The above photo is of a Coco's restaurant while we were on the way to Kamakura. One of the things I realized about my home for 17 years is that there is a plethora of family restaurants...or famiresu in the Japanese vernacular. Of course, the United States and Canada have their own such places such as Denny's and IHOP but I thought there were more brands of them in Japan. Coco's, Skylark, Denny's, Gust, etc...they were pretty much everywhere, including a Skylark in my own neighbourhood of Minami-Gyotoku.
In fact, in the early years of my stay there when I was much more gastronomically receptive (re: a glutton), I often went to Skylark for that breakfast buffet on a weekly basis before heading off to the school. And boy, the staff didn't skimp and it wasn't exactly typical breakfast fare, either. There was pasta, hamburgers, deep-fried chicken, salad, soup, etc. The average Japanese salaryman must have really needed his protein! I patronized my Skylark so much that the manager started recognizing me and greeted me with "Ohaiyo gozaimasu! Itsumo osewaninatteorimasu"（お早うございます！いつもお世話になっております...Good morning! Thank you very much for your continued patronage）. I was flattered and mortified at the same time since the other bleary-eyed customers could see me for the hog I was. I did indeed see the tables more as troughs, though. Still, I sometimes miss my famiresu. They were a good place to eat and hang out with friends. In terms of the closest analog here in Toronto, the shopping mall food court would be the thing.
Now, for the matter at hand. In my last article, I wrote about that mystery song by 70s aidoru legend Momoe Yamaguchi（山口百恵）, "Tokyo no Sora no Shita Anata wa"（東京の空の下あなたは）which was written and composed by Shigeru Amano（天野滋）of the folk-pop group NSP. Well, I had heard of the name before and since a number of YouTube videos featuring them popped up beside the Momoe video on YouTube, I decided to try them out.
Well, Land O'Goshen (yup, I still like to use the archaic exclamations from time to time)! I heard this one song above and one part of the song suddenly started to ring memory bells in my head. And so I realized that this song "Kyonen no Natsu" (Last Summer) had been featured in an episode of "Sounds of Japan" on CHIN-FM. However, I should say part of the song. One small thing that peeved me about the radio broadcast was that it didn't have an official ending theme or music to finish off the show, instead opting for a "sacrificial" tune that sounded perfectly interesting but was merely used to help the DJ finish things off before abruptly fading out. I found out last night that "Kyonen no Natsu" was one of those songs without me knowing who performed it or what the title was.
Now that I've heard it in its entirety for the first time since I heard its excerpt about 30 years ago, I'm now quite intrigued about NSP. "Kyonen no Natsu" was also written and composed by Amano and it's a sad introspective ballad about reminiscing about that lost love from a year back while walking along the seashore. I'm not sure who was handling the vocals for this particular song since apparently all three members of the group had their turn behind the mike but I was quite entranced by the haunting delivery and the overall arrangement, especially with the fairly dramatic intro involving the drums, the strings and the piano.
NSP consisted of Amano on guitar, Takayuki Nakamura（中村貴之）on guitar and Kazuto Hiraga（平賀和人）on bass. All of them were born and raised in Iwate Prefecture and while in high school in 1972, the three of them first met while being active in other bands. Deciding to create their own unit, they initially went the rock route and came up with the name New Sadistic Pink. However, since they debuted in 1973 with a folk song, they decided that that particular name was a bit odd and just shrunk it to the more generic NSP. Years later going into the 1980s, the guys decided to have some fun over their initials with the fans and invited them to come up with new variations on the name such as Non Stop Progression and Nasa Shopping Plaza. Personally, Natto Sukiyaki Piiman would have been my choice but that's just me.
"Kyonen no Natsu" was a track on their June 1982 album "Meguriai wa Subete wo Koete"（めぐり逢いはすべてを越えて...Completely Beyond The Encounter）. Considering the success of another folk-pop group, Off-Course（オフコース）, through those same decades, I was rather surprised that I hadn't heard of NSP in all this time, at least not officially. If I can hear some more songs by Amano and company, I think I can do more comparison between NSP and Kazumasa Oda's（小田和正）band.
NSP called it quits in 1987 with the three of them going their separate ways and providing songs for other singers and bands, although Amano continued to release solo material. However, all three got back together in 2002 during which they held their first comeback concert at Nippon Seinenkan in Shinjuku, Tokyo. According to J-Wiki, the tickets sold out within an hour. In February 2005, NSP even released their first single in 19 years. Tragically, though in July of that same year, Amano would pass away at the age of 52 from a cerebral hemorrhage.