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, April 19, 2015

Motoharu Sano -- Someday

Because of the high from my first listening to "Sugar Time" and the long reputation behind Motoharu Sano's(佐野元春)"Someday", I plunked down the cash and got my copy of "Someday" the album. There was also inspiration from reading nikala's article on his 1984 album, "Visitors" and listening to the songs there.

Now, I know that I've already written an article on the song, but I just felt like putting up a video of "Sugar Time" again since it's just pure pop pleasure a plenty (although Sano sounds somewhat tortured up in the video)! It is probably the poppiest track on the entire album and I get a small kick from hearing the line "Suteki sa baby"(素敵さBaby...'s wonderful, baby!) since I hear it as "Steak's a baby!" Yep, that's what I think whenever I cook up a juicy sirloin.

"Someday" was released back in May 1982 as Sano's 3rd album. One reason that I got it was reading that "Visitors" article in which nikala remarked that the singer-songwriter was more in the rock and blues vein a la The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, unlike in "Visitors" where he took that leap into New Wave and R&B. After listening to the whole of "Someday" the first time, I definitely got that Springsteen vibe (and boy, am I a fan of "Hungry Heart"). But at the same time, I also got that impression of Billy Joel for some reason, notably through The Piano Man's seminal 1977 album, "The Stranger".

"Downtown Boy" (not to be confused with the Yuming song) had me thinking of Springsteen in terms of the melody if not in the vocals (I realize that Sano doesn't sound anything like The Boss). The track was also his 5th single from October 1981, and when I heard it for the first time, my mind went to George Lucas' 1973 classic "American Graffiti" and the character of John Milner (Paul LeMat), the tough guy cruising down the main strip of Modesto, California back in 1962. He's the lone wolf and he's perfectly happy with that.

Then we have the title track of "Someday", arguably the song that Sano is most famous for. It was his 4th single from June 1981 and I was a bit surprised to hear that it never became all that much of a hit for him in its first release (not even entering the Top 100), but then it got as high as No. 27 on Oricon in its re-release in 1990. In my neck of the woods, though, it was something that I heard from time to time being sung at our old karaoke haunt of Kuri, my first exposure to Sano. As with "Downtown Boy", there is something proudly romantic and American about "Someday" which makes me wonder if the singer had been born a couple of decades too late and in the wrong nation. Methinks he would have been just at home on that Modesto strip in a T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes and a pompadour hairstyle. The lyrics are also plenty poignant as Sano declares to his lady love that despite all the trials and tribulations he will make things right for her someday.

Speaking of "Hungry Heart", that intro had me reminiscing about that song.

"Futari no Birthday"(二人のバースディ...Birthday for Two)is Sano's flight into some mellow air as boyfriend and girlfriend celebrate that important day. That sparkly keyboard by Akira Nishimoto(西本明)which pops up a couple of times pretty much landed the song into City Pop territory.  I can imagine young Jack and Diane heading off to their very first fancy-schmancy restaurant and sipping their very first glasses of champagne with all of the adorkable spillage that most likely occurs. Ah, youth...

(cover version)

What can I say about "Mayonaka ni Kiyomete"(真夜中に清めて...Purify at Midnight)? It's another lush romantic ballad that not only had me thinking of Billy Joel but also a lot of The Beatles, especially John Lennon. And there is even one word in the lyrics that pretty much helps my theory. I love the strings in there which have that soaring quality that I remember from not only some of those 60s ballads but some of Joel's songs especially when he would make his own tribute to that particular decade in "An Innocent Man" which came out a year after "Someday".

The song, though, that had me thinking of both Springsteen and Joel is "Rock N' Roll Night". The Springsteen side of the equation is taken care of by the music, but the Joel part of things came from my remembrance of that one epic track on "The Stranger", "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" which was about the up-and-down lives of a couple over the decades. Like "Scenes", Sano's "Rock N' Roll Night" is a long magnum opus...even lengthier than Joel's song by about a minute, but although it isn't the time-spanning epic of "Scenes", Sano co-relates the story of old friends who have parted on different paths as he represents the final person to cast off that chapter of their old lives and move on to a new life somewhere else. The other narrator is the music itself. It doesn't go into the dramatic shifts in tone and arrangement like "Scenes" but as I said, "Rock N' Roll Night" is about those several hours of darkness instead of several decades, and a lot of the melody has that feeling of a proud tribute to an era about to end, some nervous reluctance and regrets before realizing one more "It'll be OK" blast and then quietly going off into the dark in the last minute or so of the song. "Someday" might be Sano's big hit but I'm pretty sure that "Rock N' Roll Night" is probably the one song that everyone wants to listen to at the end of his concert.

"Someday" got as high as No. 4 on the weekly album charts and finished the year as the No. 38 album.


  1. Hi J-Canuck,

    Happy to see you got "Someday". I agree that Sano has drawn inspiration from Billy Joel from time to time, which spilled over into "Sunday Morning Blue" from "Visitors" as well. I enjoyed reading about all the detailed references to 60's music and film that you drew from the songs. I always thought that he has been more Western in his approach to songwriting, even moreso than the other contemporaries from his home country. 95% of the stuff he plays on his radio show are British and American classics.

    Another interesting note about "Rock N' Roll Night" is the line that translates to "Golden ring in the rubble" and is a reference to the British poet William Blake. According to this page ( Blake), Sano first read Blake's book "Songs of Innocence and Experience" in his high school's chapel while on suspension, which had a refreshing effect on him in those apparently turbulent teenage years. (I have a feeling he probably gave his teachers lots of trouble.) The message also suits the attitudes of the characters in the song, like that hope of moving on that you mentioned. The reason I found this detail interesting is that I happened to be studying Blake in my Romantic Poetry course when I first came across Sano's music, and then stumbled upon the reference while doing my own background research on "Someday".

    Anyway, excuse my long rant. I have to say that my favorite tracks from the album aside from the one above are "Sugar Time" and "Mayonaka ni Kiyomete". There's also the mid-tempo "I'm in blue" which I've enjoyed greatly.

    1. Hi, nikala.

      Yep, I'm quite happy to have gotten "Someday", especially after writing the article since I was able to get a little deeper into the listening of the album. I did get the impression that he's had quite the love for Western music...perhaps I should have even tagged the album as New Music.

      I did not know about the Blake reference so I'm glad that you brought it up. It seems that Sano may have thought himself as a modern-day balladeer. And the fact that he was probably quite the hellraising rebel in his school days probably added some more depth to him and his writing. In all likelihood, one of us will probably cover one of the songs that I didn't get to in the album.

      I will have to get a copy of "Visitors" pretty soon. Always appreciate the comments.


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