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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The First - 50 years by T-cat

It all started - as it so often does - with a giant monster.  Growing up in the New York city area in the mid-60's we had Mothra (and the Peanuts) in the movies, Phantom Agents (忍者部隊月光) on TV Saturdays, and on my Sony transistor I would listen to a wonderful song that got very heavy airplay on AM radio:  Sukiyaki, by Kyu Sakamoto.  For a period of time it was everywhere, and the fact it was in another language meant nothing to kids raised to believe "Wop Bop Shoo Wop" was a legitimate song lyric.  So Japan was not strange or exotic, it was another country like England or Brazil that had really cool stuff.  I still can't hear that song without being back in the diner at the jukebox asking my mom to "Play it again!" ....... on of the very few tunes that I can't imagine anyone could make a bad version of.  J-C has covered the history of it well, so here is the referenced Kenny Ball version:  

2nd song point:  flash forward to my college days - one of our small group shows up with an album "You guys gotta hear this" - by some group called Yellow Magic Orchestra.  Although we knew Kraftwerk and other "electronica" this was different - there was real melody, these were SONGS that were played using electronics - not the other way round.  And being Physics majors, it was "our music" - we got all the available albums and I still have them, plus everything else on CD.  As they've been very well covered in the west let us move forward again in time to ...... the 90's.  A Yaohans opened up nearby with attached CD store; I would browse and select mostly based on what the cover looked like: Shonen Knife, Blue Hearts, Sunnychar, Hibari Misori, Merzbow .... music by Japanese, but I didn't realize there were genres and types - only the random cool song.  Move forward to 2015 - while watching shells on the beach I failed to see the wave building behind me until it broke one night.  I was idol-ly listening to "Mime Through Time" videos for different countries when the Japan one suddenly grabbed me - one 20-second snippet put its hooks right in and would not let go.  After a half-dozen listens I checked the song list and didn't even know what was the song and what was the artist - but I took a chance to see if there was anything else on YouTube and typed in :  Onyanko Club. 4 hours later I was still tracking down all the music and information I could, loaded a translator into Google, rummaging through forums, reviews, blogs, etc. and haven't stopped.  Between Onyanko Club, its sub-groups, and individuals I've got about 150 CDs (albums, singles, compilations) and 21 DVDs plus lots of assorted ephemera.  And still collecting, including the All-Nighters (their ancestors).  This led to the realization that the true driving force was the writers and arrangers: Sato qasi, Etsuko Yamakawa, Tsugutoshi Goto, etc.  And eventually to this blog (and a few others) that have opened up my horizon to so much more music (another 100 non-yanko CDs and vinyl) with more every week.  This being the 30th anniversary of the Onyanko dissolution a lot is being published online (interviews, memories, etc.) - all grist for my information mill.  But strictly speaking, this sampler is all it took: 

And so 50 years later, here I am :   


  1. Hi, T-cat! Thanks for your article on how you got into this musical world that we on the blog all love and congratulations on being first past the gate!

    As I mentioned in my own The First article, I finally dove in to kayo kyoku in 1981 but yep, "Sukiyaki" was always with me from that single 45". I really like that Dixieland version by Kenny Ball. It's good to hear from someone who got into Japanese popular music through something other than anime (not that that is a bad thing, of course).

    Yellow Magic Orchestra is another special band for me. I heard electronic music on LPs circa 1969 in my junior high school library. But basically, they were bloops and bleeps done in some sort of avant-garde fashion. Not too melodic. YMO brought in the music through exotica, surf rock and the like.

    You mentioned about Yaohan opening up nearby. When I went to New York City for the first time in 1993, my wonderful place was Kinokuniya right by Rockefeller Center. I found the BEST of Reimy over there; I've been so grateful to Kinokuniya after that.

    But I gotta say that the video you put in at the bottom is a true find! Reina, Mari and Yoko did a fantastic job portraying all of those singers over the decades. I would probably recommend a view of that for all those who were always wondering about kayo kyoku and J-Pop but were afraid to ask!

    Thanks again for your reminiscings!

  2. Good morning and thank you J-C. It's a bit of a relief to actually give something back to your site instead of always taking, although not sure why the white stripes decided to show up :) Yes, I pretty much missed the whole anime and manga side of things with one exception: Konya wa Hurricane and the soundtrack from Bubblegum Crisis, the first CD I looked for at Yaohan Plaza. Anime for me was Astro Boy, Gigantor, Speed Racer on TV. By any chance are you referring to Perrey-Kingsley "The In Sound from Way Out" album in your 1969 electronica baptism? That was my first exposure (in junior high school) to the Moog, theremin, etc. I'm starting to feel old here .......

    1. Good morning, T-cat. Well, I'd like to consider any transactions on the blog as "sharing" rather than "give or take". So indeed, thanks for sharing.

      Actually, I just heard the first track from "The In Sound From Way Out" and no, it isn't the album I heard back in junior high. Perrey-Kingsley actually sounds much more melodic, and the album cover looks far more colourful.

      In fact, "The Unidentified Flying Object" is actually something I used to hear as the theme song for the daily farm report on CKVR-TV, the local CBC affiliate up north in Barrie. Yeah, this was used to introduce corn futures!

    2. Ahh..forgot to for those white stripes, I have no idea why they pop up. It happened to me once, too, and I think it happened to Marcos as well. Maybe it's a Blogger initiation ritual. :)


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