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.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Garo-- Gakusei Gai no Kissaten (学生街の喫茶店)

Tokyo has become the major-league coffee town with any of the Starbucks, Excelsior, Doutor and Tully's coffee houses occupying virtually every corner of the megalopolis. With oh-so-cool interiors, expensive drinks and coffee-friendly music piping over the speakers, it almost seems unbelievable that there were even places called cafes before 1995 when the first Starbucks branch opened up in Ginza (I ought to know...I saw the 1-hour lineup in front of it when it just opened up for business).

And yet, there was a time way back when when these quaint European-style coffeehouses were all the rage with the young folk. They still exist here and there all over Tokyo but they mostly attract the older types and coffee connoisseurs. Listening to "Gakusei Gai no Kissaten"(Student Village Cafe) brings back a lot of memories of going to these older, musty places with the wooden interiors and quaint cups of high-priced coffee....these are the places that serve the internationally notorious $5 java. I was there in 1972 as a kid but I can't remember whether I ever stepped foot in an actual kissaten at that time, but I've been to plenty of those older staid coffeehouses as an adult.

The song was originally sung by the folk rock group, Garo, a trio of longhaired young men who were heavily influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to such an extent that the band was called the Japanese version of CSNY. Melodically, there is that urgent beat propelling the entire proceedings, while the vocalist lightly skates through the lyrics almost like a waltz. It is a very interesting song. Lyrically, a lot of nostalgia comes through now as the lyrics tell of a couple that used to frequent a certain coffeehouse for no particular reason but to chat away the hours before the eventual sad breakup.

"Gakusei Gai no Kissaten"had an effect on record buyers as well. It was originally released in June 1972 as a B-side for the band's 3rd single, but when it was realized that it was doing far better than the A-side, there was a hasty switch made. And it certainly took its time reaching No. 1 on the Oricon. It finally hit it on February 19, 1973 and stayed there for 7 weeks straight. It eventually became the 3rd-ranked song of that year, and earned a couple of Newcomer awards. It was also a track on Garo's 2nd album.

As for the band itself, Garo lasted 12 singles and 6 albums before finally breaking up in 1976 due to musical differences.

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