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, December 26, 2016

The Works of Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆)

I was kinda wondering about devoting an article to the works of longtime lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)but was musing about the approach. This is a fellow who is currently 3rd in terms of best-selling lyricist in modern Japanese music history behind Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and the late Yu Aku(阿久悠), but he far outstrips either of them in terms of entries on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". In fact, with this entry being the 97th article with his name involved, he is the one human Label with the highest number of entries.

There really wouldn't be much to say except to suggest to readers to look at his J-Wiki entry provided they can read Japanese or go through the Takashi Matsumoto Label here and scroll down the songs (advance apologies if a number of those YouTube videos have been taken down). His own homepage was discontinued years ago and even the J-Wiki entry doesn't give any insights about his songwriting style. And the fact is that I couldn't really glean any patterns from the lyrics (aside from a love theme) that he has given to his too-numerous-to-count clients over the decades. He is just one prolific lyricist who can work with any genre save enka or Mood Kayo. However, since I have given space and time to some of the other major Creators, I would be remiss if I didn't mention him in this category. At the very least, I would like to present some of those famous hits he was partially responsible for although they have already been represented in their own articles just to let folks know that, yep, he actually did write them.

Takashi Matsumoto was born in the Aoyama neighbourhood of Tokyo on July 16th 1949. According to the Wikipedia entry for him, even as an elementary school student, he was already proving himself quite the aesthete by listening to the works of Igor Stravinsky and reading Jean Cocteau. But thanks to the Beatles, he plunged into rock music and got a drum kit.

Matsumoto's first band was Apryl Fool with Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)but that didn't last too long so his more famous outfit with Hosono was Happy End (1969-1972) as the band drummer. He already started practicing his lyricist chops since he provided the words to a good chunk of the band's output.

After Happy End broke up, Matsumoto started working with Moonriders while at the same time continuing writing lyrics and even getting into producing records. He did so with Yoshitaka Minami's(南佳孝)debut album "Matenro no Heroine"(摩天楼のヒロイン...Skyscraper Heroine)which was released in September 1973. However on completion of the project, Minami remarked that there was too much of Matsumoto in the lyrics and that "Matenro no Heroine" was really Matsumoto's album. If this scene had played out as an anime, Matsumoto's face or the background behind him would have cracked like a mirror. Ouch! In any case, any more ambitions about producing quickly leached out of him and he stuck with writing.

Matsumoto's first go as a professional lyricist, post-Happy End, was an Agnes Chan(アグネス・チャン)song "Pocket Ippai no Himitsu"(ポケットいっぱいの秘密...A Pocketful of Secrets)released in June 1974 as her 6th single. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, the gig may have been the result of a misunderstanding when Matsumoto had asked to write a commercial song, his friend in the industry had assumed it meant a pop song rather than a jingle for an actual TV ad.

But it all worked out in the end. Matsumoto's song (with composer Yusuke Hoguchi/穂口雄右) about a girl giddily asking a guy to keep their tryst under wraps got up to No. 6 on Oricon and ended up as the year's 60th-ranked single.

The band Tin Pan Alley(ティン・パン・アレー)came up with a cover version of "Pocket Ippai no Himitsu" in 1977 and you can read about it here.

Of course, one of Matsumoto's earliest hits was Hiromi Ohta's(太田裕美)"Momen no Handkerchief"(木綿のハンカチーフ)from December 1975. As sunny and cheerful as a spring day, the couple may have been parted by circumstances but somehow the feeling was that everything would be all right.

Matsumoto has had some long and successful working relationships with a number of composers. Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was one example; he was behind the music for the aforementioned "Momen no Handkerchief". Another was fellow songwriting legend Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)and together they came up with a number of classic hits for 80s aidoru Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子). Case in point: "Akai Sweet Pea"(赤いスイートピー), also a karaoke favourite. The lyric "I will follow you..." will follow me to the end of my days as one of my beloved Seiko-chan phrases.

But it wasn't all about the aidoru for Matsumoto. One of his greatest achievements was providing the words for Akira Terao's(寺尾聰)"Ruby no Yubiwa"(ルビーの指輪)in 1981. It just happened to become the No. 1 single of the year and perhaps the highest-ranking City Pop song. This would be the theme song for any walk through the hotel district of West Shinjuku when the sun is going down.

I'm a bit surprised that I hadn't already written this one up in its own article but Matsumoto also gave his lyrics on that sudden rejection by the titular "Bachelor Girl" for Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一), his 9th single from July 1985 with Inagaki himself providing the music.

I was happily reminded that Matsumoto was also responsible for the lyrics for one of my favourite J-Pop tunes, the oh-so-smooth "Nemuri no Mori"(眠りの森)by Tomita Lab from his album "Shipbuilding" in 2003. You gotta have a nice cup of tea while listening to this one.

But to finish off this admittedly short list of Matsumoto's contributions to Japanese music, I want to head back to 1979 with Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"September" which paired his lyrics with the boppy disco-pop of Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司). This was one of the keystone songs that got me into this music in the first place and therefore this blog. Just so many items in the Labels that I couldn't fit her name and year in.

As I said from the top, I was a little unsure about how to approach "The Works of Takashi Matsumoto" but I'm now glad that I got it out of my system. Please consider this as a very brief stopping-off point or launch pad describing the variety of songs he has provided singers over the past 40-odd years. It's ironic that the last two Japanese song articles before this Creator article focused on Matsumoto-written tunes but I am positive that this will not be the final period on this very prolific lyricist.

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