First off, I saw the NHK live bulletin regarding the fairly sizable earthquake that jolted the Kanto region earlier today my time. I hope that everyone there is doing OK. From what I've been hearing from friends in the area, though, it looks like aside from the usual products falling from shelves and broken water mains, injuries have been minor so far.
Now, to our weekly Reminiscings of Youth feature for this week. Over the last few days, I've been catching this local commercial from our Toronto Transit Commission.
Then, I heard that the same nostalgic song was used for the Applebee's chain in the United States. In either case, it was a nice warm moment to show some promise of getting back to a near-normal life in the potential post-pandemic era.
It hits me and a lot of my generation even more since we all know that this is "Welcome Back" by John Sebastian, the former member of the band Lovin' Spoonful, and it was the theme song for the 1975-1979 US ABC sitcom, "Welcome Back, Kotter". The single itself wasn't released until March 1976, though.
I remember watching the show here and there in its first run and then in reruns. "Welcome Back, Kotter" struck me as being the comedic version of "To Sir, with Love". But instead of poised Sidney Poitier, the star was wisecracking actor/comedian Gabe Kaplan as Gabe Kotter, a former member of a group of high school malcontents known as the Sweathogs who comes back years later to teach at his alma mater, James Buchanan High School, and a new generation of Sweathogs.
Not sure if he was ever the official leader of the 1970s Sweathogs but Vinnie Barbarino certainly felt like the Grand Poobah of the guys which included Boom-Boom, Epstein and Arnold Horshack. Vinnie was played by a young John Travolta who had both cool charisma and dense goofiness in equal measure. I think that this was his breakthrough role that would later get him movie stardom in "Saturday Night Fever" (I believe that I did a ROY article on that movie's theme) and "Grease". Also in its heyday, there were some notable catchphrases that popped out into the pop culture realm such as "Up your nose with a rubber hose!", "Ooh, ooh, ooh!" and "Hi there!".
Perhaps the whole thing behind Sebastian's oh-so-comfy "Welcome Back" was that with the tension in some of these school-based movies with the teacher going up against the rowdy students, the producers probably wanted a song to let us viewers know that, yup, maybe these kids were Sweathogs but they were really lovable punks at heart who needed more love and nurturing. In any case, "Welcome Back, Kotter" became a quick hit for ABC and Sebastian soon found out that he therefore had a hit with the song, so having only meant to have "Welcome Back" as just that one-minute-and-change theme for the credits, he had to quickly add on some more music and lyrics to make it into a proper single. Indeed, the song hit the top spot on the Adult Contemporary charts in both the United States and Canada, and also did very well on the regular singles charts.
So, what did come out in March 1976 as singles, according to Showa Pops?
Candies -- Haru Ichiban (春一番）
Weekend -- Shiawase no Kane（幸せの鐘）
Akira Inaba -- Wakatte Kudasai（わかって下さい）[according to J-Wiki, it came out in Feb.]