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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi -- Junrenka(巡恋歌)

I was reading about veteran singer-songwriter Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi(長渕剛)who I first got to know through the songbook at Kuri, my old karaoke haunt back in my university days. There were quite a few tipsy and warbling customers who loved to croon "Kanpai"(乾杯)and "Tonbo"(とんぼ)in the lounge over a beer or a scotch. By the time I actually got to see him perform on TV in Japan, he gave me the impression of being one of the toughest-looking singing dudes with his crew cut and beefed-up physique. What furthered that image was his appearances in J-Dramas as gangsters or suffer-no-fools detectives.

So it was with some surprise on realizing that when he started his career from the early 1970s, he was this long-haired and skinny sort in a leisure suit. Furthermore, according to the Wikipedia write-up about him, he paid some pretty hard dues along the way when he was performing at some late-night venues and he got booed and had bottles thrown at him. So I think the toughening up part had already begun on the inside.

When I was reading up his biography at both Wikipedia and J-Wiki, I was a bit confused about his debut single since apparently, there were two of them. It took a look at the English side of things to figure out that at least to Nagabuchi, his official debut was in October 1978 with "Junrenka", a Take Two of sorts since he wanted to disown his original debut of "Ame no Arashiyama"(雨の嵐山...Arashiyama Rain)the year before because he so hated the arrangement that he felt was too close to enka. I will definitely have to cover that song then in the near future....not because I want to troll the fellow (I am not going to go up against a guy that solidly built) but because I am genuinely curious.

As for "Junrenka", the term doesn't seem to exist officially in the dictionaries but from reading Nagabuchi's lyrics, I gather that the translation can be "Roundabout Love Song". He seems to be singing from the woman's point of view; the woman is complaining that she just can't find Mr. Right because she always finds some sort of insincerity in terms of love within the men that she's dated.

Listening to Nagabuchi's music, it's definitely not enka but a pretty rousing folk with the guitar and harmonica. And when putting together the lyrical content and the music, I could imagine that "Junrenka" could also be a number that Miyuki Nakajima(中島みゆき)would have performed.

I also discovered through reading the J-Wiki article for "Junrenka" that he was obviously quite proud of his re-debut single since the footnote source was given in a 1981 book, "Orera no Tabi wa Highway"(俺らの旅はハイウェイ...Our Trip is the Highway)in a section called "Jishinsaku 'Junrenka'"(自信作「巡恋歌」...My Pride -- Junrenka). One of the pieces of information there revealed that the Yamaha Music Foundation which had gotten a demo tape of "Junrenka" contacted Nagabuchi to suggest that one of their up-and-coming aidoru could sing it as her debut single to which the singer replied, "I haven't even made my debut yet...I want to sing it!" Yamaha acquiesced and recommended Nagabuchi to enter the Yamaha Popular Song Contest once more (he had done so with "Ame no Arashiyama"). He ended up winning the Kyushu championship and was nominated within the final selection. After receiving some rave reviews, his Take Two took place with Toshiba EMI. Sounds like just the story for an NHK biography.

As it was, "Junrenka" only got as high as No. 173 on Oricon. However, the album that it was placed on, "Kaze wa Minami kara"(風は南から...The Wind is from the South)which came out in March 1979 ranked far higher at No. 15, and from looking at the recent video above, "Junrenka" seems to be a concert favourite.

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