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.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

ano -- Smile Agenai(スマイルあげない)

Good Free Photos


Last night, I was watching an NHK variety show "Ariyoshi no O-kane Hakken Totsugeki! Kaneo-kun"(有吉のお金発見 突撃!カネオくん...Ariyoshi's Money Discovery Attack! Kaneo-kun) which apparently centres on the whole thing about money and how to save or earn it. It was one of their specials so they had a few more guests than usual including the one that you see above in the video thumbnail. Her name is ano(あの)and she's a singer (former aidoru with the alternative idol group You'll Melt More!), TV personality, model and musician. What struck me about her was that squeaky voice of hers and the way that she very calmly and stoically expresses herself, but I figure that if seiyuu TARAKO ever decided to finally retire from voicing Chibi Maruko-chan, I'd know who would be in the wings to replace her.

Anyways, I looked her up on her YouTube channel and found that she had her latest digital single out in June 2023. "Smile Agenai" (I Won't Smile For You) is her 5th single as a major performer but considering what I've observed of her personality, I would think that this was her introductory song. Written and composed by both ano and Hidefumi Kenmochi(ケンモチヒデフミ)from Suiyoubi no Campanella(水曜日のカンパネラ)fame, the singer puts her foot down and states that she won't give out smiles all that easily simply because that's not in her style and she's not all that adept at socializing. The irony is that the music video has her as a McDonalds staffer which demands social skills and that zero yen smile, and I did get the complete story from a friend of mine who's a veteran flight attendant but was once a McDonalds manager in West Shinjuku.

Sing Like Talking -- Ai wo Tomerarenai(愛を止められない)


There is a brief comment by Unknown underneath the article for Sing Like Talking's "Kaze ni Dakarete"(風に抱かれて)which I posted back in 2015 and also an exchange between former contributor nikala and myself. Happily, it was a complimentary one about how they had never heard the dulcet tones of Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)and the cool grooves of SLT before and they were now glad they had. Sato and company can have that effect on people. 😍

"Kaze ni Dakarete" was Sing Like Talking's 17th single from August 1994 which I inexplicably and shamefully didn't mention in the original article, except to say that it was included as a track on the band's album "Togetherness" from the same year. Well, the single did have its coupling tracks including "Ai wo Tomerarenai" (Can't Stop Love), and once again we have another winner. Whereas "Kaze ni Dakarete" traverses that line between Doobie Bros. AOR and R&B, "Ai wo Tomerarenai" is a late 80s or early 90s funky strut (New Jack Swing?) that was designed by vocalist Sato and SLT's Chiaki Fujita(藤田千章). Unfortunately, the video gets cut off abruptly but at least we get most of the song. 

Pandaful-House -- Kaze Gurashi(風ぐらし)


The first time that I heard this song, I thought I could hear a bit of Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" (I will definitely have to cover that as a ROY sometime soon) in there. "Kaze Gurashi" (Living Like the Wind) is not only new to my ears but the originating band is also a first-timer for me.

Pandaful-House(パンダフルハウス)sounds like a children's fashion brand but it was actually a folk trio led by Tsuguto "Panda" Yamada(山田嗣人)who used to be the bassist of the far more well-known folk group Kaguyahime(かぐや姫)in the early 1970s. It had a short life, just between 1977 and 1980, but managed to release seven singles and a couple of albums. "Kaze Gurashi" just happened to be their third single from April 1979 and it's an artfully whimsical folk/New Music tune led by some good ol' country strings. Written by Kaguyahime member Makoto Kitajo(喜多條忠)and composed by Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)which indeed caught my ears, the song was also arranged by bassist Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)

As I mentioned above, there's something about "Kaze Gurashi" that reminded me of "MacArthur Park" but instead of reminiscing over a past love, Pandaful-House's tune is about a Harajuku-based love that never was. A young man sighs over his unrequited crush on a force of nature who has since left the neighbourhood; realizing that there was no way that he could ever win over her affections, the lad just hopes that she's doing OK wherever she may be now. "Kaze Gurashi" was also a track on the band's 2nd album "Settle Down" released in June 1979.

In addition to Panda Yamada(山田パンダ), there were also Keiko Yoshino(吉野恵子)and Yamada's younger brother Toshihide Yamada(山田智秀). There had been another member by the name of Osamu Uchiyama(内山修)who was with folk groups The Ligannies(ザ・リガニーズ)and Neko(猫)in the 1970s.


Go-Bang's -- Kakkoii Darling(かっこイイダーリン)


Welcome to October! We're seasonally warmer than usual with plenty of sun and no precipitation. Let's see how we go by Halloween

After knowing about the appealingly quirky trio Go-Bang's for thirty years or so, I finally got about to listening to some of their very early material including their debut single, "Zamaa Kankan Girl"(ざまぁカンカン娘)from April 1988. That particular song had that familiar vibe of their big 1989 hit "Ai ni Kite I Need You"(あいにきて I Need You) with the fun country twang.

Their second single, "Kakkoii Darling" (You're Cool, Darling) was released later in 1988 in October and although the song was created as usual by vocalist Kaori Moriwaka(森若香織), this time it eschewed the country for a bit of old-fashioned rock-n'-roll starting with Mitsuko Saito's(斉藤光子)rockabilly drumming. In fact, I'd say that the catchy "Kakkoii Darling" is a mix between aidoru and some of the music that The Go-Gos made (I'd once theorized that the trio was named by mixing the legendary California girl band's name with that of The Bangles).

A story of still loving a guy who is thickly putting on the looks and airs of a playboy when he really isn't, Moriwaka's kittenish vocals come across as both truly loving and condescending at the same time. The music video above also has the three members including bassist Misa Tanishima(谷島美砂)going into sex kitten mode with a splash of that Go-Gos humour.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Top 10 Singles for 1961


Hello there. I noticed that at this late hour, I currently have 89 entries for September 2023 and I really wanted to hit the 90 barrier. Therefore, I'm rushing this one in. I haven't done a rankings list in many a moon because I thought I pretty much exhausted the Oricon lists by year. However, I did find a listing for the Top 10 Singles for 1961 (and more) on this Hatena blog run by hitchartjapan based on a couple of pre-Oricon music journals, "Music Life" and "Music Monthly". I'm just surprised that Kyu Sakamoto's "Ue wo Muite Arukou" isn't in the Top 10 (it's down at No. 22!).

1. Yujiro Ishihara & Junko Makimura  Ginza no Koi no Monogatari

2. Yukio Hashi                                          Nankai no Bishonen

3. Mari Watanabe                                     Tokyo Dodonpa Musume

4. Mitsuo Sagawa                                     Mujou no Yume

5. Mahina Stars & Yukiko Tama            Kitakami Yakyoku

6. Hiroshi Inoue                                       Wakare no Isochidori

7. Yukio Hashi                                          Kutsukake Tokijiro

8. Frank Nagai                                         Kimi Koishi

9. Yukio Hashi                                          Okesa Utaeba

10. Yukio Hashi                                        Kiso Bushi Sandogasa

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Pearl Colour ni Yurete(パールカラーにゆれて)


I've been able to catch some of the episodes of "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ), the old Fuji-TV music show, thanks to KKP contributor JTM, and the first episode I saw was the Xmas week one in 1976. Watching a first full episode in many years, I realized that compared to "The Best 10"(ザ・ベストテン)series on TBS, the repartee was looser between hosts and guests...or perhaps I can say that the pressure on the singers to speak out was greater. To be honest, there were some pretty awkward pauses so I figured that at least some of the singers back then were not as well-versed in media talk as acts today would be on shows such as "Uta Con"(うたコン)

Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)was on the show and although the above video is actually an excerpt from a September 1976 episode, she was singing the same song. Her 14th single released in that same month, "Pearl Colour ni Yurete" (Swaying in Pearl) is actually a Momoe song that has hit my ears for the first time. Considering that I've known her big hits such as "Yokosuka Story"(横須賀ストーリー)and "Imitation Gold"(イミテイション・ゴールド)for literally decades, it's always fascinating making first contact with a new Momoe tune.

"Pearl Colour ni Yurete" has got that quintessential Momoe feeling with her lower but light vocals and the fairly urgent beat with the horns and strings backing her up. This time, though, the percussion is quite noticeable; for example, there is what I think is a marimba right from the intro which adds an interesting exotic layer to the arrangement by Motoki Funayama( 船山基紀). The lyricist Kazuya Senke(千家和也)weaves a story of a lady feeling bereft of her significant other while surrounded by happier people and a city nightscape bathed in pearl by the lights. I guess the message is that one can be within a thousand folks and yet feel utterly isolated. 

The melody was provided by Juichi Sase(佐瀬寿一), the same composer who earlier that year created the children's song and legendary hit "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" (およげ!たいやきくん)which became Japan's biggest selling single of all time at 4.5 million records, something noted by the Guinness Book of World Records. One can imagine the powers-that-be at the recording company slavering at the thought of having Sase making a song for the very popular Yamaguchi. And sure enough, it was yet another No. 1 hit for the star aidoru which finished 1976 as the 18th-ranked single.

Michiya Mihashi -- Ringo Hana Saku Furusato e(リンゴ花咲く故郷へ)


I was listening to some of Michiya Mihashi's(三橋美智也)material a couple of days ago for some of that enka shibui-ness. But according to my fellow blog co-administrator and expert on the old Showa Era music, Noelle Tham, the term enka itself wasn't officially put into Japan's lexicon until 1970. Basically between the end of World War II and that year, enka had once been split apart into different subsets of kayo kyoku, including bokyo kayo(望郷歌謡...popular songs of homesickness). With the nation's strenuous efforts to rise from the ashes on all levels, a lot of young people were heavily encouraged to move from the towns and villages to the big cities like Tokyo to do their part in the companies and factories to man the engines of their economy. Of course, the new generations working there could get homesick from time to time which got songwriters and singers to come up with the wistful ballads of the old hometown which would also get the workers even more homesick.

Well, the First Man of Enka (though he was probably given that title after 1970), Mihashi, came up with a huge hit in "Ringo Mura kara"(リンゴ村から)in 1956. The words and music were by Ryo Yano(矢野亮)and Isao Hayashi(林伊佐緒)respectively as the Hokkaido native sang nostalgically about the old apple orchard village up north. Then, the singer and songwriters were thinking whether lightning or apples could strike twice and so they collaborated once more on the 1957 "Ringo Hana Saku Furusato e" (To the Hometown of Apple Blossoms).

The song was on that recording of Mihashi that I have so I wanted to see if I could write about it, and with the YouTube video present, I could indeed do so. As with the earlier "Ringo Mura kara", "Ringo Hana Saku Furusato e" displays the melody as an old-fashioned wistful ditty of a wagon on an old dirt road while Mihashi sings of hearth and home among the apple trees. Perhaps listeners had a sense memory of the sweet scent of the apples.

Come to think of it, being the final day of September, I can imagine that the apple farms here in the province of Ontario are all very busy right now with the autumn harvest. I can no longer easily make it out to the orchards anymore, but it's nice remembering going there as a kid and having fresh apples, apple pie, apple cider and even apple strudel.