt who had taken part in the Olympics. However, a head injury during her high school days brought her athletic career to an end. During university, though, she met singer Motoharu Sano（佐野元春）at a mini-concert during the annual campus festival at Keio University that he had participated in, after which he proceeded to teach her the ins and outs of making music. Having her listen to Bob Dylan was part of his curriculum. After winning a songwriting prize at a contest organized by the university, she and Sano worked together to produce Sato's first album "Funny Walkin'" in June 1977 as well as her first single, "Street Corner Betty"（ストリート・コーナー・ベティ）which came out in the same month. And all this happened a few years before Sano himself debuted as a solo singer.
Side-B to "Street Corner Betty" is "Doyou no Yoru kara Nichiyou no Asa e" (Saturday Night to Sunday Morning) which is also a track on "Funny Walkin'". It is the only track that didn't involve either Sato or Sano; Masayuki Okubo（大窪雅之）took care of the writing and composing duties here. And it does stand out since it is a playful jazz ditty that evokes the feeling of those smoke-filled gin joints in the rundown alleys. Just add Sato with a piano, a wood bass and a snare drum.
Sato has a whispery voice filled with a sense of ennui so I think the jazz ballads were a good fit for her although she was known as a City Pop singer. In her first stint as a singer, she released 5 albums including "Funny Walkin'" and 5 singles between 1977 and 1980. She also started to help in writing songs for other artists such as Kazuhiko Kato（加藤和彦）before taking a new path as a professional photographer. In 1993, after living in Paris for 5 years, Sato returned to Japan to take up music once more but this time under the name of nanaco.