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.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Jacks -- Karappo no Sekai(からっぽの世界)

Two weeks ago, I was writing about this haunting ballad of lost love by Yoshio Hayakawa(早川義夫)titled "Salvia no Hana"(サルビアの花)that has been covered a number of times since his original version was released back in 1969. For me, it is that original that struck me as the most interesting version.

I also found out that Hayakawa had been a member of the band Jacks(ジャックス)which has been described at J-Wiki as covering psychedelic rock, progressive rock and New Rock. That latter category was purely a Japanese creation as recording companies around the late 1960s had wanted to distinguish their young bands somehow from the others. According to J-Wiki, the name really didn't have much of a meaning outside of describing music that wasn't related to Group Sounds or anything that was Beatles-ish in sound. Apparently, Jacks was included in this ephemeral genre along with bands such as PYG, April Fool and Happy End. Happy End has also been seen as one of the first New Music or even City Pop groups.

But going back to Jacks, Hayakawa, Suehiro Takahashi(高橋末広)and Eri Matsubara(松原絵里)who were classmates at Wako High School in Tokyo's Machida City, formed up the folk trio known as Nightingale(ナイチンゲイル)as a predecessor to Jacks. Matsubara left the band in the summer of 1966 with the name change to Jacks, and then jazz drummer Takasuke Kida(木田高介)joined along with others which had the band going into this new direction of rock.

To quote the Wikipedia entry on the band:

Jacks played in a distinct musical style fused with ambient psychedelic, surf, folk and jazz. The group had a dark, introspective sound with an exploratory, improvisational edge and sometimes headed into moody instrumental excursions. The Jacks typically employed reverb, tremolo and subtle fuzz-guitar and also utilized the vibraphone, organ and wind instruments such as the flute. Lead singer Yoshio Hayakawa sung in Japanese and typically ranged from a low, calm and tranquil voice to throaty, desperate sounding wails. Similarly, drummer Takasuke Kida would follow suit, going from subtle jazzy sounding fills to complicated, offbeat rhythms and manic cymbal crashes.

From the J-Wiki article, I also found out that Jacks specialized in expressing the frustrations and discord among youth through the passionate vocal stylings by Hayakawa and Kida's jazz-influenced soundscaping.

Their debut single in March 1968 was "Karappo no Sekai" (Vacant World) which was also the title of their first album that came out later in the year in September. Hayakawa took care of both words and music for this very languid and atmospheric song that is characterized by the use of flute and koto. The vocalist also matches pace with the music as he sings in a dirge about a man who says he doesn't want to die and yet seems to be surrounded by absolute despair and emptiness. I never thought those two concepts could come off sounding so beautiful (?). I wouldn't be surprised at all if "Karappo no Sekai" has been used as background music for the performance art of Butoh.

There was no mention in either the J-Wiki or Wikipedia articles on how well it did on the Oricon charts, and most likely, "Karappo no Sekai" the single may not have even charted due to the lyrical content. In the music world of Group Sounds and enka, the New Rock of Jacks was perhaps seen as too alien. The Wikipedia article even mentioned that the song had been banned from radio. I guess the programmers didn't really like Debbie Downer lyrics.

Jacks' career was relatively short with the band disbanding in 1969. In the J-Wiki article, Hayakawa gave the reason for the breakup: "To be frank, the biggest reason for the breakup was that we couldn't sell. If we had been a bit more successful, we wouldn't have disbanded."

Despite all that, though, "Karappo no Sekai" the album was ranked at No. 13 in Rolling Stone Japan's "The 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time", (although some of the albums listed aren't rock-oriented at all...and strangely, "Karappo no Sekai" is listed as "Jacks on Sekai") and I think Jacks has probably influenced a number of bands including the ones mentioned above. At the very least, the band did let future pop artists know that not all songs needed to be all sunshine and blue sky all the time. Certainly, the use of Western and Japanese instruments in a pop/rock setting as was the case in their debut single has been used by bands as varied as PSY-S and Hiroshima, although I don't know whether Jacks was the first band to do so.

However, being just a blogger who is just as new to Jacks as some of you viewers are, I think there are better insights in this October 2009 article I found via Wikipedia on the "Garage Hangover" site.

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