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.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Masaaki Hirao/Akira Fuse -- Omoide(おもいで)

Heck of a time to profile this crying song considering that Valentine's Day is a mere two days away but perhaps it's better now than then.

My memories are fuzzy about how I found out about this kayo; perhaps it was featured on a recent episode of one of the NHK music shows or I may have simply come across it during my natural browsings through YouTube. It's rather ironic about my forgetfulness considering that "Omoide" means "Memories".

Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌章), to remind folks out there, was one of the most famous songwriters of the late kayo kyoku era before his passing last year and additionally he was one of the pioneers for Japanese rockabilly back in the 1950s. Well, when he started to ply his pen onto paper as well as use his voice behind the mike, he came up with the big hit "Miyo-chan"(ミヨちゃん)in 1960, and according to what I've read on the J-Wiki article for "Omoide", "Miyo-chan" may have been too successful.

The footnotes providing the information on the article come from a 2001 issue of "Kaigo Journal"(介護ジャーナル)and the sports newspaper "Sports Hochi"(スポーツ報知)from 2017 but apparently when he released "Omoide" in 1961 (and perhaps subsequent singles), there were the unfortunate but inevitable comparisons with "Miyo-chan", and as a result, "Omoide" didn't quite sell. From listening to Hirao's original version, in my humble estimation, maybe listeners couldn't reconcile such a sad ballad from the good-time rockabilly king.

A few years passed by and it looked like Hirao had quietly disappeared from the scene, especially after the rockabilly boom had dissipated. However in 1965, "Omoide" was played often enough on a Hokkaido radio station which then got so much interest that it went up to the top spot on the request rankings. And although the original record had no longer been produced, its renewed popularity meant a re-pressing of 45s which led to 30,000 records being sold. The miracle led to Hirao coming back into view.

In the following year, up-and-comer singer Akira Fuse(布施明)did a cover of "Omoide" as his 3rd single. Being so early in his career, I gather that his sonic cannon of a voice hadn't quite developed so his delivery was quite tenderhearted against the melody which wavered from sadness and pride. There was something of that "smiling through the tears" aspect that was quite popular in kayo. The lyrics, by the way, were written by Tetsu Mizushima(水島哲)who described a man walking down absolutely devastated and disconsolate over the loss of a love on a fog-shrouded street. The way it sounds, it may not have been a breakup but perhaps a death that has left the man utterly alone.

It's said that "Omoide" was the breakthrough hit for Fuse which started him on his path to stardom and genuinely helped the transition from rockabilly singer to respected songwriter for Hirao. And for us kayo fans, we are truly grateful for that.

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