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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yutaka Ozaki -- Juu-go no Yoru (15の夜)

On NHK's "NewsWatch 9" this morning, there was a feature on the fact that today was the 25th anniversary of Yutaka Ozaki's(尾崎豊)passing. Apparently over the past few days, folks from all over the nation made a pilgrimage to a particular terrace at Shibuya Cross Tower in Tokyo where a plaque of the balladeer is placed.

During the feature, it was made pretty clear that Ozaki had no love for school, and there was one song which was played at certain points which punctuated that feeling, his debut single "Juu-go no Yoru". I translated it directly as "Night at 15" although the official English title is "The Night".

Released in December 1983, the song was based on an incident which had involved Ozaki and his buddy back in junior high school . His buddy was criticized for having hair that was too long for which the teacher decided to take a pair of clippers to shear off the offending lengths. The future singer-songwriter took extreme umbrage at this action with the result being that he and his friend decided to run away from home one night.

I'm not sure how long or how successful Ozaki's countermeasure was but the memories of it certainly crystallized within him. Although the incident had happened when the singer was 14 years old, he decided to change the initial title of "Juu-shi no Yoru"(14の夜)to "Juu-go no Yoru" since the former didn't quite roll off the tongue as well.

From hearing the music and the lyrics, the theme for "Juu-go no Yoru" seems to have been that first discovery of freedom. Why be hampered by useless information, arcane rules and authoritarian fuddy-duddies when you can take off and really learn about the world out there and not in a stuffy classroom? The piano, the guitar and the sax along with Ozaki's vocals exhort listeners to get on that motorcycle and just race anywhere from home to nowhere in long as you're free. Heck, even the cover of his first album, "Juu-nana-sai no Chizu"(十七歳の地図...Seventeen's Map)and that first single has Ozaki jumping over a huge prison wall.

Just my opinion but it's interesting that the ballad wasn't about fighting the power but getting away from it. Perhaps it wasn't about tearing down the status quo per se but enjoying it without the chains...not all that surprising considering the country was enjoying the benefits of the economic miracle at the time.

In any case, it's pure Ozaki...all of that naked emotion out there. "Juu-nana-sai no Chizu" which came out on the same day as his first single got as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became a million-seller. Not sure how the original single did on the weeklies but his posthumous 13th single "Juu-go no Yoru Live", which came out in April 1993 charted in at No. 15.

Akira Sudo(須藤晃), who produced the song, later wrote a book in 1998 titled "Ozaki Yutaka - Oboegaki"(尾崎豊 覚え書き....Yutaka Ozaki - Memorandum)as a tribute to the late singer. And in it, he spoke about those lyrics in "Juu-go no Yoru":

Those were teenage lyrics by a teenager for teenagers, something that no one else had ever written before.(誰も書いたことのないような、ティーンエイジャーのための、ティーンエイジャーによる、ティーンエイジャーの詞だった。)

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