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, September 20, 2021

Stardust Revue -- Ryuusei Monogatari(流星物語)


As I'm writing this, I'm also keeping an eye on the count board at CBC because there is a federal election on tonight, so I'm rather curious to know who will be continuing on or getting the new job as Prime Minister. Interestingly enough, there is that party election within the governing Liberal Democratic Party in Japan next week to find out who will be the next President of the LDP and therefore the next PM of that nation.

OK, let's get away from the political and head over to the more enjoyable sights and sounds of the band Stardust Revue(スターダストレビュー). I can always depend on Kaname Nemoto(根本要)and company to provide some of that wonderfully upbeat and oft-funky pop. Case in point: we have "Ryuusei Monogatari" which I will translate as "Tale of a Shooting Star" as a slight pun.

A track from Stardust Revue's 6th album from July 1988 "RENDEZ-VOUS", "Ryuusei Monogatari" seems less about anything astronomical and more about the happily romantic as it sounds as if vocalist Nemoto is willing to take a lucky lady for a trip around the stars. The song was written by Nemoto and band percussionist Toshikatsu Hayashi(林紀勝)with keyboardist Yasuhiro Mitani(三谷泰弘)providing the synth-driven perky music. Although I've also categorized "Ryuusei Monogatari" as a City Pop tune since it has some of that urban feel, I'm wondering if it's more of some of that regular pop goodness.

"RENDEZ-VOUS" peaked at No. 17 on Oricon and later reissues of the album have also included a live version of "Ryuusei Monogatari" to wrap it all up.

Yasuko Agawa -- Skindo-Le-Le


Last week, I read Marcos V's "Special Selection: Love Letter to Brazil Part II" and enjoyed it very much since I've had a predilection for bossa nova and samba in my music since I was a kid and that includes the liberal infusion of the genres into kayo kyoku. The Japanese have also had a love affair with Brazilian music for decades according to what I've been remembering.

Jazz and City Pop singer Yasuko Agawa(阿川泰子)provided her own cover of "Skindo-Le-Le", originally by the band Viva Brasil, in her 1981 album "Sunglow". It's a steady-on rendition with the good dollops of samba and fusion, and it feels like something to be played one evening in a nightclub in Shinjuku or Roppongi.

It took some digging since Viva Brasil doesn't have a Wikipedia entry but I was able to track down the site "Bay Area Bands" and finally get some information on the band. I'd initially assumed that Viva Brasil was from Brazil but actually it was born in San Francisco thanks to musician Claudio Amaral who had come up from his country to the Bay Area in 1972

At the time, Amaral was more into the rock and pop scene and not so much into the music of Brazil since he hadn't seen it as anything special in his native land, but during that decade, he got to know the music environment and some of the local musicians. Even more importantly, he began to realize and appreciate the music from his own country. The various associations and gigs eventually led to the formation of Viva Brasil and a self-titled 1980 debut album which included "Skindo-Le-Le", their most famous number created by Amaral and Jay Wagner. Since then, Viva Brasil has been pioneering the Brazilian music scene and folding some of that into the jazz world within the San Francisco area.

From what I've seen on YouTube, "Skindo-Le-Le" has become a standard of the genre and has been covered by a number of other musical acts including Agawa, and here she is in concert performing the song. I have to admit that "Skindo-Le-Le" has gotten into my head and heart, and I almost can get up and dance but I will save your minds from that horrifying image. However, the whole thing about this classic is that I do remember one time in Japan when a group of us were at a karaoke box in Tokyo, and one of our number was a young Japanese-Brazilian woman. When one samba song got put up onto the speakers, she immediately stood up and went into a frenzied dance as if the spirit of Carnaval took hold of her. Very charming performance!

Misia -- Namida no Present(涙のプレゼント)

 Too bad about the breakup but some really fine music.

Groovy and cool are the words that I would use to describe "Namida no Present" (A Present of Tears), a track on Misia's 12th single, "Kokoro Hitotsu"(心ひとつ...One Heart) which saw the light of day in August 2003. With the singer providing lyrics and Shiro Sagisu(鷺巣詩郎)behind music and arrangement, as can be guessed from the title, it's the story of the end of a romance at some café, all tied up in a bow with a final present from the guy. I definitely do not want to be the wait staff servicing that table. Really awkward.

However as I said right off the top, that is some really nice melody by Sagisu flowing through my ears. There is elegance, soul, an urbane tone, a steady rhythm and even a touch of humour at the beginning as if "Namida no Present" were the theme song for a Tokyo-based rom-com that begins with the tabletop breakup that needed to be done to launch the plot. Misia's songs have been used as theme songs before but there's no sign that this particular one was used in that manner.

As for "Kokoro Hitotsu", it peaked at No. 7 on Oricon and earned a Gold standing. According to J-Wiki, the single was recorded in London. Hopefully, the breakup was done over high tea. I do love those scones with the clotted cream.😁

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Modern Choki Chokies -- Hakata no Hito(博多の女)


The first time that I had ever seen or heard of the Modern Choki Chokies(モダンチョキチョキズ)was through the above commercial where vocalist Mari Hamada(濱田マリ), and she's not to be confused with pop-rock singer Mari Hamada(浜田麻理), tasted some potato chips called Jungle and did a cute little spin. I later found out that the impish little Hamada belonged to this group called the Modern Choki Chokies which had the size and energy of the epic Kome Kome Club(米米CLUB)but perhaps were even more bohemian in approach.

According to J-Wiki, their initial run spanned between 1989 and 1997, although they've apparently gotten together again in the last couple of years. I'd actually written about them briefly back in 2013 when I found out that their debut single in 1992 was a cover of the theme song for the anime "Obake no Q-Taro"(オバケのQ太郎).

When I was writing up about the Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)kayo "Hakata no Hito" (Woman of Hakata) earlier this afternoon, I discovered that the Modern Choki Chokies had their own "Hakata no Hito" but instead of it being a cover of the 1967 enka/Mood Kayo tune, it was totally the band's own creation with the same title. That title is the only common denominator since ModaChoki (their nickname) came up with a snazzy, jazzy and funky ditty that not only sounds like something out of the K2C playbook but also has that feel of a "Lupin III"(ルパン三世)soundtrack, thanks to the work of Masamichi Ohmachi(大町昌路)and the band's bassist, Hiroshi Uchikado(内門洋).

The lyrics were created by band member Tomoki Yoshimura(吉村智樹)who's been listed as one of ModaChoki's "brains" on J-Wiki, so take that however you will. His "Hakata no Hito" doesn't refer to an old flame in Fukuoka as is the case in Kitajima's song but it actually refers to a brand of manjuu (饅頭...sweet bean buns) with that name. Apparently, the protagonist had received a box of Hakata no Hito as a souvenir from a friend who went to that area, and frankly found it no different from any other manjuu. It lacks imagination, originality and identity. Well, if he doesn't want the stuff, I'd be happy to take it off his hands.

Hamada is definitely helping out in the vocals but I'm not sure who the male vocalist is since there were at least a couple of guys who are listed as singers in ModaChoki. The main takeaway here is that for a song about a disappointed manjuu eater (even Egypt isn't safe), "Hakata no Hito" really whips up the musical entertainment index and I couldn't help but feel that there is also a Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra element with that funky brass and even something of the old kayo.

"Hakata no Hito" was a track on the Modern Choki Chokies' 2nd album "Bongengan Bangara Bingen no Densetsu"(ボンゲンガンバンガラビンゲンの伝説...The Legend of Bongengan Bangara Bingen) from June 1993.

Hamada has since become a tarento, actress and narrator so she became quite familiar to me on the telly. In fact, her distinctive kittenish voice was often heard through the five-minute program on TV Asahi, "Ashita Mañana"(あしたまにあ〜な)in which she gave a summary on the next day's programming. The title basically brings together the Japanese and Spanish words for "tomorrow" and is a slight pun on the Spanish "hasta mañana". Hamada was the narrator for the show for around 7 years between 1998 and 2005.

Saburo Kitajima -- Hakata no Hito(博多の女)


I know that it would have been hoping beyond hope that I could actually find the specific episode for NHK's variety show on names "Nihonjin no O-Namae"(日本人のおなまえ...Japanese Names), but I put up an episode up here just for reference's sake. Anyways, a few nights ago, I watched that one particular episode in which the folks were talking about why the names of Fukuoka(福岡)and Hakata(博多)were used for the same region. Supposedly around a century ago, there was a fierce battle between sides supporting the two names over which one should win geographically, and it was won by one slim vote for the Fukuoka side for the official maps. However, I guess in a "let bygones be bygones" move, the main railroad station got to be called Hakata Station, and of course, we have that tasty Hakata ramen.

Well, I figure the above would make for a nice enough preamble ramble to introduce another of Saburo Kitajima's(北島三郎)"Hito" series. This time the song of note here is "Hakata no Hito" (Woman of Hakata) and I gather that even pop culture was siding more for Hakata. With the "Hito" series, "Hakodate no Hito"(函館の女...Woman of Hakodate) is arguably the one Sabu-chan song to which all of the other "Hito" songs are compared.

And compared with the jaunty "Hakodate no Hito" from 1965, the July 1967 single "Hakata no Hito" is a much more wistful affair beginning with a lovelorn Harry James-like trumpet and a harp, as Kitajima sings about returning to Fukuoka, not knowing whether a woman he used to know has gotten married or not and probably not wishing to find out or even to see her again. It's slightly bittersweet as the protagonist walks by the famous landmarks of the area. After all, a go-tochi song has to provide plenty of shoutouts to those notable places.

The same folks behind "Hakodate no Hito" were also behind "Hakata no Hito": lyricist Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)and composer Nobuo Shimazu(島津伸男). Let's hope that Kitajima didn't just cry into his beer but into his bowl of rich Hakata ramen, although the broth wouldn't need the extra saline.

Yukio Hashi -- Ano Ko to Boku ~ Swim Swim Swim(あの娘と僕-スイム・スイム・スイム-)


When I celebrated the first anniversary of "Kayo Kyoku Plus" at the end of January 2013, I chose the kayo "Muhyou"(霧氷), the haunting 1966 hit by Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫)because it is a song that I had heard since I was literally a toddler but didn't know the title nor the singer at the time. However, thanks to a viewing of the previous NHK incarnation of the regular kayo show "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)a few weeks earlier that had Hashi appear and perform "Muhyou", I finally found out the truth. The (re-)discovery of that song was an early example of me finding out some of those lost kayo in my head.

Guess what? Another kayo lost in the ancient windmills of my mind has been unearthed once more, and moreover it was yet another NHK kayo show and the same singer involved. Yesterday, I was finishing off a KKP article and then headed back to the living room where the TV was showing an episode of "Songs of Japanese Spirit", and it turns out that there was a tribute to the late composer Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正). I then heard this song that hadn't actually actively entered my ears in decades but had popped up every so often in my brain.

And the reason that this dusty kayo remained stuck in my head all these years without a singer's name or a title was that it possessed this very dynamic arrangement. Yukio Hashi's "Ano Ko to Boku ~ Swim Swim Swim" (That Girl and I) sounded like some sort of soundtrack from a 1940s Hollywood adventure into Africa, especially with a haunting but relentlessly chanting chorus which included a battery of "Yeah, yeah, yeah"! The rhythm came across as a melodic expression of a tribal custom as filtered through Tinseltown.

"Ano Ko to Boku" was a June 1965 single by Hashi (his 68th) that was composed/arranged by Yoshida with lyrics by Takao Saeki(佐伯孝夫), and despite that exotic sound, the song is actually all about the whirlwinds of love and hedonism on the beach. It's definitely not enka, the setting and the really active melody don't put it into Mood Kayo either, but that rollicking rhythm seems to throw "Ano Ko to Boku" into some gray zone between Group Sounds and kayo that is perhaps described as Rhythm Kayo which is the genre that the song has been put into according to the J-Wiki article.

This became a huge hit for Hashi, and though Oricon was still a few years away, it was placed at No. 1 in the monthly magazines of "Myojo"(明星)and "Heibon"(平凡). In addition, having "Ano Ko to Boku" sell over 700,000 records within two months of its release was another nice sign of its success. It also won a Grand Prize at the Japan Record Awards and then even had Hashi appear for his 6th straight time on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen to perform the song with a number of his fellow White team members (including actor Kiyoshi "Tora-san" Atsumi) getting in on the act. To put the final cherry on top, a movie with the same title was released just several weeks after the single's appearance on the record store shelves with Hashi starring.

Glad to cross off another mystery kayo from my mind.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Eikichi Yazawa -- Tomaranai HA~HA (止まらないHA~HA)


I generally don't do follow-ups of other contributors' works on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" only because that contributor totally writes it all in his or her articles so there is no need for me to follow up. Noelle Tham provided her article on Eikichi Yazawa's(矢沢永吉)"Tomaranai HA~HA" (Non-Stop HA HA) back in early 2018, and she wrote about it being a real banger (for a night out probably in the more dangerous areas of town) as well as it being a crowd-pleaser at the singer-songwriter's concerts.

Not to say that Noelle didn't put her all into "Tomaranai HA~HA". She certainly did but I was so tickled pink by this very quintessential of Yazawa hits that I also had to put in my two pennies. Yazawa doesn't drink BOSS Coffee here...he IS the BOSS! He struts about as if he owns Kabukicho or Roppongi and has no idea or care about fellow strutters Mick Jagger or James Brown.

In the music video, he not only laughs off three younger gang toughs like annoying mosquitoes but putts golf on a tabletop like a BOSS! Meanwhile, he sings Tetsuya Chiaki's (ちあき哲也) lyrics as if he's clearly enjoying a Wagyu steak. Eikichi, who also composed the boss melody, is simply loving hedonism in the big city and has no time for sappy love songs. It's Friday night...let's paint the town red, even if there's a bit of blood mixed in!

As mentioned in Noelle's article, "Tomaranai HA~HA" was included as a track on Yazawa's July 1986 album "Tokyo Night" (東京ナイト) and a number of succeeding albums. 

Apparently, television also knew a good thing when it saw one. Fuji-TV used it as the theme song for a recurring show called "IPPON Grand Prix"(IPPONグランプリ)centering on comedians. I don't think I've ever seen funny guys look so cool in a credit sequence. In addition, "Tomaranai HA~HA" has also been used as the entry tune for many a professional athlete including retired baseball legend Ichiro(イチロー)and boxer Daiki Kaneko(金子大樹). Can you imagine walking into a stadium with this anthem behind you?