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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

X -- Kurenai/20th Century Boy(紅)

The 2016 edition of the Kohaku Utagassen had its ups and downs. But the one thing that kinda went sideways in a weird way for me was X Japan's performance of one of their epic classics "Kurenai" (Crimson). Not that the performance was bad or anything but just the so-called reason for having it played on stage. According to one of the hosts of the show, Shin-Godzilla was getting rather antsy on the metropolis of Tokyo once again, and help was needed to drive him off.

Well, cue in X Japan to provide the sonic weapon necessary to soothe the savage breast of the huge beastie. It was almost as if X Japan was actually the X-Men...or a team of Ultramen! Not sure whether Yoshiki and company rolled their eyes on stage.

As Wikipedia and J-Wiki will report, "Kurenai" has quite the history behind it. It had been performed at concerts for years since about 1985 before it actually was released as their official debut single under a major label (their 3rd overall). And the Yoshiki-penned song apparently had undergone different variations to the point that it was starting to be considered a lost cause.

However, it did get its official release in September 1989 when the band was still called just X, and I think the above video is that version (if I am wrong, please correct me...I'm not an expert on the band at all). Listening to the song for the first time in its entirety, I was surprised about that orchestral intro and the lonely guitar before all that hell-raising metal came bursting in. Then, there were the English lyrics sung by Toshi to start:

I could not look back,you'd gone away from me
I felt my heart ache
I was afraid of following you
When I had looked at the shadows on the wall
I started running into the night to find the truth in me

Years ago, when I first saw X on television, I was frankly terrified by them. I mean, KISS and a plethora of other hair metal bands had been invading the tube for years and years back in the West. However, this was Japan...home of the prim, proper and neat, I had thought naively. But things were changing in the music industry in the late 1980s, and X was just as much an agent of that change as acts such as Dreams Come True and LA-PPISCH.

And despite all of the makeup, the screeching guitars and the ground-shaking drumming, "Kurenai" was basically a love song, although Yoshiki himself countered that it was actually more of a struggle in one person's heart. The strange thing about hearing about it now, over a quarter of a century since its release, is that it doesn't sound all that radical. I've been hearing similarly arranged pieces used in anime for years.

It's still a huge song for all of the fans and I can't even imagine it not being played at an X Japan concert. That single, by the way, peaked at No. 5 on Oricon and became the 74th-ranked song for 1989. A year later, it rose in the rankings to No. 67. "Kurenai" was also a track on their 1989 album "Blue Blood" which had come out earlier in April. That album got as high as No. 6 but it earned even more profuse praise in 2007 when the Japanese version of "Rolling Stone" placed "Blue Blood" as the 15th-ranked release in its list of Top 100 Japanese Rock Recordings.

The B-side/coupling song to "Kurenai" just happened to be the old T. Rex classic "20th Century Boy". X's version had even more octane added.

Heck, we even had one of our own Canadian bands do its cover of the song, Chalk Circle. I think it's awfully hard to screw up this tune.

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