Credits

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, December 31, 2018

L'Arc-en-Ciel -- HONEY


It's gonna be a soggy New Year's Eve going into 2019 unfortunately but compared to the deep freeze last year that curtailed a lot of the celebrations, I think people won't mind too much this year. Just bring the umbrellas.


This will probably be my final article for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for 2018 since in a little more than an hour from now, the re-broadcast of the Kohaku Utagassen will be starting up. NHK has rather made December 31st a half-day of Red-and-White festivities comparable to all of the lead-up on Super Bowl Sunday. Along with the shortened 15-minute 7 pm broadcast of news just before the start of the special, there are the warm-up programs on the network on the 30th and 31st to get viewers into the mood.

Of course, No. 69 also being the very last Kohaku Utagassen of the Heisei Era, things have taken on an especially auspicious tone, and the Japanese do love to look back on everything. For the episode on the 30th, there was a long retrospective on each of the Kohaku starting from 1989 to 2017 featuring the big names that appeared in each special.

One such act was rock band L'Arc-en-Ciel which had its debut appearance on the Kohaku 20 years ago with their hit "HONEY" (yes, indeed, time flies by). This was the band's 10th single released in July 1998, and even though I'm not a huge rock fan, listening to hyde and company and their fast jangling guitars once more brought a good measure of nostalgia back.


One reason for the natsukashii feeling was that I used to hear "HONEY" all the time on the music ranking shows. The song was written and composed by hyde, and it hit No. 1 on Oricon and became the 7th-ranked single for 1998, as it broke the million-seller barrier and went Platinum, selling around 1.2 million copies. "HONEY" was also included in L'Arc-en-Ciel's 7th album "ray", released in July 1999. That album reached No. 2 on the charts and also became No. 7 in the yearly rankings.

According to the J-Wiki article on the song (the original source was the liner notes from the 15th anniversary Expanded Edition for "ray"), it was one of the more atypical entries since L'Arc-en-Ciel was apparently known for quite a bit of production on their tracks, but in the case of "HONEY", the recording was kept to basically the trio of guitar, bass and drums. In fact, the recording was wrapped up so quickly during the time that had been scheduled for just pre-production that the producer and even the band members apparently don't have any memory of the recording session at all. Maybe simple is indeed best.

Mie Kitabatake -- U・SO・TU・KI


Found another one of those obscure songs from one of those obscure singers. Not surprisingly, there isn't much information on Mie Kitabatake(北畠美枝).


However, I did find out through the "Oricon News" website that " U・SO・TU・KI" (L-I-A-R) was her 2nd single from December 1993. I like that sound that I could possibly classify as being 90s City Pop; in any event, it does have that urbane tone with the synths and guitar, thanks to Kaoru Ito(伊藤薫)who took care of both words and music. I'm not completely sure so I've also thrown in the Pop categorization. Image-wise, I'm thinking of a betrayed woman walking unhappily through the streets of West Shinjuku at night.

From what I could find at "Oricon News", Kitabatake released at least four singles and one album between 1993 and 1995. However, according to this other website, it may have been as many as seven singles and three albums.

Suchmos -- YMM


Depending on where you are, Happy New Year! It's been a nice and quiet New Year's Eve so far here in Toronto and would like it to stay that way.

Woke up at 8 am to see the last number of minutes of this year's Kohaku Utagassen live on NHK via TV Japan, and no worries on that, since there will be a re-broadcast of the show later on tonight. Looks like there may have been more highlight-worthy scenes than usual this time around for what has been billed the final Heisei Era Kohaku. For me, so far, Kenshi Yonezu(米津玄師)and Misia were great, Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)is never boring, and then there was the pretty exciting finale with Southern All Stars (サザン・オール・スターズ) seeming to celebrate not only their return to the actual Shibuya stage but also their 40th anniversary in show business. I don't think that there has ever been a situation in which Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐), Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)and Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)have ever shared the stage while "Katte ni Sinbad"(勝手にシンドバッド)was playing.


Anyways, one act that I am looking forward to seeing is Suchmos although I'm not crazy about their choice of "VOLT-AGE" as their contribution to the Kohaku. I tried listening to it again last night on YouTube, and I realize that the song was used as the theme song for NHK's coverage of soccer games, but it still really didn't grab me.

So last night, I was looking around to see if there was another Suchmos song that I would like as much as I have "Stay Tune" from January 2016. And in fact, I did find one in the form of Suchmos' first track, "YMM" from their debut album "The Bay" (nothing to do with our national department store but most likely Yokohama Bay) from July 2015.

"YMM" is the abbreviation for "Yokohama Minato Mirai", the modern urban development right by Yokohama Bay and an area that I used to visit from time to time over my years in Japan. For me, it was a nice area to dine and walk around (the Cup O' Noodle Museum is right there), but I guess for vocalist and lyricist YONCE, it's the happening place to be...perhaps preferably under some pharmacological assistance at night according to what I've read in the lyrics and seen in the video. To be honest, powdered hot chocolate and boiling water will be as close as I will ever get to that state.


Anyways the tune created by Suchmos is an enjoyable funky strut with some of that bass reminding me of Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)City Pop days, and the entire song getting me all reminiscent of Jamiroquai. I think that line in the refrain "I'm so cool, he's so cool, she's so cool, we cool. And you?" just says it all about painting the town red as a group of buddies in their 20s (and probably many other colours) on a Saturday night.

"The Bay" made it up to No. 26 on Oricon. I was reading one Japanese commenter's remarks on YouTube where he/she indicated whether Suchmos may just end up as a one-hit wonder. I really hope not since I think they've got some things to say in the music department.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

NASA -- Sexy Spicy Baby


Well, after spending a few hours working on that Author's Picks article on City Pop albums, I've gone off and done another article on the genre. This one comes from the freshly-acquired "Light Mellow ~ Beams" CD, and as I stated in that article, the song is getting its presence known for the first time on compact disc.


I've never heard of this band NASA and I have no idea why the group of musicians went with this name (perhaps one of them was a fan of space travel). I was also surprised that the National Aeronautics & Space Administration hadn't made any intense inquiries to Japan about copyright at the time (or maybe they discreetly did). However, I have heard of the lead vocalist Toshio Kamei(亀井登志夫)who I've seen as a songwriter for a number of other artists over the years. But I didn't know that he was also a violinist.

Even in the liner notes in "Beams", there isn't a whole lot written about NASA aside from the lineup for the band, but in 1980, they released the album "Sen'ya, Ichiya"(千夜一夜...THOUSAND NIGHTS, ONLY NIGHT), and the track "Sexy Spicy Baby" sounds pretty cool. As the writer for the notes, Toshikazu Kanazawa, puts it, this one is a case of City Funk, although I think it can also traipse into really bouncy pop.

It's a fun four-minutes-and-change with Kamei's melody as he sings Yukari Nukumizu's*(温水ゆかり)lyrics about a guy simply fawning over his girlfriend as she picks through foodstuffs such as coffee beans, sweet basil and orange pekoe tea. Well, I'm glad that he's as committed to her as she is to her herbs and stuff. I love those old-fashioned pop keyboards but there is also that pleasant little musical "battle" at the end of "Sexy Spicy Baby". At first listen, I had assumed that it was guitar vs. keyboard, but actually the latter instrument is probably Kamei's sonic violin. Kinda makes me wonder if NASA had started out as a progressive rock band.

*Not sure if that last name is correctly rendered since there are a number of readings for the kanji. As usual, if you know the correct way to say the lyricist's name, please let me know.

Ikimonogakari (いきものがかり) - YELL

Recently, I've written 3 consecutive pieces about Akina, and most of them were love songs (and sad too).  Let's change the scenery a little bit.

Do you remember what song you sang with your classmates at graduation? Or maybe you didn't sing anything at all?

I never went to high-school in North America, so may be this feels a bit cheesy for Americans and/or Canadians.  But I surely remember it was a fixture when I was attending secondary school in Hong Kong.  Our school designated one day as Teachers' Day, and the graduating classes would organize a 3-hour performance for our teachers' enjoyment (since all teachers are at the performance, there'll be no class; rest of students can watch the show or play soccer, basketball etc.).  Some people would do short skits, or a monomane of some of our teachers (think Alec Baldwin's impression of Trump).  Some people would do a group speech.  Some people may choose to do group singing.  When they sang, the song was usually about farewell and friendship.

I remember that there's this wildly popular song that I heard every year, and even multiple times on the same Teachers' Day.  It was a cover song from Randy Sparks' Today.  The Cantonese version, named "Sitting Across Each Other, Silent" (相對無言), was covered by Michael Kwan (關正傑), who was extremely popular in the late 70s and early 80s.  The Cantonese lyrics was actually quite touching.  It is about 2 people who vowed to pursue their dreams at graduation.  But many years later, when they met again, they realized that they've all changed.  Both of them had to abandon their dreams in order to adapt to the society they lived in.  They drank, they cried, they held each other in their arms.  At the end, they cheered each other, wished each other well, and hoped their fate would change some day.  Reminds me of Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days.

This is Randy Sparks' Today covered by Glen Campbell: https://youtu.be/DqKNTn3UWI0

And this is Michael Kwan's Cantonese version: https://youtu.be/xoqydwRJyYU

On my Teachers' Day during graduation, we decided to sing this one:



For Japanese high-schoolers, Ikimonogakari's YELL has become a very popular farewell song.  According to wiki, Oricon's "Graduation Song Ranking 2012" ranked YELL as the 2nd most popular farewell/graduation song on its chart.

Yoshiki Mizuno (水野良樹), the primary song writer and lyricist for Ikimonogakari, was invited by NHK to write a theme song for the 2009 NHK All-Japan School Choir Competition.  The requirement from NHK was to write something "as up-tempo (cheering) as possible".  However, Yoshiki looked back on his days at high-school when he was deeply confused and frustrated, and wrote YELL, along with one more "up-tempo" song.  At the end, NHK chose YELL to be the theme song.

YELL was the first song I heard from Ikimonogakari.  I watched their live performance at 2009 Kouhaku (紅白).  I have to admit that the vocalist, Kiyoe Yoshioka (吉岡聖恵), looks like my ex-girlfriend and so they got my immediate attention :)  I was very impressed by their performance.  Probably, I was watching Kouhaku for the first time after many years of absence, and was pleasantly surprised by the new music scene.  I was still living in Akina era back then :)

I couldn't find that Kouhaku performance anymore, but I found this live performance in their 2015 concert.  I've heard a much better live performance from Kiyoe.


YELL, as I mentioned previously, is a reflection on Yoshiki's young self.  It was about exploring your inner self.  Often, we're living the "image" or "impression" of people around us, and as a result we're lost and confused.  Saying goodbye to our friends, and choosing our own path, is nothing sad at all.  It's a chance for us to reborn, and search for our own ultimate self.

Chris Hart, an American who made his singing career in Japan, covered for this song as well.  Enjoy!


J-Canuck's Choices for 1980s City Pop/J-AOR Albums


Now that 2018 is on its way out, perhaps I can provide one more article under Author's Picks before 2019 comes into being. The above is a couple of issues of "Record Collectors" that my friend and fellow collaborator on the blog, JTM, was kind enough to send me for reading during Xmas, and for those who can read katakana, you can see from the cover that the main article was a history of City Pop split over two issues and two decades. Of course, there are some interviews and a good amount of listings of the various albums of the genre, although not quite as voluminous as the one in the book "Japanese City Pop".

The above is one reason for me to start up this article, and the other reason is that someone had once commented to me some months ago about whether I would put up an article about my favourite City Pop albums. In all honesty, I had balked on the topic at first since: 1) I already wrote an article on my favourite City Pop songs back in August 2016, 2) I found it difficult to come up with a list that I would be satisfied with since I figured that no matter what, I would probably end up leaving something out that I really liked, and 3) I've given the albums their own articles.


But then, I caught a few videos on YouTube not related to Japanese pop music at all. And all of them, including the above video from Cocktail Chemistry starring Nick going into how to stock one's first bar, talked about beginnings. So with some inspiration from them, I decided that perhaps I can at least suggest a few City Pop albums that can be purchased to start off their collection. I figure that with some of these artists, the albums here are simply representative of some of their other similarly themed releases, so that fans who like this stuff can branch out with other albums.

I won't go into any long commentary since I've already provided my insights in the individual articles, and they're not ranked in any sort of order. Won't even mention my favourites here since what you like is what you decide upon when you listen to the tracks.

Takako Mamiya -- Love Trip (1982)



Takako Mamiya's(間宮貴子)"Love Trip" isn't just precious because it was the only album that the singer had ever recorded before completely disappearing from the pop culture radar ("Love Trip" is indeed mentioned in "Record Collectors" and it's still unknown about where she's gone), but also because the tracks and songwriters in there are good and polished. If you've decided to start your City Pop collection and a home bar as Nick talks about, make yourself a good cocktail while you're listening to this one. The title track itself had me searching for my old Gino Vannelli album.

Makoto Matsushita -- First Light (1981)



As I mentioned in that first article on Matsushita's(松下誠)masterful "First Light", if it weren't for the fact that most of the tracks are sung in Japanese, I would have placed the album solely in the American AOR genre. The guitarist and arranger also seems to have enjoyed trying on the bespoke melodic suits of various folks from the genre such as Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. The only thing I regret here is that I couldn't get a copy of the album with the original cover.

Fujimal Yoshino -- Yoshino Fujimal (1982)


Yes, I love the "Miami Vice" buzz with Yoshino(吉野藤丸)here. Also love the tracks in there along with Yoshino's singing, too. "Yoshino Fujimal" could be your soundtrack on the car stereo even if you're bombing down the highway outside of Tokyo. As such, any time any of the tracks end up on Van Paugam's City Pop radio on YouTube, I stick around and listen as the video travels on the highways and byways of Japan...night or day.

Tohoku Shinkansen -- Thru Traffic (1982)





This was a true revelation as "Thru Traffic" hadn't shown up in "Japanese City Pop", and I only found out about it purely by happenstance on YouTube one day. The pairing of Etsuko Yamakawa and Hiroshi Narumi(山川恵津子・鳴海寛), two people that I had only known up to that point as behind-the-scenes songwriters and musicians, was just magic on this one-off album. I realize that even those people had to be pretty proficient as singers as well, but I hadn't been aware that Yamakawa and Narumi were that good behind the mike. With the various songs reminding me of works by the aforementioned Vannelli, Steely Dan, Manhattan Transfer, and Quincy Jones for "The Dude", I am hoping that "Thru Traffic" and Tohoku Shinkansen(東北新幹線)have gotten new love by a new cadre of fans.

Mariya Takeuchi -- Miss M (1980)




Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"Variety" album from 1984 has the famous "Plastic Love", to be sure, and it has also been listed in both "Japanese City Pop" and the second half of the "Record Collectors" article, but when it comes to one of her releases that truly has that City Pop/AOR beat, I go for the earlier "Miss M". In an earlier article, I had mentioned about my brother remarking about the David Foster-y feeling from some of the 80s Japanese pop music. Well, I introduced him to "Morning Glory" from this release, and told him for that the first half of the album (including this song), the actual Foster along with members of TOTO and Chicago helped in the recording of this album. Even for a singer who basically adored a lot of that American pop in the early years of her career, "Miss M" stands out.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- For You (1982)



For folks discovering City Pop and Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), this is "For You" (ha, ha). This is chock-filled with some of those hits that have made this fellow a virtual god for the fans of the genre. Love his soaring voice? Love some tight horns? Love that bass? Love that feeling of summer? Yup, you can do with this one on your shelf. Plus, considering the time that I'm writing this, a little bit of the hot season would be nice right now, and after all, "For You" was released in January 1982.

Hiroshi Sato feat. Wendy Matthews -- Awakening (1982)



I have got to get more of Hiroshi Sato's(佐藤博)works since so far it's still just "Awakening" that I own, but dang, it's a good start to his file. More on the mellow AOR side than the oft-hustling City Pop, I kinda feel like I'm listening to this while on the shaded balcony in a luxury seaside apartment rather than on the beach or in the passenger side of a convertible that perhaps Tats' "For You" would position me. And like Yamashita, Sato also has that rather distinctive voice.

EPO -- Goodies (1982)



As with Tatsuro Yamashita, it was difficult to whittle down to a lone recommended EPO album for this list since the singer-songwriter has been so associated and so good with City Pop/AOR for a lot of her early releases in particular. But I've decided to go with "Goodies", and as with Tohoku Shinkansen, this 1982 effort has EPO tripping the light fantastic through a number of musical styles. No matter the track, though, she remains a most vivacious host for this party of an album.

Akira Terao -- Reflections (1981)



I may have already mentioned this in a more recent Akira Terao(寺尾聡)article, but if not, I have to say that now that I have listened to a lot of City Pop/J-AOR over the past several years, I consider his hit album "Reflections" as being perhaps the most Japanese-sounding City Pop album. OK, that sounds rather weird since City Pop is a Japanese music genre, but with some other singers and their works in these two genres, I can hear the influence from Western acts such as the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, but overall with "Reflections", my feeling is that I'm most definitely in Tokyo when I listen to it. I think it even straddles the border between Mood Kayo and City Pop, with the setting being in some sort of drinking establishment.

Light Mellow series (mid-2010s)



If there is one album that I can definitely recommend for newbies to the genre, it would be anything from the "Light Mellow" series. Several of these have come out over a couple of years with names such as "Breeze" and "Highway" and "City", but what they all have in common is that they include various singers and songs of the City Pop/J-AOR persuasion from the 1970s into the 2000s. There is an interesting mix of famous and obscure tunes on each disc, and some of them have tracks that are getting their appearance on CD for the very first time.

Well, I've tried to keep things to ten entries here. Obviously, there are many more worthy candidates out there but among the ones that I do have, the above is a good place to start and they have been my go-to albums. Now, the 1980s part is something that I added pretty late to my title since I realized that all of these albums are from that decade. I will see if I can come up with a 1970s version of this later in the new year, but I really ought to be collecting more City Pop albums from that decade before I come up with anything this big.

I may have run off a bit at the mouth with my descriptions but think of this article as a hub linked to the source articles, if you haven't seen them. In any case, if you are indeed coming to City Pop/J-AOR for the first time, I hope that getting at least a few of these albums will give you hours of listening pleasure. And of course, if you have some of your own suggestions, please let me know. I may have them or I may not...and if I don't, I will be sharpening up my credit cards in 2019!😁

P.S. You can also take a gander at this article on City Pop suggestions.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Yukiko Ehara -- Kokoro no Mama ni(心のままに)




It's been interesting getting to know the earliest times for the former vocalist of the pop band Fairchild and current TV personality known as YOU. I first only got to know about her from those Suntory commercials while one of Fairchild's songs was playing in the background, and it would be many years down the line before I realized that she had been an aidoru in the mid-1980s.


From the material that I've heard performed by Yukiko Ehara(江原由希子), the future YOU seemed to have been groomed to take on somewhat more classier or ethereal material. Her second single from August 1985, "Kokoro no Mama ni" (As It Is) is along those lines as it skirts with the mellower side of sophisticated pop. I could even hear an AOR riff and even hints of Omega Tribe in there.

And yet, neither Chinfa Kan(康珍化)nor Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)had anything to do with the creation of "Kokoro no Mama ni". It was actually 70s folk singer Shozo Ise(伊勢正三)who concocted this dreamier form of 80s aidoru. I have to say that I really like the keyboards in there.

Kana Yuuki, Saki Miyashita, Atsumi Tanezaki & Rie Suegara -- Wish Me Luck!!!!


Just a few days before the end of 2018 (and for a lot of people, not a day too soon), but for anime fans like myself, there was a good crop of shows this year with some pretty nice anison attached.


Unless I find some more really good entries in the soundtrack for this Summer 2018 anime, this will probably be the final entry for "HaruKana Receive"(はるかなレシーブ)on the blog. "Wish Me Luck!!!!" was the ending theme for most of the episodes as sung by the four lead characters on the show.

Kana Yuuki(優木かな)as Haruka, Saki Miyashita(宮下早紀)as Kanata, Atsumi Tanezaki(種﨑敦美)as Claire Thomas and Rie Suegara(末柄里恵)as Emiri Thomas provide this uptempo ender whose arrangement I would label as "80s steel synth". Even when things got somewhat tense in an episode, "Wish Me Luck!!!!" was always there to reassure us that the four friends would stay together. Riyu Kosaka(小坂りゆ)and Naoki Maeda(前田尚紀)created the song. The arrangement hasn't exactly broken the mold, but heck, it's happy and optimistic. What more can you ask about a slice-of-life anime based in sunny Okinawa?


Plus, now that the Autumn 2018 season has now ended, it says something that "HaruKana Receive" can still linger in my mind as a good memory even with some of the big highlights in anime and theme songs that have come since.

Friday, December 28, 2018

YUI -- CHE.R.RY



This is a roundabout way in which I found out about this song, but here goes. Usually the Thursday night lineup on TV Japan includes the long-running Fuji-TV variety show "Honmadekka!? TV"(ホンマでっか!?TV)on alternating Thursdays in which host and comedian Sanma Akashiya(明石家さんま)leads guest tarento and university-level experts through a combination of zany humour and education on various topics.

On one episode, through the regular table tennis-like zinging back and forth of topics, the issue of what song cheers folks came up. And for a certain group of people, it was the following song.


I had heard of the Fukuoka-born singer-songwriter YUI before when I was living in Japan but never really took notice of her work. But listening to an excerpt of her "CHE.R.RY", I finally did take notice and searched for it on YouTube. And I gotta say that it is a really cheerful song with YUI singing the verses in an almost conspiratorial tone before bursting out happily in the refrain. There's something really spring-like about it, and in fact, the official slogan for "CHE.R.RY" was "We're sending you a spring song that is like a bittersweet fruit".

(short version)

Released as her 8th single in March 2007, "CHE.R.RY" is all about a woman having that kataomoi experience but still keeping a brave and optimistic face about it since the fellow will hopefully notice her feelings someday soon. C'est l'amour! It peaked at No. 2 on Oricon and became the 36th-ranked single for that year. It went Gold according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan but it then went Triple Platinum in terms of the number of downloads as a cellphone ringtone: over 750,000! The song was also placed on YUI's 2nd album "Can't Buy My Love" from April 2007; it hit No. 1 for 2 weeks and became the 9th-ranked album of the year.


The song was also used in a commercial by the cellphone company au (boy, that's a natsukashii brand), but it was also brought in as one of the many ending theme songs for the anime "ReLife" in 2018.


"CHE.R.RY" was given the bossa nova treatment on YUI's tribute album "She Loves You" from October 2012. That album went to No. 7. 

One final thing that was intriguing me was about the formation of the title. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the fact that the first "R" had been isolated by periods. Well, according to a currently non-existent article on her website via the J-Wiki article on "CHE.R.RY", this was meant to strongly indicate a very bittersweet love and that the appearance of ".R." cutely resembled a cherry. Well, OK....I don't quite see it but hey, who am I to argue with the songwriter of such a happy tune?

Signal/Hiromi Iwasaki -- Hatachi no Meguriai(20歳のめぐり逢い)





A bit of an introspective one for a Friday night but it is a lovely song by the folk band Signal(シグナル). Consisting of bassist Isao Tamura(田村功夫), guitarist Masanori Sumide(住出勝則), guitarist Asao Asami(浅見昭男), and bassist Tatsuo Inagaki(稲垣達雄), Signal had its run for the better part of a decade between 1975 and 1984. Based mainly in the Kansai region, Polydor Records took note of their song "Hatachi no Meguriai" (Encounter at 20) and soon after, it was released as their debut single in September 1975.

Once again, good timing on that release since "Hatachi no Meguriai", which was written and composed by Tamura, relates the story of a man's memories of the young woman who could have been the love of his life but for whatever reason, they are no longer together. The tropes of season and loss of romance are all in there: dried leaves, September, and a bus stop. However, Tamura's creation isn't completely sad...the protagonist still has his memories to cherish and there's a certain bounce which develops as the song progresses, so it's more wistful. And I don't exactly know how old the man is at the time that he's remembering his brief romance. Is the breakup still fresh or is it now decades down the line?

"Hatachi no Meguriai" managed to reach No. 14 on Oricon, and later became the 32nd-ranked single for 1975. It sold 300,000 records and was the biggest hit by the band.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Some years later, Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)gave a tenderhearted but slightly more subdued rendition of "Hatachi no Meguriai" in her album of covers "Sumire Iro no Namida"(すみれ色の涙)from November 1981. I think her version can rival that of the original take by Signal, and for that matter, although the album has been categorized as an aidoru release, this song and the title track illustrate that Iwasaki was now much more of the pop chanteuse. I keep forgetting that "Sumire Iro no Namida" was indeed a cover of the original by Jackey Yoshikawa and His Blue Comets since Iwasaki's cover is so much her own song. The LP peaked at No. 16 on Oricon.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Atsuko Nina -- Teibou(堤防)


I've got that feeling of entering that amorphous period between Xmas and New Year's Day. There's no longer than holly jolly emotion of the Yuletide but I've yet to get that air of year-end conviviality. There seems to be a holding pattern, so to speak, especially since I'm not at all interested in Boxing Day shopping.


So in a way, it's good that I've got some translating assignments to keep me occupied during this time, and there are the discs from Japan that I've got to listen to, plus a couple of volumes of "Record Collectors" from JTM to devour. Also, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" will always provide some time for me.

Here is this track from Atsuko Nina's(二名敦子)4th album "Fluorescent Lamp" (1987) called "Teibou" (Embankment). It's been classified as a City Pop tune, and it is that, but I think it's also got that arrangement of late 1980s sophisticated pop. Those horns in there remind me of Swingout Sister to a certain extent. Nina took care of both words and music. Would like to explore more of this album, if possible.

Kenshi Yonezu -- Lemon


Well, the lineup and the songs for the 69th Kohaku Utagassen for this New Year's Eve are up on Wikipedia. Just like the old tradition for a bride on her wedding day, there's something old (the appearance of Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎), some five years after he retired from the special), something new (folks like Aimyon(あいみょん)and Suchmos coming onto the program for the first time), something borrowed (the 90s dances for DA PUMP's "USA"), and something blue (you never know what Southern All Stars might pull off on live television on NHK...the wiring for the NHK switchboard might be reinforced).


On December 26th (just yesterday as I write this), it was announced that singer-songwriter Kenshi Yonezu(米津玄師)was confirmed to be appearing on the Kohaku. I've never heard of him but considering that NHK is making this announcement with less than a week to go before the show goes on, I gather that he must be a pretty big deal. Yonezu had apparently declined an initial invitation but when NHK offered to have him perform live from his native Tokushima Prefecture, he had a change of heart.

The song that he's scheduled to sing is "Lemon", his 8th single released in March 2018. In his J-Wiki biography, he admires bands such as Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Radwimps, and although I don't know any of the bands that have been mentioned well enough to give a comparison, for "Lemon", his delivery reminds me somewhat of the vocals of Masayoshi Yamazaki(山崎まさよし). From what I've heard from this song alone, there is quite the powerful balladeer in Yonezu. Plus, there is something solid and reassuring with his voice as well even though he's only 27...something along the lines of a child having a parent or relative standing dependably behind him or her at a funeral.

Initially, after looking at his lyrics, I had thought that "Lemon" was another example of going through the emotions after a romantic breakup but then looking at the video and the writeup in the J-Wiki article for the song, I realized that this was probably about coming to some sort of stable ground following a death of a loved one. The olfactory touchstone seems to be the scent of the titular fruit in the title. The one part that kinda struck me was seeing Yonezu appearing in one of the church pews wearing stilettos; there was no explanation in the J-Wiki article about what the significance was for that, and there is even an article on the song on J-Rock News inquiring about it without any answer given. Perhaps the loved one that was lost was indeed a lover, and Yonezu wanted to channel her feelings by literally and figuratively walking in her shoes. As sad as the images were, the end of the video with the camera slowing panning away from the church visitors as they talked things over gives some hope of resolution to the tragedy.


"Lemon" was also used as the theme song for the TBS drama "Unnatural"(アンナチュラル), about a pathologist studying the whys and wherefors of diseases. The single reached No. 2 on Oricon and went Platinum, breaking a million sales, and it looks like it'll settle in as the 18th-ranked single of the year. Even the music video on YouTube, uploaded by Yonezu, has reached over 243 million views since it first appeared in February. Perhaps the theme was also quite reassuring for viewers.


Yonezu covers pop, rock, R&B and electronica, but one thing that I was surprised about was that some years earlier, he had performed under the Vocaloid name of Hachi(ハチ). This is one of his songs under that guise, "Donut Hole".

Larry's Non-Single Akina Favorites (Part 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, there's a part 2.  There're just too many Akina favorites :)

5. So Long



Yesterday, I planned to write all these favorites in time order of their releases but I somehow missed it.  So Long was released in Bitter and Sweet in 1985, same album as Yokan 予感.

It is a story of a woman who wants to pursue her dreams, and so she bids goodbye to her lover.  On the desk, there is her goodbye letter, with only the word "Sayonara" (goodbye in Japanese).  Before dawn, she softly kissed her lover, and left the apartment building.

"So Long" reminds me so much of the Carpenters, whom I like since high school.

6. Ame ga Futteta (雨が降ってた)



I listened to this song via YouTube (not this video, the one I watched was taken down long ago and so will this one eventually, I think) first before I bought the album Cruise.  It was released 1 week after her attempted suicide.

Chika Ueda (上田知華), who's a singer song-writer herself, wrote the song.  As written on this blog before, Ueda Chika has been a prolific song writer for many singers, most notably Miki Imai (今井美樹).  To my surprise, she even wrote 2 songs for Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam (林憶蓮).  I think that's because Sandy Lam once released a Japanese album and tried to enter the Japanese market (without success I guess).

To be honest, I don't quite understand what the song means after I read its lyrics.  Like a lot of Japanese song lyrics, there's plenty of room for imagination.  My interpretation was inspired by Akina's live performance on stage, when she finally lay herself down onto the steps.

The song is about the last episode of a woman before she dies in a parking lot.  It was raining.  Her head was hit (hit-and-run accident in a parking lot?), even though she felt only a little pain.  Her lover was by her side, watching her in confusion, despair.  Her ring fell into a water pond beside her.  She tried to raise her hand, trembling. He picked up the ring for her, staring at her finger.  He smiled, as if it would bring her comfort, but he couldn't hold his tears anymore.  She remembered that it's also a rainy day when he proposed.  She never thought she would meet somebody like him.  She felt tired, sleepy, and slowly and softly, he slept in his arms.

I think Akina's voice is perfect for this kind of sad love song.  I was especially mesmerized by her live performance.  As far as I know, Akina only gave one live performance of this song in her 1991 concert (see my earlier post).

7. Kagerou (陽炎)



I think this is the second song written by Kouji Tamaki (玉置浩二) for Akina.  The first one was Southern Wind (サザン・ウインド) back in 1984.  Another sad song.  Like Yokan (予感), she cried while singing this song in every live performance I can find on YouTube.

The song is about a woman longing for her ex-lover.  She remembers the good times they had together.  She still loves him so much that she couldn't forget.

I'm pretty sure that this song, like Yokan, reminds her of the heartbreaking relationship with Matchy (Masahiko Kondo 近藤真彦).  By the way, the video contains 2 live performances, Kagerou followed by Yokan.  She cried while singing both songs.

8. Necessary



This is not a well-known song.  Interesting enough, looks like Akina performed it twice in 2 separate concerts.  This is not only my non-single favorite, but my favorite among Akina's post-1991 era songs as I've written it here.

"Necessary" is about 2 lovers, probably in an affair, where the woman knows she should leave him.  Unfortunately, every time they see each other, they're indulged in their lies and each other's body that the affair continued.  Even then, she never regret meeting him.

I hope this 2 part article gives you an idea of some of Akina's less well-known songs, because most of her hits have been singles.

So long...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Larry's Non-Single Akina Favorites (Part 1)

I was on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the other day when I was reading the newly published J-Canuck's Favorite Non-Single Album Tracks Part 1.  Upon finishing it, I immediately reached for my iPhone, and checked whether my favorite Japanese songs are from singles or not.  It's an interesting exercise indeed.  I found out that most of my favorites are from singles, but there're some that are only released in albums.  That inspired me to write this post and I'm going to just focus on Akina Nakamori (中森明菜).  This may just be part 1 :)

1. Anata no Portrait (あなたのポートレート)


In my earlier post where I talked about how I first got myself into Japanese music, this was one of my first Akina songs I listened.  I was mesmerized by the piano intro ever since I heard it.  In those days, I also confused this song with Twilight - Yuugure Tayori (トワイライト-夕暮れ便り), because both featured similarly unforgettable piano intros.

Like all early Akina songs, "Anata no Portrait" tried to portray the first love of a young girl (aka Akina).  Akina's boat bumped into the boat of a mysterious young man.  Akina's hat fell into the water and the mysterious young man helped her recover.  Ever since, her heart was fully occupied by her thoughts towards him.  She secretly took a photo (=portrait) of him (stalker?).  While staring at his photo, Akina believed he's her soulmate.  Meanwhile, she wondered if he already has a girlfriend...

"Anata no Portrait" was first released in Prologue in 1982.

2. Yokan (予感)


Joana on this blog wrote about this before.  Akina's live performance always adds a layer of sadness on top of an already sad song.  It's about a couple about to separate, but for some reason, the man is not able to say goodbye, and so the relationship drags on.  On the other hand, the woman does not want to leave him, but knows well that this relationship must end.  She's waiting for the man to say so.  She's so tired that she begs him, "just say something, anything, could you?"

Ever since Akina broke up with Matchy (Masahiko Kondo 近藤真彦), she cried in every live performance I've seen on YouTube.  I think the story in the song resembles her heartbreaking relationship with Matchy a lot.  Compare the above version to her live performance in 1985 and you'll see the difference.

Yokan was first released in Akina's album Bitter and Sweet, which was covered by J-Canuck before (here and there).


3. Eki (駅)
This is probably the most well-known and popular non-single album song from Akina.  The immortal singer song-writer Maria Takeuchi (竹内まりや) wrote both the song and lyrics.


The story is about a woman who ran into her ex-lover at the train station.  She recognized his once familiar raincoat and his footsteps.  She was very worried what to say to him.  As soon as she made up her mind, he ran past her into the ticket gate, without noticing her.  "He must be rushing home to his family," she thought.  She boarded the train car next to him (another stalker?), staring at him, and tears started flowing as she recalled her fond memories with him.

There's a behind-the-scene episode though.

Akina interpreted it as a sad song.  However, Maria's husband, Tatsuro Yamashita (山下達郎), upon listening to Akina's performance, was furious.   He thought Akina's interpretation was wrong, and urged his wife to self-cover it so that her original interpretation can see the light of day.  I think I listened to that version once on YouTube.  You can listen to it if you're interested.  Obviously, I like Akina's version better :)

Eki was released in the album CRIMSON, my favorite album from Akina.

4. Yakusoku (約束)

Another one from CRIMSON.  Another one from Maria Takeuchi (both song and lyrics).

It's a story about a woman.  She was enjoying a sip of wine one night.  Maybe it's the effect of the alcohol, she suddenly became fearless and dared to call her ex-boyfriend.

"Sorry to call at this late hour.  I just want to hear your voice.  We're still friends, aren't we?  I'll try not to wake up your girlfriend (next to you in bed).  I'll hang up soon..." she said on the phone.

The last episode is actually quite romantic.  At the end, she promised (=yakusoku) him that even if they ran into each other on the street, she'll pretend that she doesn't know him.  While making the promise, her tear drop landed onto her address book, blotting his name...



That's it for now.  Enjoy!

Kana Hanazawa -- Brand New Days


I don't usually listen to songs by seiyuu outside of their performance on anime theme songs that I like, but I have to admit that I have taken a liking to one tune by Kana Hanazawa(花澤香菜). Mind you, she is already fairly well represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" through her anison.


"Brand New Days" from her "25" album of February 2014 has got a nice 80s New Wave-ish beat to it, and she demonstrates what is probably the most kawairashii example of scatting and rapping that I've ever heard. In fact, I think "Brand New Days" has got some inspiration from Scritti Politti's "Perfect Way". The song was written and composed by music producer and drummer Hiroyasu Yano(矢野博康). The album broke the Oricon Top 10 by peaking at No. 8.


Sueo Masuzawa -- Saraba Haiseiko(さらばハイセイコー)


A long time ago back in the 20th century as a young pudgy lad in Toronto, my family used to go down to the local horse racetrack known as Greenwood Raceway by Lake Ontario and watch the races down there. The highlights, aside from the actual races, were making origami boats and cranes out of discarded tickets and the pizza sold there that tasted like cheese and pepperoni baked onto cardboard (mind you, fibre is important for good health).


When I was writing the article on Salty Sugar's "Hashire Koutarou"(走れコウタロー)in early November, I also discovered this song called "Saraba Haiseiko" (Farewell Haiseiko). It's an enka that stands out since it was written and composed as a tribute to a champion racehorse called Haiseiko (1970-2000), and the performer himself wasn't a singer by profession, but a racing jockey and a horse trainer by the name of Sueo Masuzawa(増沢末夫)who was the main jockey for Haiseiko.

"Saraba Haiseiko" was released on New Year's Day 1975 as a song in commemoration of Haiseiko's retirement, and I have to say that if Masuzawa had ever decided to leave the racing industry, I think that he could have become a pretty decent enka singer. The introductory trumpets are a nice touch as they resemble the horns that I remember hearing at Greenwood. And the overall melody by Kosho Inomata(猪俣公章)is a proud anthem for the champion horse given by his partner-in-arms (or saddle, as it were).

The creation of the song was definitely kept in the family, so to speak. The lyrics were provided by Iwao Kosaka(小坂巌), a horse racing journalist, with assistance by songwriter Takao Yamada(山田孝雄). "Saraba Haiseiko" made it up all the way to No. 4 on Oricon and finished the year as the 37th-ranked single.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Kazuhito Murata -- Shiawase ni Tsukarete(幸せに疲れて)


For me, there are two types of fatigue. There's the one that comes about from going through some hell, whether it be cramming for exams or trying to plow through useless mounds of paperwork or dealing with someone you simply don't like. I've experienced all three. Then, there's the one that follows the successful completion of a project; you may be tired but it's a good type of tired. You put your energies into something worthwhile and you can now heal that fatigue with a party or your solo glass of libation. I've gone through that, too.


The late singer-songwriter Kazuhito Murata(村田和人)may have introduced a variation on the second one through his song "Shiawase ni Tsukarete" (Getting Tired Happily) which came from his 5th album "Boy's Life" released in May 1987. Murata wrote and composed this AOR tune with a good dollop of Latin; Ronnie Foster also co-composed the song while AB'S keyboardist Yoshihiko Ando(安藤芳彦)co-wrote the lyrics.

Within those lyrics, Murata relates the story of a man who has finished a romantic relationship and though there is that tinge of regret, there's also that feeling of wisdom (and perhaps even relief) that he learned from his experience via his ex-partner. It may not have worked out ultimately but he feels that he got something good out of it. Now that I think of it, perhaps this fatigue may actually be a hybrid of the two that I explained above. In any case, "Shiawase ni Tsukarete" is worthy of listening while knocking back a Corona.

Yasuha -- Koi wa Memory(恋はメモリー)


Merry Christmas, everyone! Depending on where you are and whether you celebrate the holiday, I hope that some of you are digesting your poultry without any ill effects. My family has just gotten its turkey into the oven and we're praying that within a few hours, we will get that golden brown and succulent bird...well, I will settle for a golden brown one anyways.


Folks, this article is on another song which reiterates my line on not wholly depending on a singer's BEST compilation to get all of the gems in that singer's career. I was fortunate enough to obtain Yasuha's(泰葉)"Golden Best" collection sometime ago, but it didn't include this little jewel from her 2nd album "ViVid" from April 1982.

"Koi wa Memory" (Love is a Memory) is a pretty infectiously bouncy number which starts off with some punchy horns followed by a happy City Pop beat and Yasuha's light and chipper vocals. It's even open and generous enough to include some technpoppy synth in the middle and jazz at the end, but in the end, it's all about a trippy and joyful musical strut through Shinjuku. If I'm not mistaken, Yasuha came up with the melody while Toyohisa Araki(荒木とよひさ)took care of the lyrics.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sentimental City Romance -- Shounai Bojou(庄内慕情)



I will be taking December 25th and 26th tomorrow from my day job duties but I was still getting a few articles translated earlier this afternoon. And y'know, the above song would probably be the tonic that I would've listened to at the end of all that.

This is Sentimental City Romance's(センチメンタル・シティ・ロマンス)"Shounai Bojou" (Longing for the Countryside) which was a track from the band's August 1975 self-titled album. Nice and leisurely, this is a pleasant musical interlude through the more rural parts of Japan. Although I have categorized it as well as a New Music tune, which by definition takes original Western melodies and places Japanese lyrics onto them, "Shounai Bojou" still has that feeling of that Japanese countryside of rice paddies, narrow paths and old mom-&-pop shops selling dagashi and Calpis.

Considering how warm it's gonna get in Toronto past Xmas, it would be nice to take a walk around but instead of rice paddies, it will be through quiet industrial parks.

AKB48 -- Anata to Christmas Eve(あなたとクリスマスイブ)


"I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus..."

After having watched my fair share of "The Simpsons", "Family Guy" and "South Park" over the years, my response to this famous lyric would be "And then I saw Daddy grabbing for his baseball bat..."

Yes, I can be pretty snarky when I want to be, but as much as the Holidays here are about Mass, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus, turkey and presents, December 24th and the 25th in Japan are all about the partying, KFC, Fujiya cakes, and romancing. I can guarantee that last night in Tokyo, there were plenty of hotels being booked and restaurants getting reserved for some of those Second Valentine's Day dates.


So, for my final J-Xmas song this season, I give you "Anata to Christmas Eve" (Christmas Eve With You) by AKB48. I had only discovered this one just earlier today, and it's dripping with all of that Xmas romance-y stuff, just like a roasting turkey and its juices ready for basting. Written by Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composed by SHUJI, this apparently came out as one of the songs on the setlist for a concert by the group and then recorded for a CD which was released in March 2007. To be honest, it's a bit too treacly for me even as an Xmas song, but hey, I could imagine this song hovering over a lot of young couples walking through Tokyo neighbourhoods such as Shibuya and Omotesando.

From what I could find from the J-Wiki article, the CD is titled "Team A 1st Stage 'PARTY ga Hajimaru yo'"(チームA 1st Stage「PARTYが始まるよ」...The Party Is About To Begin). "Anata to Christmas Eve" was performed by members Ayumi Orii(折井あゆみ)and Michiru Hoshino(星野みちる).


Sister group SKE48 released their own "PARTY ga Hajimaru yo" album in October 2013 with that track (and for that matter, I think a lot of the other sister groups have given their own cover of the Xmas song). However the video above has later AKB48 members Yui Yokoyama(横山由依)and Miyu Takeuchi(竹内美宥)performing a cover originally done by their own sempai.

In any case, I wish everybody out there...fellow collaborators, commenters and viewers...all the best for a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Akina Nakamori 中森明菜 - Wasurete 忘れて


A while ago, J-Canuck wrote that Akina is the non-singer song-writer who got the most blog posts on Kayo Kyoku Plus.  I replied that Akina has indeed written some songs and even penned some lyrics for her songs.  Wasurete is the first song she ever wrote and the first piece of lyrics she ever penned.

Wasurete was recorded as a B-side song in the single Futari Shizuka (Tenka Densetsu Satsujin Jiken yori) (二人静「天河伝説殺人事件」より).  The album reached no.3 on the weekly Oricon chart and was the last Akina single to reach top 5.

In summer 1989, Akina attempted suicide as a result of her deteriorating relationship with her lover Matchy (Masahiko Kondo 近藤真彦).  She stopped work for 1 year, and came back in 1990 summer.  When she was doing TV interviews, or appearing on music shows, she always put on a smile and pretended that nothing ever happened.

The song is kind of a diary/letter to herself, as well as a letter to her fans, that she wanted to forget about Matchy.

Last summer, I was so anxious to get out and buy a new swimming suit
It was a bit pretentious during that summer, burst opening my smiles in front of everyone
Memories are piling in my heart, just as everyone of you is piling layers of tan under the summer sun
As I look into the mirror, my memories with him is finally off my shoulders
I want to get rid of it
I want to get rid of it
To make room for the new swimming suit I'm buying
I want to forget
I want to forget
For I try to change the design I love...

The lyrics has a second version though.  She sang it once in her 1991 concert during encore as her last song.  As far as I know, the second version was never recorded in any single or album.  In fact, the 1991 concert was the only time that Akina sang Wasurete live.

The second version is a letter to her fans thanking their support during her most miserable days.

Even though we're about to say goodbye
I just have one more for you
Various things happened
Please forgive me if I have made all of you worry
Before I set foot on this stage today
Anxiety was occupying my dreams
But now, I am bathing in your warmth as well as your smiles
I will never forget
I will never forget
My thought towards you will never change
Please look close at me
Please look close at me
I will continue to live as myself as I've always lived

If you want to buy the second version, I think the only way is to get the sound track of her 1991 concert, Dream 91 Akina Nakamori Special Live.

Oh, and one more thing that I found on the web surrounding this song.  The 1991 concert started 7/27/1991 for 2 days.  People on the Internet are saying that Matchy announced her marriage one day before the concert opened.  Rumor was that Akina was heartbroken and became sick.  That's why her voice was not at her best in the 1991 concert.


Pee Wee Hunt -- Somebody Stole My Gal


One small riddle that I've had for many years dealt with Yoshimoto Kogyo(吉本興業), the Japanese comedy conglomerate based in Osaka. Who came up with that theme song for their comedy skits on stage? Folks who have lived in Japan ought to know. It's that appropriately comical muted trumpet tune, at least in the beginning.


Well, it wasn't that hard to track down the answer although I had assumed that it was some jazz orchestra based in Japan which was commissioned to come up with a theme song for the comedy troupe. Actually, though, the song's title is "Somebody Stole My Gal" as recorded by American jazz trombonist Pee Wee Hunt and his orchestra in 1954. I still don't know how the song became part of Yoshimoto legend but from the title alone, it was a good choice since losing that gal is pretty tragicomic.


Hunt was just one of many musicians who came up with their own version of "Somebody Stole My Gal", but the original was created back in 1918 by Leo Wood with Ted Weems and his orchestra getting that first big hit out of it in 1924, when, according to Wikipedia, it became a million-seller and was a No. 1 success for 5 weeks straight, although I couldn't find out what that particular chart was.

Another question has been answered.

Iruka -- Konkuri no Tokai de(コンクリの都会で)



Iruka(イルカ), one of the very first non-aidoru, non-enka singers that I ever heard when I started this journey of kayo kyoku, is someone with a golden voice that I first realized was a folk/New Music singer and songwriter in the 1970s but then also embraced a pop style going into the 1980s. In fact, she joined quite a few other singers from that folk genre as they dove into the urban contemporary genre of City Pop. A couple of representative songs from that latter category would be "Follow Me", arranged by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)from Off-Course(オフコース), and "Yoake no Goodbye"(夜明けのグッドバイ), also produced by Oda, both of which came out in the early 1980s.

Well, I've discovered another example of the City Pop/Pop Iruka, and it is a track from her 1985 12th album "Heart Land". "Konkuri no Tokai de" (In The Concrete City) is quite an interesting animal. This time, this isn't an Iruka creation but one by lyricist Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composer/arranger Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司). Plus, the arrangement seems to combine some of that West Coast AOR and the breezy daytime side of City Pop. However, although I couldn't find the written lyrics on the Net and had to listen carefully to what was sung, I think Akimoto's bittersweet words talk of a woman getting off at a train platform in her small hometown, perhaps having had enough of the cruel city...most likely to flee from a finished relationship. I love the different synths in play here along with that electric guitar solo near the end.

Even though this isn't Iruka's own creation, she does give another fine performance here and I would be more than happy to purchase "Heart Land", if it hasn't gone haiban.

Pizzicato V -- The 59th Street Bridge Song


Going way back into my memories, there are a few very early ones that I still miraculously retain. One would be crawling around on all four on the wooden floor in a family friend's house, and another would be seeing a "Hockey Night In Canada" broadcast on the CBC on the ancient black-and-white TV in our very first apartment.


My early memories also include musical ones, as well. One of the earliest songs that I remember hearing and liking was "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles, and it is the one that I will always first associate with The Fab Four.


Another one is "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)". Being only around 2 years old at the time, I certainly couldn't retain knowledge of the whole title but I did keep "groovy" in my head. It was such a happy tune that I could imagine that a lot of toddlers reacted to it like candy. But it wasn't the original by Simon & Garfunkel that I loved, and in fact, I only heard the original for the first time just a few months ago and was surprised at how short it was. Nope, it was the 1967 cover version by Harpers Bizarre with that woodwind section. "Feelin' Groovy" was categorized as a sunshine pop song, a genre that I hadn't even been aware of and that was the label which was put onto the band also.

In any case, hearing it again after so many decades, I realized that even the Harpers Bizarre version was also pretty short and kinda reflected what seems to be a very innocent age. At the most basic level, it's such a happy ditty.


So when I heard that Pizzicato V (as it was written back in the band's early days) had also recorded a cover, I first assumed that these would be the guys to cover something like "Feelin' Groovy". But then I discovered that their Japanese-language version had been recorded as an addition to their very first single "The Audrey Hepburn Complex" back in August 1985, and remembering that song, Pizzicato V hadn't taken on that familiar Shibuya-kei sheen quite yet. It was more of a quirky technopop unit with Mamiko Sasaki(佐々木麻美子)as the lead vocalist.

And sure enough, Pizzicato V's take on one of the earliest songs that I could remember is more of a light and spacey version with some snappy percussion, to boot. Instead of go-go boots and mini-skirts, I envisage space boots and rocket packs. But dang, although it still retains that short time, it's also quite catchy with Masami Ogura's(小倉雅美)Japanese lyrics in place. The song is also on the band's first BEST album "Pizzicatomania!"(ピチカートマニア!)from July 1987.