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, April 21, 2017

Makoto Matsushita -- Love Was Really Gone

Back to a Friday night. Sports bars are usually packed for the event of the evening in any case but tonight it's Game 5 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the NHL playoffs, so in this city, IT'S A REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL (sorry, if I sounded like a certain American president).

Anyways, it's the end of the work week so perhaps it's time for a bit of smooth 80s City Pop and I've got none other than Makoto Matsushita(松下誠)to help ease those tired ear muscles. This is "Love Was Really Gone", another track from his 1981 solo debut album "First Light" that I've already talked about. In fact, the album was one of the first City Pop releases I wrote about in the blog.

For City Pop/J-AOR fans, "First Light" is a really really big deal because of all the smooth and classy tracks. And with "Love Was Really Gone", which Matsushita composed and wrote, this is a tune that I would probably hear on a nice summery balcony by the lake while sipping slowly something stronger back instead of a brewski in a sports bar. I especially love that opening when the singer-musician starts singing and the overall rhythm with the bass. It works even better than a slap-on of Ben Gay!


  1. Good morning - made the mistake of listening to this at 4am when I was trying to wake UP, and it mellow-ed me right back into my coffee :) Question: how receptive is the Japanese market to songs sung in another language by Japanese artists (as opposed to snippets of foreign language, or foreign songs by non-Japanese)?
    Tough loss for the Leafs - they were my favorite team as a kid, my dad was a Rangers fan.

    1. Hi, T-cat.

      Liked your first sentence there. :) Yeah, I think "Love Was Really Gone" is something to be heard on a Sunday morning (so perhaps Friday night was NOT the right time to put it up).

      As for your question, I'm not really sure. However, my impression is that the Japanese market would probably prefer Japanese artists to keep the use of foreign language to a minimum (words or phrases). I think Hikaru Utada released songs that were totally in English (off the top of my head, I'm thinking of that that Carpenters cover she did under the name of Cubic U), but they were not nearly as successful in the rankings as her Japanese-language ones. But again, I'm just talking on the overall picture. Individual opinions will vary of course.

      Another example that your question brought to mind was Akina Nakamori's "BLONDE". It actually had a life beforehand as the track "The Look That Kills" on her first English-language album "Cross My Palm". The album did well on Oricon by hitting No. 1 but I think it was more because of the curiosity factor than anything else. However when "The Look That Kills" became "BLONDE", it peaked at No. 7.

      Mind you, those 2 examples I stated are from years ago. Not sure what would happen now if any of the big names were to release a totally English single. But considering how important karaoke sales still are over in Japan, there may still be some hesitation.

      What are your opinions on this?

      Too bad about the Leafs although they may still push it to a Game 7. However, I think the ShanaPlan is working far better than expected. The team won one game more than I had expected even in my most feverish dreams. :)

  2. Good evening J-C: and here I was thinking "Wow, I'm finally getting the hang of Japanese - I can almost understand him!" :( At the risk of indulging in pop psychology (which I detest): growing up in the states in the 60's we had pop-40 "foreign" songs in Spanish, French, Japanese (Sukiyaki !), Jamaican (Israelites was supposed to be English, but ....), black, white, English invasion. Classical was European with Latin, Italian, German ......... language was no big deal. And we'd been raised to believe "Whop Bop a Loo Bop" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" were perfectly acceptable lyrics ....
    From my very imperfect knowledge of the Japanese pop scene through the 70's it seems most "foreign" music was pure, in that it was by foreign artists (so the funny language was OK), experienced directly through FEN, imports, etc. in it's native format. Or groups like the Ventures (instrumentals need no language) went down easy. Group sounds and lifting Western arrangements could ape the genre but not deal with the messy and embarrassing attempt at a full-blown song; why compete when you have the original? Mostly though, it may be you can sing along and understand if it's in your native tongue (I've read Enka songs are "dumbed down" so people can sing them in karaoke; ensuring greater sales).
    This goes back to the brief Shonen Knife discussion we had: at some point I feel they stopped being a Japanese punk(ish) band, and became a Punk(ish) band that was japanese. Now they are in competition with everyone else on an even footing - great for them ! But from my viewpoint something is lost, that little offset/twist that makes familiar music special (Teresa Teng doing Japanese songs, Kingtones doing doo-wop). In my case, not understanding Japanese means the singing and word/sound manipulation is another instrument in the song and a fascinating one. If/when I find a good semantic translation it's now discovering another song altogether.
    Sorry for the ramble, the upshot is it seems (opinions anyone) that there was little to be gained by attempting Engrish outside of the occasional word/lyric as an adornment or affectation; while the instrumentation and arrangements were spot-on for the Western side of things. Over here there is such a heterogeneous mix of cultures it's not even an issue to keep pop music "pure" ....
    Sorry for the long ramble - is it too late to bring back Turk Broda ??

    1. Hi, T-cat.

      No worries on your "ramble"; that's why I set up the blog. :)

      Interesting point about how the door is slightly more ajar in Western countries when it comes to foreign-language songs getting accepted and even becoming hits (I'm thinking PSY's "Gangnam Style"). None of those songs might be comprehensible but fun music is fun music.

      In Japan, obviously Western artists ranging from the Carpenters to Rihanna or Lady Gaga have become stars as well as they sing their English-language hits. But as whimsical as Japanese pop culture can be, I think the comfort level reaches its limits generally speaking when it comes to Japanese artists attempting to sing all-English songs with original music. American-born singers singing hit songs in Japanese? No problem but the converse doesn't quite achieve the same results on Oricon. It would be interesting to see how A-Ha's "Take On Me" did in the band's home country of Norway.

      Our conversation has also brought back memories to me of how in the immediate postwar period going into the 1960s, singers and bands adopted some of those British and American songs and made them Japanese standards by replacing the original English lyrics with Japanese ones. It's almost as if the singers and songwriters didn't have enough confidence that their audience would accept their English take. Somewhat too bad since there were some singers such as the late Peggy Hayama who could convincingly sing in English. But as you said, why bother when the original version is there?

      And then imagine how much newer New Music could have become if in the 1970s, folks such as Yumi Arai and Happy End laid in English lyrics onto their original Western-style melodies. Then again, perhaps for them to devote original English lyrics for the entirety of their compositions was probably too overwhelming.

      However, as you point out in your 2nd-last paragraph, there has always been something fascinating about hearing a cool Western melody overlaid with Japanese lyrics. I may not have understood them back then but it was still appealing to me.

      I don't think enka songs were particularly dumbed down specifically for the karaoke-loving masses. The genre developed to put across songs of traditional Japanese symbols and icons (and geography) within a set pattern of music which detractors have used to criticize enka or Mood Kayo as being all the same. However for folks like me, it's comfortable and sentimental since we are familiar with the certain chords and themes involved.

      Perhaps from the above traditional kayo genres, there was that need to pull away for many artists so genres like New Music, City Pop and Shibuya-kei popped up.

      Not sure how tonight's game will go. But here's hoping that the Leafs do push things to a Game 7. Turk Broda is way before my time but I can still relate to folks like Davey Keon and Bobby Baun. :)

  3. Love that track but that live version... Matsushita started too high and he struggled too much with the high notes.

    1. Hi, Gen.

      Not quite sure what was up with that live version. I have a feeling that he and the band probably talked about that afterwards. :)


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