An article whose time has come is how I will describe this. Yesterday, I was watching the Friday edition of the NHK morning variety show "Asaichi"（あさイチ...Morning Market）which will be coming to an end after 8 years of daily broadcast next week. Usually, Fridays are set aside for a long-form interview with a celebrity, and in all likelihood, yesterday's guest was the final one since I'm going to assume that next Friday's show will be the very last entry and so will probably be a tearful retrospective.
Well, what a guest! It just happened to be Yumi Matsutoya（松任谷由実）herself. My eyes kinda boggled out of their sockets for a few seconds since she doesn't make it any sort of regular habit to appear on a live broadcast. In fact, if my hearing didn't fail me, Yuming（ユーミン）even said that the last time she actually showed up on a live show outside of the Kohaku Utagassen was back in the early 1990s on the former noontime program on Fuji-TV, "Waratte Ii Tomo"（笑っていいとも）.
Considering the status of "Asaichi" at this time, it's no surprise that NHK managed to entice her on what would be the final long-form interview of the series. I caught the first 15~20 minutes in which she spoke on her regular life (she goes shopping and takes the bus in her area just like any other housewife) and the stamina for her spectacular concerts. I had been hoping that I could have heard some insights about her songwriting, especially on specific numbers but unfortunately I was in the middle of work yesterday and duty did call.
However, Yuming's appearance on "Asaichi" did inspire me to do something that I had not done before, and that is to write an Author's Picks on my favourite tunes by the legendary singer-songwriter. Yup, believe it or not, I hadn't done one before today. And man, it was difficult to come up with a list since there are so many of her songs that I have enjoyed over the decades.
Basically what I had to do was not touch any of her albums on my shelves and simply think of Yuming and wait until a whole series of songs popped up in my head. These aren't all quintessential, but they are all tunes that personally have stuck to me like flypaper all these years. Plus, as it turns out, they mostly cover the Yumi Arai（荒井由実）era from the 1970s into the Yumi Matsutoya era of the 1980s. I had been thinking of narrowing it down to 5 songs but nah, impossible. I've got 10. So here we go.
1. Ano Hi ni Kaeritai (1975)
I do love that bossa nova in there. Yumi Arai's voice back then was rather creamy compared to the reediness that started coming in as her career progressed so I'm not that surprised when I hear that there are fans who prefer her Arai days. Despite the bossa New Music, I will always think of what Japan was like in the 1970s rather than Brazil in the 1960s, and perhaps that was the point with New Music.
2. Sazanami (1976)
The first track from Yuming's final album under her maiden name of Arai, "The 14th Moon"（１４番目の月）, "Sazanami" is a wonderful road trip song for the singer. Would love to take a drive along the shoreline to this one. I mentioned this in the article for the album but that rollicking piano really gives that feeling of having a happy auto voyage on the highways.
3. Chuo Freeway (1976)
Also from "The 14th Moon", I guess this can be considered to be one of the trademark City Pop tunes of the 1970s. This is the nighttime for the daytime of "Sazanami" so images of evening driving through the metropolis come to mind. Regrettably, not being a driver, chances for me bombing down byways like the Kan-Etsu were very few and far between back in my time in Tokyo.
4. Yosoyuki Gao de (1980)
Not totally sure but this may have been the very first Yuming song that I had ever heard in my life. If so, it's about as different as anything that I had heard in the enka, aidoru and YMO departments. "Yosoyuki Gao de" is simply a down-home pop song out in the countryside with some roiling electric guitar. It was a track from "Toki no Nai Hotel"（時のないホテル）.
5. Koibito wa Santa Claus (1980)
Yumi Matsutoya has also released her fair share of J-Xmas tunes but for me, this would be my favourite. A track from her "Surf and Snow" album, this is the usual Holiday song given a rocket boost thanks to the guitars and a propulsive beat. It sounds almost as if Santa Claus had been given a starship with warp drive on December 24th instead of the traditional sleigh with eight reindeer.
6. Tower Side Memory (1981)
For fellow Yuming fans, this choice may come across as being unusual but my favourites, as I said above, don't always include the quintessential. It's the first track from her 12th album "Sakuban O-Aishimashou"（昨晩お会いしましょう）and as I said for that album, it's about the most City Pop/J-AOR release that I've come to associate with Yuming. "Tower Side Memory" is a groovy number of its time which I especially appreciate for its intro and the chorus work. Moreover, it's a nice tribute to the Port Tower in Kobe.
7. Mamotte Agetai (1981)
Now, this is a quintessential Yuming hit. Also from "Sakuban O-Aishimashou", despite all that I've said about the album being a City Pop-friendly release, "Mamotte Agetai"（守ってあげたい）is one of the singer's most famous pop hits which feels like being swaddled in the warmest bath towel by Mom...with extra Downy! Any retrospective on Matsutoya will need to include this in the look back on her music.
8. Blizzard (1984)
A dramatic track from one of her most beloved albums "No Side", I think "Blizzard" has long been attached to skiing and perhaps even the Naeba Ski Resort which has had a long association with Yuming. It's somewhat ironic to me since the title and the tone strikes me as being somewhat dangerous for skiers, generally speaking. However, it is also an exciting number that I've enjoyed listening to on the stereo and even attemped at karaoke.
9. Seishun no Regret (1985)
No regrets here with "Seishun no Regret" since the song seems to encapsulate all of the bouncy footloose-and-fancy-free life of the young ones in 1980s Japan. Still, I can imagine some screw-ups amid all of the fun as adults in their 20s make their way through their new independence. Yuming's melody just zips along cheerfully at the speed of a nutty comedy anime. "Seishun no Regret" was a track on her 17th album "Da-Di-Da".
10. Valentine's Radio (1989)
As with "Tower Side Memory" from "Sakuban O-Aishimashou", "Valentine's Radio" was also the first track on its album "Love Wars" which was the very first Yuming album that I bought. There is also a hint of a gleaming metropolitan life amid those notes but the city is right beside a convenient seashore. Very summery, it is, and very cheerful although the times were very close to the end of the Bubble Era. As much as "Tower Side Memory" did for the early 1980s, "Valentine's Radio" melodically reflected its time in the last part of the decade.
I guess if I were to "psychoanalyze" and summarize my choices for my very favourite Yuming tunes, I could reply with the words "nostalgia", "salad days", "speed" and "city". Perhaps this being the 45th anniversary of Ms. Matsutoya's debut in music, there may be a goodly amount of retrospective analysis of her works to come. Well, I'm certainly game for it.