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, February 28, 2013

Bonobos -- Thank You For The Music

Thank you for the music indeed. This song hit me in my consciousness when it was used as one of the ending themes for "Countdown TV" on TBS. When a show ends at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I don't usually pay too much attention to any song that would be playing, but this infectious little earworm by the Bonobos got it with that thumping drumbeat and the happy chirping melody. That boom-boom-thwack reminded me of my lunch periods at my old junior high school when the kids would suddenly and periodically do a mass hand percussion on the cafeteria tables.

The Bonobos (probably named after that monkey indigenous to the Congo) are, according to Wikipedia, an Osaka dub band with roots in reggae and rock. Formed in 2001, the current members are Chunho Sai (蔡忠浩...vocal and guitar), Bondo Tsuji (辻凡人...drums), and Natsuko Morimoto (森本夏子...bass). Two former members are guitarist Yasuyuki Sasaki(佐々木康之) and percussionist Izumi Matsui(松井泉). It was Sasaki who wrote and composed "Thank You For The Music" for release in May 2005 as the band's 5th single. The song is also a track on their 3rd album "electlyric" released in June.

The original music video for the song is nowhere to be seen on the Net, at least currently. But it did involve the band enjoying their time in a park while throbbing geometric shapes were pulsing around....I guess you have to be there. But the above video of the Bonobos performing at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture in 2007 will do. Despite the genres that have been listed for them, I consider "Thank You For The Music" as just a gleeful pop song. The lyrics has Sai describing what must have been a very happy day in his life as he observes the lovely scenery around him while waiting for that girl. Pretty happy-go-lucky and pretty infectious. I can only wish for a lot of those days.

Well, managed to find a fuzzy version of the original music video at the above link.

Ginji Ito -- BABY BLUE

The early 80's in Japan is a period I only know through sounds and images, but just hearing Ginji Ito's (伊藤銀次) "Baby Blue" (↑) makes me believe for a moment that I really did spend my previous life there. It's one of the classic examples of the sounds from those years. It echoes the sweet and simple melodies from American and British 60's but twists them to suit the sentiments of contemporary Japanese audiences. The breezy strings combined with bubbly synths seem to give off that impression. Judging by what I can gather from the lyrics, it's probably not a happy-go-lucky love song, but it's innocent enough not to be too heavy on the heart. I adore the chorus melody and the way Ito sings "They call you Baby Blue". The album cover you see above was created by the prolific Tadanori Yokoo (横尾忠則), by the way. Quite befitting for the title song, don't you think?

Now I'm going to back-trail a bit with a biography of the singer himself. I was first introduced to Ginji Ito while checking the credits for Ann Lewis' (アン・ルイス) songs and saw his name among the composers. Writing songs and playing guitar in the background has been his specialty for most of his career, but he did enjoy a steady solo career between Baby Blue in 1982 and Love Parade in 1993. According to J-Wiki, Ito first entered the music business in 1973 as a member of the bands Gomanohae and Coconuts Bank. In 1975 he temporarily joined Sugar Babe and contributed some lyrics to their album Songs, including the classic "Down Town". The following year, Eiichi Ohtaki (大瀧詠一) invited him and Tatsuro Yamashita (山下達郎) to sing with him on Niagara Triangle Vol. 1. This opportunity led Ito to release his first solo album Deadly Drive in 1977, but to be fair, I don't think the style there fit him much. He was probably trying to channel his bandmate Yamashita with the Boz Scaggs-inspired sound, but lacked the presence to make the songs come to life. And so, for the next five years, Ito withdrew to the background to produce music for singers such as Kenji Sawada and Mariya Takeuchi while playing guitar in Miki Matsubara's and Motoharu Sano's back bands. In 1982, he transferred to Polystar label and released Baby Blue. Now this album's style suited his ordinary looks and voice without downgrading those qualities. Rather, the songs emphasized his strong sense for pop melody. Looking back at his Niagara Triangle experience, he definitely took some notes from Ohtaki on songwriting with this one.

(excerpts from the album)

Let's get back to the album itself. Next up is "Tappin' and Clappin'", originally released as a single under the title "Makka na Bikini no Santa Claus" (まっ赤なビキニのサンタクロース.....Santa Claus in a Bright Red Bikini). The booklet provides some handy info on where Ito got inspiration for the song. He composed it with James Taylor's "How Sweet it Is" in mind and spiced it up with a Beatles-esque arrangement. The ever-present Jake H. Conception also has his moment here with a classy saxophone solo. The lyrics deal with the protagonist having "his bell jingled" by a lady on the beach who reminds him of Christmas time. There's no need to be misled by that unattractive title. The song makes me want to visit Australia one day so I can find out what it's like to celebrate actual Christmas on sandy beaches.

(Check the Apple link above)

"Planet Girl" (プラネット・ガール) is a catchy easy-going tune featuring an infectious drum kick in the chorus. The rapid chord changes make me think of mid-80's idol pop for some reason. Once again, I consulted the album booklet for this one and found out that it was originally called "Surf Roller Street" and that Ito, thanks to the suggestion the producer Kenichi Makimura (牧村憲一), wanted it to be about two popular summer activities: roller boarding and surfing. That drum kick was intended to go with him singing "S-U-R-F~". Looks like the team abandoned the concept and replaced it with a space-themed love song.

(Check the Apple link above)

According to the booklet, "One Way Ticket to the Moon" is Ito's tribute to Hall & Oates. It's one of the more guitar-driven tracks on the album and also the gloomiest one. Masao Urino (売野雅勇), who also wrote numerous lyrics for Jun'ichi Inagaki, Chiemi Hori, and Eikichi Yazawa, among others, presents the protagonist planning to get away from Planet Earth so that he doesn't have to loiter around his ex-lover's world anymore. As long as he's as far away from her as possible, he won't feel lonely anymore. Talk about the ultimate heartbreak... The melody and the lyrics during verses reflect that lonely feeling of one wandering through the empty streets at night (provided that those streets are actually safe).

(Check the Apple link above)

The song closing this profile is "Shade of Summer", a mellow tune with pleasant strings and beat that evokes the mood of a peaceful summertime walk in the park followed by an afternoon tea at a cafe. The melody kinda reminds me of Beach Boys' "All Summer Long". Like J-Canuck mentioned, here in the GTA we've been blessed with another pile of snow, but to be honest, I'm already looking forward to the summer already. Would love to take this song out on my Sansa Fuze for a cycling trip through some local park trails.

Though I wouldn't call this album a classic aside from the title track, it's a pleasant listen and certainly helps soothe the mind. Makes me nostalgic for the times long gone by that I never got to experience myself.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mariko Takahashi -- Sincerely

When I think of the fine chanteuse Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子), I've usually gravitated to her early 80s period and her even earlier stint with the band Pedro and Capricious. So it stands out when I think of this song from June 1993, her 21st single as a solo artist, "Sincerely". However, instead of the lone single, I bought it as part of her 19th album, "Verse", released in September of that year.

"Sincerely" is a sparkly and classy J-AOR number...kinda like a glass of champagne served in an al fresco restaurant on a main street. Takahashi, who had written the lyrics, wistfully sings about a long-lost love whom she may or may not still have feelings for. Makoto Mitsui(三井誠)came up with the music; not too long before this song, Mitsui had also been responsible for one of Jun'ichi Inagaki's(稲垣潤一) biggest hits and one of the most popular J-Xmas songs, "Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa" クリスマスキャロルの頃には).

One of the reasons that this song resonates with me is that I got "Verse" during my first visit to The Big Apple almost 20 years ago in October 1993. My fellow contributor, nikala, had written about her time in New York City for her profile of the amazing Motoharu Sano(佐野元春) album, "Visitors", which naturally reminded me of my few days in Manhattan. I remember I was feeling rather terrified about going down with my friend to visit our other friend who had recently taken up residence in the Upper East Side since I was burdened with all those stories about NYC being The Most Dangerous City in the World. However, Mayor Giuliani had taken over and things had been changing there. Even back then, it was starting to feel more like the New York of "You've Got Mail" (with Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan) than the New York of "The French Connection". Mind you, that drug dealer making "a sales pitch" at us on the outskirts of Central Park one morning kinda harshed my buzz a bit.

In any case, I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore right by Rockefeller Center and was delighted to see that there was a small CD section near the front of the shop. For a guy who had been away from J-Pop shop shelves for about 2 years and who was forced to get his music from mail order (Wah Yueh had gone the way of the dodo in my absence), seeing compact discs of Japanese popular music arranged together again was manna from heaven.

I picked up a Reimy(麗美) disc and "Verse" most appropriately. Takahashi seems to have had a major love for The Big Apple during her career. She's done concerts at Carnegie Hall, and I've come across a couple of songs by her at least that give tribute to New York. So to pick up one of her albums right beside one of the city's most famous landmarks was perhaps a form of kismet. In any case, after we returned from our trip, I put in the disc into the player and heard the bright-lights-big-city tone of "Sincerely", and it's embedded itself into that part of my memories dealing with the city ever since.

(empty karaoke version)

Mariko Takahashi -- Verse

Tatsuro Yamashita/Taeko Ohnuki -- Theme from "Big Wave"

Let's in Toronto, we got smacked down again with another 5 cm of really heavy wet snow and high winds....and with the probability of another hit of the white stuff tomorrow. So, let's get a little meteorologically counterintuitive and bring in a bit of Summer. I haven't profiled Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎) recently....perhaps not since doing his "Christmas Eve" back on December 24, so let's talk about one of his perennial summer classics.

I first came across "Theme from Big Wave" back in 1989 when his extended live version of the song was placed as the "B-side" on the CD single of "Endless Game" (already profiled). Unlike the introspective A-side, "Theme from Big Wave" was Yamashita harkening back to his late 70s/early 80s fun-in-the-sun times. Right from the start of the song, there is that compulsive bass and synth hinting at something great coming over the horizon. As Yamashita intones at the beginning of the extended version, "We've got summer right here in our hearts!"

Ironically, Yamashita's 13th single came right after "Christmas Eve", supposedly his musical retort against those who dared label him as just the summer song guy. Released as a single in May 1984, it became part of the soundtrack album for the film "Big Wave", a documentary about surfing directed by Walter Mulconery. Yamashita was also responsible for the recording and production of the album which included his other hits of "Jody" and "Your Eyes" and covers of tunes by The Beach Boys, who ought to be his kissing cousins. Indeed the feeling of hitting the surf and riding the waves is just imbued into the notes and lyrics of "Theme from Big Wave". According to J-Wiki, Yamashita didn't know very much at all about surfing, but he did get the impression of the lifestyle that surrounded it and wanted to reflect that in the song. But Yamashita wasn't the only one behind the song....he composed it but Alan O'Day, who often collaborated with Yamashita and his wife Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや) during the early 80s, was behind the English lyrics.

 I probably have mentioned this back in the profile for "Endless Game", but this was the first single I ever got of Tatsuro Yamashita. Although there is no mention of whether "Theme from Big Wave" charted onto Oricon, the soundtrack album itself, which was released a month after the single, made it up to No. 2 on the charts and sold 450,000 of the most successful Japanese soundtracks at the time. And why not? Sand and surf have always been as enticing to Japanese as they have been for us bitterly cold Canucks.

I only found out about this just within the last day or so as I was reading up on the song, but "Theme from Big Wave" is actually an alternate version of a song that had been recorded by his former Sugar Babe bandmate, Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子). Titled "Mahou wo Oshiete" (魔法を教えて...Teach Me Magic), the words were provided by Ohnuki herself; the arrangement is still very Summer Pop, rather reminiscent of Ohnuki's early days as a solo artist when her album, "Sunshower" had come out in the late 70s. By the early 80s, she had made her shift into a more European and technopop direction, so to hear her shorter version sounds even more nostalgic.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hisaya Morishige/Tokiko Kato/Chieko Baisho -- Shiretoko Ryojou (知床旅情)

I wouldn't let that picture of a foppish Hisaya Morishige(森繁久彌) make you believe that his song is comic in nature. In fact, his "Shiretoko Ryojou"(Shiretoko Feeling) has survived for over half a century as one of the most heartwarming and enduring kayo kyoku ballads. I've known this song for a very long time as well, and I knew about Morishige as one of Japan's veteran actors but didn't know about the connection between them until just a few years ago.

The late Morishige (he passed away in November 2009 at the age of 96) had actually been born in Osaka Prefecture and was a student of Waseda University in Tokyo. Starting off as a stage actor, he had a stint as an NHK announcer assigned to Manchuria for a while before coming back  to further his career in film. I knew of him much later in life as the old dramatic actor, so it was surprising to have found out that he had become famous as the comedic center of a couple of franchises known as the "Company President" and the "Station"series starting from the late 50s and throughout the 60s. But for one movie which required the actor to live on Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula for a long while, Morishige was affected by the scenery and life there to such a degree that he wrote and composed a song originally titled "Okhotsk Funauta"オホーツク舟歌...Okhotsk Shanty) whose lyrics spoke of the harshness of  the Shiretoko Winter and the joy of Spring returning there.

However for some reason, Morishige also created an alternate version of the song which became the more famous "Shiretoko Ryojou", released in July 1960, which focused on the various points of attraction of the area. Unsurprisingly, tourism to the northeastern point of Hokkaido increased, and Morishige found himself singing the song on the 1962 Kohaku Utagassen. The Oricon rankings wouldn't start for another several years but when they did, "Shiretoko Ryojou" went as high as No. 11. By the way, I should clarify that the term "ryojou" refers to those feelings experienced during a journey.

The song also became one of the trademark songs for veteran chanteuse Tokiko Kato(加藤登紀子). The "Sounds of Japan" radio broadcast that I used to listen to once dedicated its entire half-hour to her songs and they ran the gamut from folk to New Wave/City Pop. According to the J-Wiki profile on her, she has also performed chanson and rock. However, Kato is often remembered for her rendition of "Shiretoko Ryojou" which was her 14th single since her debut in 1966. And my image of her performing this has always been her sitting on a stool in front of a microphone as she strums her guitar.

I could say that Kato's cover of the kayo kyoku classic is probably even more famous than the Morishige original. Kato has always handled the song in a way that makes people stop whatever they're doing and listen. However, I also think Morishige sang his song as if he were the proudest lifelong resident of the Shiretoko Peninsula. In any case, Kato's version was released in November 1970 and this time the song went to the very top of the Oricon charts, and became the 2nd-ranking single of 1971, just behind Rumiko Koyanagi's "Watashi no Joukamachi" and just above Kiyohiko Ozaki's "Mata Au Hi Made"(both already profiled).  Her rendition also sold 1.4 million records and earned Kato her 2nd consecutive Japan Record Award and her first appearance on the 1971 Kohaku Utagassen for which you see above.

Actress-singer Chieko Baisho(倍賞千恵子), most famous for her role as the main character's younger sister Sakura in the "Tora-san"series, released her version in 1976 under the original title of "Okhotsk Funauta". Her version has a slightly more epic and polished quality...almost operatic.

As for the area itself, in 2005, Shiretoko Peninsula was designated as a World Heritage Site which probably warmed Morishige's heart greatly in the last few years of his life.

Tokiko Kato -- Shiretoko Ryojou

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hideaki Tokunaga -- Yume wo Shinjite (夢を信じて)

Y'know....I'm not quite sure which came first....seeing the music video on MTV Japan or deciding to get the CD single on a whim that got me to enjoy Hideaki Tokunaga's(徳永英明) "Yume wo Shinjite"(Believe in the Dream) as one of my musical memories of 1989-1991. My first impression of the song was that this was the first time that Tokunaga sounded so upbeat. Before I left for Japan in my first foray as a teacher, I had gotten to know the high-toned crooner through his ballads such as "Birds" and "Rainy Blue" (both already profiled) on those video tapes of "The Best 10", so it was a revelation to hear him in such chipper voice.

"Yume wo Shinjite" was also the ending theme for the popular anime series "Dragon Quest", something I found out when I saw the seal on my CD single purchase. The single was supposed to have been released on January 15th 1990 which was once designated as "Seijin no Hi"(成人の日) or Adulthood Day to celebrate the passage of teenagers into official adults in Japan, and I think the title and the positivity of the song was emblematic of this national holiday. However, elementary school students who, of course, also had the day off so loved the anime, and "Yume wo Shinjite" by association, that they must've terrified the staff in the various CD shops about the impending arrival of Tokunaga's most successful single. And knowing how loud excited kids can get in an enclosed space, the powers-that-be quickly decided to move the official release date to the 16th instead. Disappointed kids, relieved sellers.

The song was composed by Tokunaga and written by Hitoshi Shinohara(篠原仁志). It peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and became the 18th-ranked song of 1990. It was also re-released in 2011 after the massive earthquake and tsunami as a track in a special charity album. Very good choice.

Hideaki Tokunaga -- Yume wo Shinjite

Wink -- Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~ (きっと熱いくちびる 〜リメイン〜)

Today I decided to talk about Wink's "Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~" (きっと熱いくちびる 〜リメイン〜) , one of my favorite Wink's songs. But first, it's important to make a little retrospective of Wink's career prior to the release of this song in 1991.

Wink’s music career started back in 1988 with some eurobeat inspired songs, like their first single “Sugar Baby Love” (a cover from The Rubettes’s song of the same name, released back in 1974). Also, they recorded a lot of Japanese covers from the English production team known as “Stock Aitken Waterman” (SAW), including the hit Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn It Into Love~” (愛が止まらない 〜Turn It Into Love〜).

1989 was their glory year. “Ai ga Tomaranai ~Turn It Into Love~” , released in November 1988, became a #1 hit, and their subsequent eurobeat singles (Namida wo Misenaide ~Boys Don’t Cry~” [涙をみせないで 〜Boys Don't Cry〜]; Samishii Nettaigyo [淋しい熱帯魚]; “One Night In Heaven ~Mayonaka no Angel~” [One Night In Heaven 〜真夜中のエンジェル〜]), released in March, July and November 1989, respectively, were all  #1 hits on the weekly Oricon chart. At the end of the year they won the “Japan Record Awards” for best song with Samishii Nettaigyo and were invited to perform the song on the traditional “Kouhaku Uta Gassen.

However, 1990 was not as great as 1989. The single “Sexy Music”, released in March 1990, still managed to top the weekly Oricon chart, but was the last #1 achievement for the duo. Two more singles, “Yoru ni Hagurete ~Where Were You Last Night~” (夜にはぐれて 〜Where Were You Last Night〜) and “New Moon ni Aimashou” (ニュー・ムーンに逢いましょう), were released in 1990. Both got the second spot on the weekly Oricon chart.

Apart from the Oricon ranking talk, what’s most important for us right now is the change in Wink’s sound around that time. “Yoru ni Hagurete ~Where Were You Last Night~”, second single from 1990, released in July, was the last one with typical eurobeat arrangements. Starting with “New Moon ni Aimashou, their sound became more sophisticated and the production team behind them stopped releasing an overload of cover songs as Wink’s primary singles (“Amaryllis” [アマリリス] and “Samishii Nettaigyo were the only two original songs released as singles prior to New Moon ni Aimashou). Not losing their 80s feel, Wink became a dance act, focused on different styles of dance-pop music, and not “JUST” eurobeat. Their first single from 1991, “Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~”, my chosen song for this article, is an example of Wink’s versatility. And we will see why.

Released in March 1991, "Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~" means "Surely Hot Lips ~Remain~". The title clearly evokes a sexy song, and the repetitive hooks "Touch Me..." and "Kiss Me...", included in the songs's choruses with the constant allusions to hot lips, only reiterate the sexiness of the song. I remember thinking that this topic was kind of risque to Wink, but after a few listens and my crescent knowledge about the duo, I concluded that this song was nailed by the girls in a very classy way.

"Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~" starts with a nauseating and repetitive crave for a kiss before entering the melancholic piano-driven synthpop arrangement area. I can't really tell if it's an upbeat song or a mid tempo one, because even though the verses are slow and kind of sang in a dramatic way, the choruses are upbeat and anxious with the girls almost begging for a man's touch and a "hot lips kiss". The airy "Remain" parts evoke a feeling that this intimate moment between the couple must last as long as possible. Finally, the bridge of the song offers a beautiful piano solo that just adds to the overall atmosphere of the song.

Next, let's talk a bit about the song's music video included on the top of the article. It's important to notice that the Lolita-inspired fashion, kind of Victorian at certain points, combined with some kawaii subculture elements, like the low quality earrings worn by the girls, goes along with the classical piano arrangement of the song in a very smooth way. And that's something very cool about aidoru culture in general: the image concepts created by artists and their team correlates a lot with the overall sound pursued by them, creating, in the end, a somewhat coherent storyline. We can tell that even though we live in a world dominated by cultural industry, mass produced aidorus can still make use of true artistic elements sometimes.

"Kitto Atsui Kuchibiru ~Remain~" reached #2 on the weekly Oricon chart, selling over 174,700 copies. It also reached #95 on the yearly Oricon chart for 1991. The song was written by Neko Oikawa (及川眠子) and composed by Asato Sekine (関根安里). As for the arrangement, Satoshi Kadokura (門倉聡 was the responsible (source: generasia). Moreover, apart from its single release, the song was included on the album "Queen of Love" in July 1991. It was later an easy to find song in Wink's compilations, like "Raisonné" (1992), "Reminiscence" (1995), and the ultimate Wink singles collection, "WINK MEMORIES 1988-1996" (1996).

To end the article, I share a photo of my own copy of "WINK MEMORIES 1988-1996". 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Miki Nakatani -- Cure

One of the more interesting albums I've bought has been "Cure" by actress Miki Nakatani(中谷美紀). I've never thought of her as having a particularly strong voice or a voice with a large range. For example, her very first single (and a song that I heard only for the first time some years after I'd bought "Cure"), "Mind Circus", was a pleasant enough mid-tempo pop song, but it sounded as if Miki had been struggling somewhat in the refrain.

But "Cure", her 2nd album released in September 1997, was a more comfortable one for her, it seems. As an actress, she's often appeared on a number of TV dramas and movies, and often in quirky roles as characters who are just a bit off. I think "Cure" kinda plays to that strength. As you can see from the photo of the album above, Miki looks like she entered one of those avant-garde Calvin Klein "Obsession" commercials. The album itself is all in black, and there are light chiarascuro shots of half of her face (shades of Ingmar Bergman), her hand and her bare foot. Go figure.

And certainly having all of the songs composed and the entire album produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一) adds to that feeling of "Cure" not being the usual pop album. However, it's not nearly as avant-garde as the pictures or the official videos may suggest. Basically, the album is split into two parts: most of the first half contains tracks that sound like indie pop ballads with a Beatlesque feeling; the second half brings in more dance club.

The first track, "Ibara no Kanmuri"(いばらの冠...Crown of Thorns) is a beautiful melancholy piece which vaguely hints through images of stardust and other metaphors to represent a romance long gone bad. Listening to Nakatani here and in almost every other song on the album, her voice delivers in a middle comfort zone. The lyricist here was Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆).

The reason I got the album in the first place was through the videos. A lot of Nakatani's music videos got good airplay on the music channels and "Countdown TV", and had the gamine singer in various psychologically symbolic imagery. Track 2, "Tengoku Yori Yaban"天国より野蛮...Wilder Than Heaven) is the most uptempo track in the first half, with Nakatani traipsing through what looks like an abattoir or an inspirational setting for the guys behind torture porn hits "Hostel" and "Saw". Despite the grim scenes, the song, written by Masao Urino (売野雅勇), is a hodgepodge of funk-pop with a beatnik flute (Takuo Yamamoto from Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra) thrown in at the beginning and a rock guitar near the end. Miki still has to go through a bit of English boot camp with her final verses.

As I mentioned above, the 2nd half of the album has the more techno tracks. "Torikago no Uchuu"鳥篭の宇宙) written by Nakatani, is composed and arranged by Sakamoto almost as a tribute to The Pet Shop Boys and as music to be deposited into a David Lynch mindbending movie. The English title is "My Universe In A Birdcage", and Nakatani describes her world as a restrictive domain with freedom just away from her fingertips. There's a fair amount of a "Twilight Zone" aura in both her lyrics and Sakamoto's melody. I would almost expect Rod Serling to give the final words at the end of the song. I kinda wonder if Nakatani is trying to say something about the world of celebrity.

(excerpt only)

The weirdest track on "Cure" by far is the cover version of The Carpenters' "Superstar". With a dreamy/nightmarish arrangement by Sakamoto, and a distorted version of Nakatani's voice singing the famous lyrics by Bonnie Bramlett, it sounds like something to be played way past midnight. There's almost a certain Marilyn Monroe-ness in Nakatani's delivery.

The final track to be profiled is one that brings back Nakatani from neo-Carpenters avant-gardism to good ol' techno with a tad of Latin stirred in. "Kinokhronika" is one of those titles that seems to evade definition...kinda like Phil Collins' "Sussudio". Urino's lyrics also seem to evade a regular narrative but heck, it's fun to listen to, as Nakatani pushes the pushbeats at a dash while imagining Sakamoto manning the turntables while wearing the shades and a backwards cap.

"Cure" peaked at No. 7 on the Oricon charts. Overall, I think it's one of those diurnal albums to listen to. Listen to the first half in the afternoon and then take that dinner break before returning for the second half at night.

The term New Music that Yumi Arai(荒井由実)had coined and Sakamoto (among others) had helped build into a genre had disappeared by the late 90s. But in a way, Sakamoto made a neo-New Music album of sorts with "Cure", something that can be backed up with veteran lyricists such as the aforementioned Matsumoto, Urino and Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子) for the last track. And even with the techno parts, Sakamoto didn't use any of the old YMO flourishes...they were neo-techno for him, so to speak. Always moving forward, never looking back.

There is a second disc included in the album which only has The Professor (Sakamoto's nickname) weaving a musical tapestry of sorts titled "Aromascape".

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Tsumi na Ame (罪な雨)

I have to admit I'm a sucker for languid ballads....which is why I like Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子), Takao Kisugi(来生たかお), and of course, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). These are slow songs that were never created in North America; they sound more European, but I've got a feeling that people listening to French or Italian or any other European ballad back in the 80s would listen to these Japanese versions and would probably say, "Hmmmm....not quite like our stuff", and they would probably be right. There might be that Japanese twist at work even here.

In any case, this is another Kurahashi ballad that was released in December 1983 as her 5th single, and "Tsumi na Ame" (Criminal Rain) is quintessentially Ruiko: slow and breathy but sweeping. The fact that it was written and composed by the Etsugi Siblings gives the song that 80s feeling with that arrangement of strings, harp and piano. Listening to it, I can imagine some sad young lady staring out from a Renoir Cafe (the coffeehouse chain that had been the dominant House of Java in Tokyo until a certain company from Seattle landed in 1995) while a steady rain falls outside. I can also imagine Ruiko being a bit sad, too, trying to negotiate that vocal crescendo up to the refrain during practice until she finally got it.

The above video has Ruiko performing the song in a Shimo-Kitazawa club (according to the YouTube writeup). I couldn't imagine her performing in some of those huge arenas such as Yokohama Stadium or Tokyo Dome; they'd be too big for her tender voice, and besides I think she and all of her fans prefer the intimacy of a small chic venue. Strangely enough, when I did attend her special concert in Minami-Aoyama a few years back, there was a driving rain out there. But I don't think it was criminal at all; it perfectly set up the scene for her performance. 

I may be mistaken, but I think the song also came out as a track on her 5th album, "Thanks", on the same date of release as the single. The album's tracks were all composed by Takao Kisugi.

Shoko Suzuki -- Sweet Thing

Now here's a song that lives up to its title. Whenever I listen to this gracefully-written piece by the singer-songwriter Shoko Suzuki (鈴木祥子), I get an urge to embrace any nearest possible object -- in 8 chances out of 10, it ends up being my cat. It starts off slow and simple with just the piano, strings, and Shoko's soft vocals, then steadily builds up into a power ballad complete with soaring notes and heroic guitar solo. Its melody has the word "classic" written all over it, though the single didn't fare well on the charts to garner that status.

"Sweet Thing" was Shoko's 8th single, released on December 1, 1991, and was included on her studio album Hourglass, which hit the shelves on the same day. It was written and composed by Shoko and arranged by Hiroaki Sugawara (菅原弘明), whom she would marry by the end of the year. From her debut in 1988 and before this album, her work was largely supervised by external producers, but with Hourglass, she finally gained some independence in the recording process. Judging by Shoko's skill with multiple instruments, including piano, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, and drums (she plays piano and drums on "Sweet Thing"), and her musical influences, including but not limited to Todd Rundgren, The Beatles, James Taylor, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, and Cheap Trick, I can tell that right from the start she was dedicated to handling music on her own terms. She eventually reached that goal when she released an entirely self-performed album Love, painful love in 2000 and made a switch to an indies label soon after. She also wrote songs on the side for a number of other artists such as Kyoko Koizumi, Maaya Sakamoto, Takui Nakajima, and Puffy (in collaboration with Tamio Okuda on their album Fever*Fever).

All that information, by the way, comes from the wonderful English-language fansite Suzuki no Snapshots. Kudos to Pooch for working hard to provide those from outside of Japan with everything you need to know about this artist.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Puffy -- Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera (渚にまつわるエトセトラ)

Starting this profile with a mundane linguistic question: How do I translate the title...."Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera"? The Et Cetera Related to The Beach? Just glad that the Wikipedia entry for the song got me out of the jam; apparently the 2002 US release has the alternative title of "Electric Beach Fever". Whew!

"Electric Beach Fever" sounds a bit disco, doesn't it? Well, not surprising....the song itself has that late 70s dance fever vibe to it. Written by Yosui Inoue(井上陽水) and composed by Tamio Okuda(奥田民生) (the same singer-songwriter pair who launched Puffy's career with the ELO-like "Asia no Junshin"[already profiled]), Ami and Yumi's 4th single of April 1997 was created with Hideki Saijo's(西城秀樹) cover of The Village People's "YMCA" in 1979 (also already profiled). In fact, according to J-Wiki, Puffy and Saijo actually did a duet with the song on one of the Fuji-TV summer marathons.

When it comes to remembering Puffy, this video will always be the first one that comes to mind. The ladies have always given off that "Summer Girls Always Want To Have Fun"aura, and so my biggest image of them is the video of them enjoying a day in Phuket, Thailand, doing oyaji dance moves and eating BBQ crab, and the lyrics consist of those images of having a grand day by the well as mentioning the BBC, BOAC and Harrison Ford. What's not to love?

Speaking of the once....and perhaps future..."Star Wars"star, "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera" is the second tune I've heard that has a reference to Ford (the first being Misato Watanabe's "Oh, Darling!"). And one of the strangest celeb interviews I have ever come across took place on Puffy's late-night variety show "Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy" when Ami and Yumi actually got the chance to interview....or try to chat with....Harrison Ford for "Air Force One" while dressed in kimonos. Ford who, deservedly or undeservedly, has the reputation of being especially taciturn in interviews actually looked rather bewildered or bemused as he gave his terse answers while having a "What the heck did I get myself into?" expression throughout. I didn't keep the TV on the whole interview due to intense awkwardness (I'm not even sure if Puffy really wanted to be there either), but found out that Ami and Yumi even performed the verse of "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera"acapella containing the reference to their interviewee. I tried to look for a video of it on YouTube but no luck.

Being the big years for Puffy, "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera" hit the top spot on Oricon. According to J-Wiki, the song sold 1.1 million copies which probably would have put it at 12th place in the yearly rankings of 1997. However, according to the rankings at, it came out at 18th place with 880,000 copies sold. Whatever the ranking was, it was another big hit for the duo.


For today’s article, I decided to talk about “NIGHT FLIGHT” by Perfume. It’s certainly my favorite song from them, and I will explain why through its description very soon.

First, some general informations. “NIGHT FLIGHT” is an album track from Perfume’s third album "Triangle", released in July 2009. But its chorus was revealed two or three months earlier in a Pino Chocolate commercial, which generated quite hype in Perfume’s fandom. I remember that I was kind of new to Perfume at the time, so “NIGHT FLIGHT” was “THE THING” I looked for in those very long months until its original release (I remember even downloading a fake Vocaloid version of the song from YouTube to fill my need of listening to it. Those were, indeed, magic times). The song was later included in “Perfume Global Compilation ‘LOVE THE WORLD’”, released in September 2012.

Here we can see the original Pino commercial featuring the song “NIGHT FLIGHT” and Perfume’s members. It’s a very cool CM with the girls wearing some classy stewardess’s clothes.

And just for curiosity, here’s the Vocaloid version that I mentioned above. As the original chorus and the whole vibe of the song were revealed in the commercial, the author of this version just added the verses, the bridge and some synth melodies. The result was a cool and different version of this gem. And as I told, it was in heavy rotation on my play list until the full original version leaked one week prior to the album’s release.

Like every other Perfume song and Yasutaka Nakata (中田 ヤスタカ) production, “NIGHT FLIGHT” is an overproduced song with killer hooks. This Technopop party starts with some 8-bit blips before introducing the dated synth notes that will accompany us in this crazy video-game plane trip. Together with the synth notes, the electronic and funky bass line is dropped just to remember us how fun this trip is going to be. Then Perfume enters the scene with the “Make a night flight… Have a nice flight” hook. The verses come just in sequence and then you just need to enjoy this trip full of 8-bits noises, catchy synth notes, a funky bass line and Perfume’s fresh vocals, manipulated, of course, by the mastermind Yasutaka Nakata.

Two more things are interesting enough to mention in the article. “NIGHT FLIGHT’s” bridge is very cool because it resembles the sound made by a real plane before exploding in the amazing combination of the same synth notes used since the beginning of the song and the funkier-than-ever bass line. And the final segment of the song is also a combination of Perfume’s chopped vocals with a different synth melody playing along the amazing arrangement used through the song.

In general, “NIGHT FLIGHT” is a very retro song, almost taken from the 80s. Its arrangement is an explicit homage to YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and video-game music. Indeed, I discovered YMO after reading some comparisons between “NIGHT FLIGHT” and their sound.

The choreography for the song is very interesting too, as the girls act like stewardesses doing some typical things that a stewardess always does. You can take a look in the next video.

The video introduced above is my favorite “NIGHT FLIGHT” live performance. It’s from Perfume’s “Disco! Disco! Disco!” live concert held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in May, 2009 (Regrets, but that video has been taken down...the above is another video). Also, the version featured in this concert is slightly different from the one released in the album. We can presume that it was Nakata’s first version of the song.

“NIGHT FLIGHT” was written, composed and arranged by Yasutaka Nakata (from shibuya-key and electronic duo “capsule”). As for the "Triangle" album, it ranked No. 1 on the weekly Oricon charts, and was the #20 best-selling album of 2009, selling over 331,000 copies (source: generasia).

To finish the article, here's a photo of my own copy of the limited edition of "Triangle".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oginome Yoko -「ゴールデン☆ベスト」

Following J-Canuck's lead with his great post on 中森明菜's 「BEST」 album, I wanted to go ahead and feature an artist who hold's a special place in my heart for she was one of the reasons I became a fan of JPop, the lovely 荻野目洋子. Oginome's 1986 album 「NON-STOPPER」 was one of the very first JPop CDs I bought in Japan. Prior to that I wasn't heavy into JPop all that much. Back in San Francisco, CA I would watch the various NHK 紅白歌合戦 telecasts but didn't really have any particular favorite artists. Once I moved to Japan, I started to pay attention more to all the great JPop artists and idols hitting the airwaves and promoting their songs on TV at the time. Oginome was one of the idols that really caught my eye. While Oginome was cute, she wasn't what you would call overly sexy. With her short pixie hair cut and slender frame she seemed more like a tomboy than a girlie-girl yet what she lacked in a distinctive look, she more than made up with her spunky personality and infectious Euro-beat inspired songs. Her cover of Angie Gold's "EAT YOU UP" was just pure "gold" and 「ダンシング・ヒーロー」 became one of my favorite songs in 1985.

Oginome was born December 10, 1968 in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture. Oginome got her first taste of being an entertainer when she and her older sister appeared in a 1977 film 『獄門島』 as child actors. Her sister would later go on to become the famous actress 荻野目慶子.

While in 4th grade, Oginome would enter the children's singing contest 『ちびっこ歌まねベストテン』 where she won the champion title. Scouted by entertainment agents she would be recruited into the pint-sized kid trio 『ミルク』. The trio released a couple of songs in 1979 but would disband after a year.

In Intermediate school, Oginome would audtion for a part in キティ・フィルム's 『ションベン・ライダー』 live action film. While she didn't get the role producers liked her enough to instead give her the lead role in their anime feature 『みゆき』 as a 声優. She would lend her vocal talents again to the アニメ映画 『バリバリ伝説』 and the kid's show 『ウゴウゴルーガ』.

Oginome continued to push forward her dreams of becoming a singer and in 1984 released her first single 「未来航海-Sailing-」. She would release a number of subsequent songs thereafter but it wasn't until 「ダンシング・ヒーロー」 that she finally made it big and became an overnight idol sensation.

I debated a bit which "Best" album to focus this post on. Should I go with 1987's 「POP GROOVER - The Best」 which collected most of her signature ユーロビート themed songs or should I go with  「'91 OGINOME COLLECTION」 which focused on her later 80s songs or better yet should  I go with her massive 「オリジナル・アルバム・コレクション The BOX -25th Anniversary Special」 which collects all 19 of her album releases. Ultimately, I chose her 2009 「ゴールデン☆ベスト」 which offers up a good retrospective of her music career with all of her greatest hits from the mid-80s plus a few of her early career songs and a few of her later 90s songs as well. Here's the track list:

1. ダンシング・ヒーロー(Eat You Up)
2. 六本木純情派
3. ねえ
4. コーヒールンバ
5. 湾岸太陽族
6. さよならの果実たち
7. Dance Beatは夜明けまで
8. フラミンゴ in パラダイス
9. ストレンジャーtonight
10. スターダスト・ドリーム    
11. DEAR~コバルトの彼方へ~
13. 北風のキャロル
14. ヴァージ・オブ・ラヴ (日本語バージョン)
15. 湘南ハートブレイク
16. 未来航海-Sailing
17. 心のままに~I’m just a lady~
18. 恋してカリビアン
19. ユア・マイ・ライフ

While Oginome will always be known for 「ダンシング・ヒーロー」, I don't consider it her only great song as I like her followup dance hits like 「六本木純情派」, 「Dance Beatは夜明けまで」, 「ストレンジャーTonight」, 「湾岸太陽族」 and 「フラミンゴ in パラダイス」 equally as much if not even more so. While 「北風のキャロル」, 「湘南ハートブレイク」 and 「さよならの果実たち」 didn't have the same Eurobeat/Dance influence they were also other brilliant examples of her love for up-tempo rock/pop songs. Even with her debut single 「未来航海-Sailing」 Oginome seemed to foreshadow her Pop Idol Princess sensibilities. Yet not all of Oginome's songs were pure dance/rock numbers. One of my favorite song from her is the touching and sentimental ballad 「心のままに〜I'm just a lady〜」 which was the song Oginome released just prior to  「ダンシング・ヒーロー」 and was the ending theme to the TBS ドラマ 『愛の劇場・わが子よV』. Her collaboration with Narada Michael Walden 「Verge of Love」 also had more of a soft rock/pop vibe and showcased Oginome's English-language skills (although with a slight accent).  While Oginome tried to recapture her Pop/Dance glory days of the mid-80s with songs like 「コーヒールンバ」 and 「Steal Your Love」 in the early 90s, they weren't quite as good.

「ゴールデン☆ベスト」 could hardly be called the definitive collection as it's missing some key and notable Oginome tracks. 「Postcard from Paris」 and  「You Take It All Away」 from 「VERGE OF LOVE」 are surprisingly missing as is her non-single releases 「Melting Point」 from  「NON-STOPPER」 and 軽井沢コネクション from 「246コネクション」. Her covers of 「ヴィーナス」 and 「Cha-Cha-Cha」 also from 「NON-STOPPER」 are unfortunately excluded as well.

For completists the massive 7 CD + 1 DVD uber collection 「SUPER GROOVER THE BOX-THE PERFECT SINGLES -25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL」 released in 2009 might be a better choice as it seems to have most of her A/B singles plus additional remixes and video performances. It's still missing the above non-single tracks unfortunately. A limited release item, it has since gone OOP (Out of Print). While I have the 18 CD - Original Album - Box Collection, I still definitely would have wanted this particular item, if just for the DVD bonus (If anyone has a copy of this let me know).

Oginome would eventually marry Pro Tennis player 辻野隆三 in 2001 and become the mother of three daughters. Yet as this 2011 clip of her appearance on an NHK retrospective program on her shows, she has only grown more beautiful with age and can still rock out at age 43.

Here's a clip from her 「ヴァージ・オブ・ラヴ 武道館ライヴ」 Concert DVD which features a number of her hit songs -

Here's the oddly choreographed PV for 「ストレンジャーTonight」 -

And finally here's the elaborately directed PV for 「Dance Beatは夜明けまで」. 

Mari Iijima -- Tenshi no E no Gu (天使の絵の具)

Several months ago, I gave Mari Iijima(飯島真理), aka Lynn Minmay(リン・ミンメイ), her due as the singer behind one of my favourite anime songs, "Ai wo Oboeteimasuka"愛をおぼえていますか...Do You Remember Love?) for the movie version of the very first entry in the "Macross"saga. I always saw that song as the anime equivalent of "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem, as used in the classic movie, "Casablanca"(my very favourite old movie...I'm not only into kayo kyoku and anime, y'know). The good guys literally used Minmay's epic ballad as the rallying cry to defeat the invasive Zentraedi.

So after that epic musical climax, and the denouement of all of the surviving characters, grateful but exhausted, what to do? Lynn takes the audience off to the closing credits with an uptempo and hopeful aidoru tune that not only makes me remember the movie but 80s aidoru-dom in general. "Tenshi no E no Gu"(An Angel's Paints) is the title of my 2nd-most remembered song by Iijima, who wrote and composed it.

Iijima provided Minmay's career of songs throughout "Ai wo Oboeteimasuka", but it has always been the title song and "Tenshi no E no Gu" that have stuck in my mind in the 29 years since the movie was released. Iijima/Minmay's breezy but soaring voice along with with the tinkly synths and electric guitar and the backup chorus will eternally bring back the Japanese 80s to me. The song was the B-side to the song "Ai wo Oboeteimasuka" and made for a nice light contrast with its heavy-hitting sister.

The video above, by the way, is the final part of the video "Macross Flashback 2012" that was released in 1987 to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the original TV series. Bringing together  excerpts from both the original series and the movie, the video also included new footage which was even more richly animated than the movie. I was lucky enough to have received the video as a present, and still marvel at how the characters looked and moved back then. As "Tenshi no E no Gu"plays, we finally get a visual synopsis of how Lynn Minmay grew up to become the super space aidoru before taking off in the SDF-02 as an older, wiser and more wistful lady.

The above video has the actual singer Mari Iijima performing "Tenshi no E no Gu". Perhaps it's a bit cheeky (if complimentary) of me but I think the line is very fuzzy when it comes to distinguishing Iijima from her iconic anime character. And I think after all these years, if she ever showed up at a ComiCon or an AniCon, there would be major mayhem.

Only hearing this now as I write this up, but "Tenshi no E no Gu"was also a track on Iijima's 2nd album, "blanche", released in April 1984, three months before the Macross movie was even released, so her early fans got to hear this more atmospheric take before the way more famous aidoru version. The album was produced and arranged by the legendary Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子). This version is a strangely haunting ballad.

Glad to have discovered it. It's for these discoveries that I started the blog after all.

Senri Oe -- Juunin Toiro (十人十色)

I gotta admit, I have a soft spot for the whimsical and fun-loving kinds of Japanese singer-songwriters like Senri Oe (大江千里), KAN, and Noriyuki Makihara (槇原敬之). Combine catchy singable melodies with quirky personality and you got yourself a recipe for good mood. Of the above-mentioned artists, Senri was the one who debuted first and the one I got to know more recently. One time I just stumbled across some of his album covers on a music blog and became curious about what this geeky-looking singer sounded like. Appropriately enough, J-Wiki provides a chronological history of the types of glasses he wore through the years. Yep. But anyways, Senri probably received more profit writing songs for Misato Watanabe, Hikaru Genji, and Hiroko Yakushimaru, among others, but he did have a handful of his own hits in the 80's and early 90's, including "Juunin Toiro" (十人十色....Different strokes for different folks) profiled here.

Born and raised in Osaka, Senri wanted to become a singer ever since being introduced to Gilbert O'Sullivan in grade four. After entering a number of musical competitions including Yamaha Popular Song Contest, he was eventually scouted by CBS Sony in the early 80's and released his first single Wallaby Megisutete in 1983. In those days, his casual looks and musical attitude earned him the nickname "Male Yuming". I've also heard people refer to him as the Japanese Rick Astley. Probably not the most honorable comparison, but hey, I don't always take my music seriously. At least that's whom Senri resembled until the late-90's, when he decided to shed his former goofy image and become a serious jazz musician.

"Juunin Toiro" was released in November 1984 and became his breakthrough hit, peaking at No.5 on Oricon charts . It was later included on his third studio album Miseinen (未成年). It's a simple yet memorable tune that I'd take with me on a walk in the sunshine. I'd even skip along to it if I weren't so self-conscious about doing silly things in public. It also comes with a fun and silly PV. Whoever directed this certainly was inspired by old detective shows and then sprinkled it with some vanilla icing and cheesy dancing.

And here's the song in the CM for Mikakutou's "Date Kiss" candy product featuring Senri himself. You'll notice that the arrangement here sounds different from the single version. Apparently Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉), who was then just starting out with TM Network, was originally assigned to arrange the song, and that's the version featured in the CM. While the recording was still in progress, he was replaced by Nobuyuki Shimizu (清水信之), who re-arranged the song into its definitive version. No hard feelings for Komuro, though, since he and Senri eventually became buddies.

Source: tayune shop

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yukio Hashi -- Kozure Ohkami (子連れ狼)

Ahhhhh....yes, memories of my childhood in Toronto. Watching "Happy Days", "Hockey Night in Canada" and some samurai cutting up bad guys like firewood while his kid watches placidly. Yup, "The Iron Samurai" was a must-see for my family on Monday nights at 11 on the local multicultural channel, CFMT-TV (now known as OMNI 1) in the 70s. But it was better known (and more accurately translated) in the comics as "Lone Wolf and Cub", i.e. Kozure Ohkami.

Back in Japan, "Kozure Ohkami" has carved (uh, sorry) a legendary niche in popular culture. The lone wolf warrior has an even more mystical aura in a society which prides teamwork whether in the neighbourhood or the corporation, and of course, having a cute kid around is a no-brainer. First created as a manga by Kazuo Koike(小池一夫) in 1970, the world of "Lone Wolf and Cub" expanded to include six movies, four plays and two television series 30 years apart. Just to give some background on the story, a falsely disgraced and ousted Shogunate executioner, Itto Ogami(拝一刀), escapes with his son Daigoro(大五郎) to travel a lonely path as father and assassin-for-hire while slowly wreaking revenge on the Yagyu Clan which had concocted the scheme in the first place. I always enjoyed how Ogami (and the guys on "Mito Komon") managed to slaughter an entire battalion of swordsmen while nary leaving a mark on them. But even more than "Mito Komon", Daigoro's baby cart was the Edo Era equivalent of James Bond's weapon-filled Aston-Martin; you did not cross this kid without suffering major consequences...either from his dad or his cart.

Now, the original series which lasted from 1973 to 1976 was divided into three seasons. My family saw either Season 1 and/or 2 for which the theme song was "Tetego Hashi"(ててご橋...Tetego Bridge) sung by Herb Satake(佐竹ハーブ). However, even before the Lone Wolf and Cub entered our apartment via the small screen, my parents had played the 45 rpm single that would become the theme song for the third and final season, "Kozure Ohkami". Sung by enka singer Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫) and released on Christmas Day 1971, the song was originally created as an image song for the manga and then used as the theme song for the 1972 movie, before getting its place as the TV theme. The video above has the original theme but the opening credits are of the more recent TV series in the early 2000s.

I remember the song for the children's chorus which sang the first notes as onomatopoeia, and the overall sad child-like melody although the lyrics made direct reference to what Ogami did for a living. Those lyrics, by the way, were written by the originator of the manga himself, Koike, while the melody was composed by Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正) who had created Mood Kayo classics such as "Yurakucho de Aimasho"(1955) and "Tokyo Nightclub"(1959) years earlier (both are already profiled). I gather that in the song, Hashi represented the Lone Wolf while the kids represented Daigoro.

"Kozure Ohkami" not only became a well-known TV theme song but it also managed to win a Japan Record Award and hover at the No. 10 spot on Oricon for a total of 6 weeks. In addition, it also got Hashi his 13th appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1972. The above video is of that appearance, and boy, do I have a piece of juicy trivia for you here. On the stage were several young ladies providing the children's chorus. According to J-Wiki, three of the ladies to the left on the video ended up becoming one of the most famous kayo kyoku groups, Candies. The 1972 appearance was just before their official debut.

Another piece of trivia is not so cheerful, though. The first child actor on the TV series to play Daigoro, Kazutaka Nishikawa(西川和孝), left show business and eventually became an assemblyman for Shirone City in Niigata Prefecture in 1995. In 1999, after dropping out of politics, he was arrested for the first-degree murder of an acquaintance and was given a life sentence which he continues to serve out. I was in Japan when I saw the coverage of this news; my jaw was thoroughly dropped.

Yukio Hashi -- Kozure Ohkami