Friday, March 9, 2012
EPO/Sugar Babe/YMCK -- DOWNTOWN
If Yuming is the reigning Queen of New Music, then EPO is one of the Princesses of City Pop, starting with her very first release (single and EPOnymously titled album coming out on the same day) back in March 1980 when she was still a university student. "Downtown"has been covered so much by different artists in so many different ways that it is a kayo kyoku and J-Pop standard (the chip tune band YMCK did its own version in 2008). But for me, EPO is the one who owns "Downtown". The arrangements for this version and EPO's bright vocals are such that it just feels like a City Pop anthem. The lyrics talk about just having a great time in the big city on a Saturday night...and you can imagine the singer and her pals hitting the bright lights of Shinjuku while the song is playing.
While the single may not have tracked onto the Oricon charts, it did get exposure by becoming the ending theme for one of the early 80s most popular comedy-variety programs, "Oretachi Hyokinzoku"(オレたちひょうきん族....We Are The Wild and Crazy Guys) featuring none other than Beat Takeshi, years before he gained international auteurship, and a number of comedians who would become TV mainstays on the order of a David Letterman or Johnny Carson in America. According to J-Wiki, EPO had also apparently appeared within the show but found the experience "psychologically painful"(direct translation). Then again, from what I've seen of Beat Takeshi putting his young charges through "Battle Royale"-like hell, I can't be all that surprised.
However, EPO's version is itself a cover of the Tatsuro Yamashita（山下達郎） original done in 1975 for the "SONGS"LP when he was leading Sugar Babe. Although I did say that EPO's is the definitive version, Yamashita also gives a rousing pop/rock performance with his jangling guitars in comparison with the synths on EPO's "Downtown". Yamashita took care of the melody while Ginji Ito（伊藤銀次）provided the lyrics.
Incidentally, EPO joined the RCA label, and with Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子） (of Sugar Babe) and Mariya Takeuchi （竹内まりや）(Mrs. Tatsuro Yamashita), the three of them became known as The Three Daughters of RCA (RCA 三人娘....RCA Sannin Musume). Not surprisingly, the three of them often helped each other on backup chores in their individual albums.
Below is the YMCK version of "Downtown".