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, July 10, 2020

Happy (Belated) 40th Birthday, Rydeen!

Well, giving myself the Gibbs Slap upside my head once more since I'm about 19 days late to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Yellow Magic Orchestra's beloved creation "Rydeen". Yep, it was released as YMO's 2nd single on June 21st 1980, although it had already gotten its introduction through the album "Solid State Survivor" the previous year in September. I had just been wrapping things up for the night when I saw some of those YouTube videos for the tune and out of curiosity, I checked the J-Wiki article. Wow! 40 years...

Not sure, but I think "Rydeen" may be the one song on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" that has gotten the most follow-ups, including this one. I remember that Marcos V. covered its cover by E-Girls in 2014 and then anime fans got reminded about it through "Sound! Euphonium".

Now, how do I celebrate it? Well, I can mention that "Rydeen" has been used in a commercial.

This is the one for Pocky with Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏), Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)and Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)themselves appearing in 2014. They just had to be there!

I've been hearing about it for years, but "Rydeen" was also used as the theme song for a long-running game show in Italy called "Bis".

I also just learned that "Rydeen" has been used by Tokyo Giants supporters to cheer on their baseball team.

Plus, it has been used as the entrance theme for pro wrestler Ricky Steamboat whenever he comes to Japan.

Finally, there are all of the remix versions for "Rydeen" on YouTube of which I've enjoyed Chick Norman's tributes above and below. If any of you have any other recommendations, please let me know.

What can I say about one of the cornerstone songs that helped usher me into the wonderful world of popular Japanese music? Fell in love with "Rydeen" and have yet to fall out. I've loved all of YMO's catchy technopop tunes all these years but why has "Rydeen" pulled such a spell on me? I guess it's because when I do hear it, I recall how Japan was simply bursting with energy, industry and technology at the time of its release. If there are homemade music videos using the song, I will always envisage tons of Japanese commuters, trains and other vehicles racing all over TO-KI-O at breakneck speed. Maybe one fellow was right..."Rydeen" was the theme song for Japan in the 1980s.

My only wish right now is that somehow it gets used in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 (if the Games do occur). Anyways, Happy 40th!


  1. Rydeen works on so many levels. The melody instantly hooks you along with its galloping rhythm and jaunty yet haunting harmonic movement. The forward drive of the song is exciting while the arrangement is evocative of technology. I could only imagine to what degree YMO's music impacted Japanese culture during the 1980s. From the outside there was a lurking suspicion that Tokyo was gonna transform into a huge mech robot someday, or something to that effect. YMO would've provided the perfect soundtrack.

    Call me crazy but I always felt that Rydeen could work perfectly as stage music for a Castlevania game.

    1. "Rydeen" seems to be simply constructed but it is so addictive. I realized once more how big it's been when the anime "Hibike! Euphonium" used the marching band version of it and that part of the Internet exploded.

      Whenever I think of the Sony Walkman or my time in Japan in 1981, "Rydeen" always pops up in my mind.

  2. Visiting Japan in 1981 must've have been a very interesting experience. Back during the bubble economy, Japanese culture was much more introverted. TV shows, movies, music, games, and toys were developed almost exclusively for domestic appeal. Somewhere along the way their focus shifted to worldwide appeal for mass consumption. I do miss some of the older stuff and think it was more creative, especially their anime. Almost everything produced today has the same feel and design to it and they use computers. Studio Ghibli being one of the very last strongholds producing animation using mostly traditional methods.

    Sorry to digress.

    1. No problems, Michael. I enjoy talking about various aspects of Japan. I think because of the introverted nature of Japanese culture back then, it was such a huge surprise and delight when I came face-to-face with it when I arrived that July.

      I was actually talking about this with former collaborator JTM tonight but most likely in 1981, the Japanese couldn't envision anyone outside having any particular interest in their pop culture (and I think that may still hold some sway right now when it comes to the recent foreign interest in City Pop). At that point, it was more Japanese having dreams and interest about what was beyond their own shores.

  3. You understand more about Japanese culture than I do, so it makes for an engaging discussion. Yeah, what you said makes sense. It was the same with most of the early pioneers of animation, comics and illustration here in America. Most of their work was done out of passion rather than for commercial consideration. Generally, when they created cartoon or comic book characters, they weren't thinking in terms of long-term profits and merchandising. Comics were very much considered disposable entertainment. X series would maybe have a good run for a few years before moving on to something different. Most of the marketing craze didn't come along until decades later. Had people only known how valuable those original pressings of comic books would become. Most kids would pay a dime or a quarter for a comic, read it and then dispose of it in the trash. Only a small portion of content produced back then permeated into mainstream culture, because a lot of the other stuff got lost in the mix, consisting of generic knock-offs of other things, and that simply didn't have lasting appeal.

    I see a similar thread running through Japanese culture wherein there's a handful of older series which became cultural staples like DBZ (which itself is based off Journey to the West), Hokuto no Ken, Lupin III, Speed Racer, and a slew of others, whereas hundreds if not thousands of other series have fallen by the wayside. Not to say that those others weren't as good, of course, just they didn't have the same sort of mass market appeal.

    Today pretty much everything is designed with commercial viability as the primary consideration, no matter where it's from. Only a small portion of art is produced purely for its own sake. If the corporate execs can't figure out how to market something then it doesn't get mainstream exposure and is left to wallow in obscurity. That also explains why we're still stumbling upon musical gems from decades ago, because they didn't get the right exposure. Thankfully, with the mass exposure of the internet, great artistic works are finally getting the recognition they deserve, even if it's decades after the fact. Your blog, for instance, has contributed greatly to this effort. I thought I knew about most of the good Japanese music, only to stumble across gem after hidden gem, so thank you sincerely. It's much appreciated.

    1. I do remember the old days when comics used to be a quarter a shot. I did have an X-Men "Days of Future Past" issue which would probably be worth a whole lot more than what I paid for it...if it weren't for the fact that it was already falling apart by the time that I was in university. I just never saw comics as investments.

      I'm not sure how manga is viewed in Japan, but I've got a feeling that it's still not seen directly through the dollar-and-cents lenses although animation studios have probably been trolling to see which of them are worthy of adapting for TV or movies so that the yen can pour in through Blu-Rays and merchandise.

      My impression of the current interest in Japanese pop music, notably City Pop, is that the Japanese may still be looking with some askance about why foreigners have gone so ga-ga over the genre. Perhaps even to a certain extent now, there's been that "Why are y'all interested in little ol' me?" curiosity. I've been doing the blog for over 8 years but it's just been within the last three that has seen the City Pop boom, and I'm still marveling over the love that has been given to it. Mind you, I think things have peaked so some people have moved on after that initial bloom but there are others who have become die-hard fans.

  4. As with all things, J-pop is a passing curiosity for some and a die-hard journey for others. First impressions are important. A large swathe of people don't want to invest a lot of time and effort in searching for new music, because it's not that important to them and they're either too busy with other things or content with what they've got. A lot of the people stumble upon it by accident and it seems most opinions are positive despite the language barrier. There's something exotic about it, yet at once familiar, and therein lies its appeal. If today all J-pop lyrics suddenly changed into English then it wouldn't have nearly the same impact, because it would be missing that exotic element. Conversely, if all J-pop consisted of hōgaku absent all the modern elements then it would be missing that familiarity (from the perspective of Westerners) and would be overlooked.

    1. Yup, I would certainly agree. I knew one person back in university who said that she had absolutely no interest in any music whatsoever. At the time, I was shocked that anyone would say that but y'know when there are folks that absolutely adore music of all types, I figure that there must then be people like that person who have neither the time nor interest for music as well.

      For your other point, I think that's the wonderful thing about any music. Maybe it's an unknown language but the sounds and message still resonate. Mind you, I've also read comments in which folks have been inspired to learn Japanese because of J-Pop and City Pop in particular.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.