I always liked coming across and then writing about a song that has quite the story to it. And this is one of those songs.
Yup, one part of my 80s listening music experience involved Wham! It was often the case that I would see George Michael and Andrew Ridgely going up the charts as much as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe from the Pet Shop Boys. Hey, "Careless Whisper", "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Young Guns"? Indeed I listened to them and saw the videos on high rotation.
One night, one of our classmates in 3rd-year Japanese class at U of T had us over to his apartment for a party. It was about 1986 and so Wham! was pretty much near the end of their time but over the stereo, I heard a song that was just released by the duo, "Where Did Your Heart Go?" that hit the top of the charts in the UK but did only modestly in the States and Canada. Anyways, my friend who also knew a bit about some of the old Japanese kayo (and incidentally was one of my fellow classmates who went with me on that fateful 1981 trip to Japan) nudged me and asked "Hey, doesn't this sound like enka to you?"
Wham! doing enka? For the first couple of seconds, I thought my friend was imbibing a little too much of the Labatt's (our Canadian brew, eh?). However when I heard that instrumental bridge on "Where Did Your Heart Go?" with the saxophone followed by Michael vocally bleeding his heart out, I suddenly went "Well, maybe I'm imbibing a little too much of the Labatt's...". Uh, nope. Actually, I realized that my buddy had a point, although knowing what I know now, I would put it more in the Mood Kayo category, perhaps closer to the European enka category that the late Teresa Teng (テレサ・テン) seemed to inhabit sometimes.
In any case, the revelation was such that the story has stayed with me up to the present day. And I could have seen George and Andrew appear on "Enka no Hanamichi"（演歌の花道）...or not.
My old university story and Wham!'s final original single has led me to a cover of that very song by a Japanese aidoru.
I first discovered this cover titled "Aishuu no Mexico" (Sorrow-Filled Mexico) on a compilation tape of aidoru music that I had borrowed from a friend. I'm quite a bit more into finding about the singers and songwriters of kayo kyoku than I was back then, so back then I tended to listen to something on the tape recorder and then forget about it, which meant that I didn't bother finding out who sang this particular tune.
Well, it turned out to be this aidoru with the name of Fumiko Sawada（沢田富美子）although she sang "Aishuu no Mexico" under the name of Maria Sakurai（桜井真里亜）as part of a very small comeback in November 1986, just a month after the Wham! release. To explain, the Nagoya-born singer (born in 1961) first started out as a model and had a high-rolling hobby investing in real estate at the tender age of 19 just when she started the aidoru part of her career to the extent that she now owns several buildings in the high-rent areas of Ginza, Akasaka and Azabu in Tokyo! Incredible what one can find out from J-Wiki.
Her official debut as a singer was in 1979 but she already was or would become a multimedia presence with radio show/variety show/commercial appearances and even some roles as a seiyuu. Her initial singing career stopped in 1982 but as I mentioned earlier, she released one more song which was that cover of "Where Did Your Heart Go?" known as "Aishuu no Mexico" with Rei Nakanishi（なかにし礼）providing the Japanese lyrics. I can honestly say with Sawada/Sakurai's shrill voice, it was a pretty aidoru take with none of the soul that Michael provided.
There were no more songs from Sawada after that but I don't think she's particularly ailing with all those buildings of hers in downtown Tokyo. I wouldn't be surprised if she tried to grab some of our structures in Toronto considering the insane market here. The only way that I could ever get a house of my own in this lifetime is if I moved all the way up to Nunavut.
However, the story keeps on giving. I found out that "Where Did Your Heart Go?" was not even an original by the Wham! boys. It was originally written and recorded by the group Was (Not Was) all the way back in 1981. Listening to this first version, I still think Wham! did it best.
And for those like me who were everywhere into 1980s pop, Was (Not Was) were the same guys behind the out-of-nowhere hit from 1987, "Walk The Dinosaur".
Gotta say, that was a pretty chock-filled article tonight.