A couple of days ago, I met up with a fellow translator who has also become a good friend at one of the Touhenboku Ramen shops in Toronto...specifically the one at Yonge St. north of Eglinton which has come to be considered to be a second and less grungier downtown. I have to say that the chicken broth for the chain's ramen is quite good; I'd always been accustomed to having the customary pork soup for the noodles. The photo above is actually from September when I went there with another friend but the bowl I had on Wednesday afternoon was still just as tasty and even more satisfying since it was a cold day.
Anyways, my friend told me as we were slurping away that he was a big fan of the legendary band Happy End (はっぴいえんど). He had mentioned this once before a few weeks ago after that talk on translation that we had given at University of Toronto but he went into more detail about how he came to appreciate the short-lived 1970s group.
Years ago, he was accompanying a fellow friend in southern Japan in his car and on the stereo happened to be a tape playing of Happy End. From the way my friend was describing it, the weather must have been quite warm and sunny, and he told me that the playing of Happy End's music made for the perfect melodic accompaniment to their journey.
Although he didn't tell me the title of the song, I could imagine that it was most likely "Kaze wo Atsumete" (Gather The Wind) as originally sung by member Haruomi Hosono（細野晴臣）. nikala was the first "Kayo Kyoku Plus" collaborator to provide a Happy End article and though I also like "Hana Ichi Monme"（花いちもんめ）, "Kaze wo Atsumete" is my ideal tune by the band. It is a song that I had heard before back in Japan as part of a commercial, I believe, and I was charmed by it back then, too.
Hosono was the one who composed the perfect-for-a-summer-drive song with fellow member Takashi Matsumoto（松本隆）providing the lyrics. Now, I've never considered the future one-third of Yellow Magic Orchestra to be a great vocal interpreter of his own music but there is something about that low droning voice of his which fits the overall atmosphere of "Kaze wo Atsumete". That video of him and his bandmates in weird clothing performing the song in a huge arena to a poppier beat might have been fun but I think the original version from Happy End's 2nd album from 1971 "Kazemachi Roman"（風街ろまん...Wind City Romance）is absolutely fine. The album was produced to evoke the more serene days of Tokyo just before the 1964 Olympics in the city, and "Kaze wo Atsumete" might have been seen as the nucleus of that theme. That one image is of kids running around on the field under a huge blue sky trying to catch those butterflies.
Little did I know that the song was also part of the soundtrack for the 2003 movie "Lost In Translation" starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. I saw that movie on DVD in my old Ichikawa apartment with my Aussie movie buddy, and to be honest, I didn't pay too much attention to the songs that were used in it since I was paying closer attention to the folks and the scenes. But all I can say is good on you, Sofia Coppola.
Of course, covers of the song by succeeding musicians were a foregone conclusion. Singers KAN and Hiroshi Takano（高野寛）gave their own whimsical take.
YUKI of Judy And Mary plus Kaori Mochida（持田香織）of Every Little Thing also performed their own lovely cover of "Kaze wo Atsumete".
Although with all things being equal, there are probably a number of folks who never cottoned onto Happy End, I still marvel at the fact about who was in this group: YMO member Hosono, prolific lyricist Matsumoto, crooning Eiichi Ohtaki（大瀧詠一）and veteran composer Shigeru Suzuki（鈴木茂）.
Now with the winter not too far away, a little musical warmth and a good bowl of ramen will always be appreciated.