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, August 9, 2012

The Drifters/Duke Aces -- Ii Yu da na (いい湯だな)

As a kid growing up in Toronto in the 70s, the prehistoric video cassette recorder was actually the coolest technological marvel around. In fact, the Toronto Buddhist Church, which used to be on Bathurst St., had Wednesday video nights for which a lot of the Japanese community, including my family, often flocked to. Usually it was to catch episodes of "Mito Komon", that samurai drama with the former Vice Shogun, Lord Mito, righting wrongs with the help of his traveling vassals, as they secretly toured around Japan. But once in a while, my brother and I (we were usually the only kids in the viewing audience) would be treated to some zany comedy, courtesy of The Drifters(ザ・ドリフターズ).

The Drifters of the 1960s (the group started in 1955 and had a shifting of which was "Sukiyaki" singer Kyu Sakamoto) consisted of leader Ikariya Chosuke, Chu Arai, Koji Nakamoto, Bu Takagi and Cha Kato. A member of another comic band, The Crazy Cats, gave the group their name straight from the eponymous American doo-wop group. I knew nothing of their time in the 60s when they were singing and making people laugh, but then came along their comedy-variety show, "8-ji Da Yo! Zen'in Shuugo!"8時だよ!全員集合...It's 8 O'Clock! Everyone Assemble!) on TBS. From 1969 to 1985, The Drifters held their regular spot on Saturday nights at 8 p.m. with their brand of wild skits peppered with performances by singers of the day. At the end of the show, The Drifters, guests and supporting players all got together on stage and sang the above song, "Ii Yu da na"(Wonderful Bath, Ain't It?) to finish the show while Cha Kato asked the kids watching at home whether they had already brushed their teeth.

"Ii Yu da na" was originally released as a B-side to another song in 1968, a year before their legendary show began. But when that B-side became much more of a hit than the highlighted A-side song, the studio quickly made the switch. Chosuke and the lads sang about the wonders of soaking in a bath at the various hot springs of Japan....a custom that warms the hearts of many Japanese. Not surprisingly, whenever a hot spring or a bath product maker needs a commercial, it likes to use this song. Plus, its fame as the ending theme for one of Japan's longest-running variety shows lends instant recognition.

The Drifters’ leader, Chosuke Ikariya(いかりや長介), later became known as the Morgan Freeman of Japan, mostly due to his role as a retiring police inspector in the "Bayside Shakedown" series of the late 1990s; he passed away in 2004. Chu Arai left the group, to be replaced by the insane Ken Shimura(志村けん) who quickly delighted kids and dismayed parents with some of his over-the-top and often racy humour. He is still a regular on the TV personality circuit, hosting at least 2 shows.

July 3 2014...should make a revision here or at least an addition. I found out that the vocal group Duke Aces(デューク・エイセス)had released "Ii Yu da na" back in 1966 as a song to commemorate the hot springs in Gunma Prefecture, my old stomping grounds. Their original recorded version had a bit more of a Latin kick to it.

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