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.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Back in the 1980s, when I was still a neophyte, albeit a very enthusiastic one, in Japanese popular music, I often leafed through the karaoke songbook while my fellows were singing away in Kuri. One song that popped up from the pages was KUWATA BAND's "BAN BAN BAN" and it was also a song that got sung a fair bit. It didn't take me long to realize that the singer fronting this group was the same guy leading the famous Southern All Stars (サザンオールスターズ), the larger-than-life Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐).

So I was left wondering whether Kuwata had disbanded SAS or this was a side project to his main outfit.

Well, it turned out to be neither. What actually happened was that Southern All Stars decided to take a break for a year while keyboardist Yuko Hara(原由子)was on maternity leave in 1986. But it seems like hubby Kuwata still needed to make his music and he saw an opportunity while SAS was on its vacation of sorts. To translate his quote from J-Wiki, "Someday I wanna pull off some bulls**t rock!". So he pulled in 5 other musicians including SAS drummer Hiroshi Matsuda(松田弘)and formed KUWATA BAND in February 1986. The only proviso was that it would exist for just a year. Also according to the J-Wiki article on the group, even though Kuwata by that point had already become famous with SAS for about 8 years, his approach to his new creation would be to have their own sound and treat himself and his bandmates as newbies to the cause.

A couple of months later KUWATA BAND came up with their debut single "BAN BAN BAN" which was written and composed by Kuwata himself. To be honest, I only re-acquainted myself with "BAN BAN BAN" just a few weeks ago when I was listening to a compilation of 80s kayo tunes, but despite hearing the familiar tones of Kuwata, there was a certain freshness to this song that I can't really explain since I'm not an expert on musicology. Perhaps the best I can say is that it didn't have that certain honky-tonk raunchiness that those Southern All Stars hits had, and even the vocalist himself didn't have his tongue firmly in cheek. It seemed to be straight-on earnest pop/rock.

Even when I took note of the title, I had automatically assumed since it was a Kuwata creation that it had some sort of sexual connotation. But it seems like the only reason for its inclusion was that the songwriter had just wanted a bit of catchy scatting. As for the lyrics, Kuwata was relating the happy memories of a brief but intense amourous affair during the summer. Perhaps there was a hint of one final night together near the end of the song, but for a fellow who once said that if a song doesn't have sex, it isn't much of a song, it's pretty clean and innocent. As for the tonsorial vocabulary thrown out in there, you gotta ask Kuwata.

KUWATA BAND's debut paid off in dividends. It not only peaked at No. 3 on Oricon, it went Double Platinum and earned Kuwata Best Single of the Year and Best Artist of the Year honours at the very first Japan Gold Disk Awards. Plus, it hung around the Top 20 on the Oricon charts for 13 straight weeks before ending up as the 4th-ranked single of 1986.

For a bit of a cute and adorable approach, the above has Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)and her fellow Vocaloids doing their version.

"BAN BAN BAN" was also used in a Shiseido commercial and not for any famous American deodorant.

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