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, June 12, 2016

Selection of 10 Japanese City Pop Singles by Tsutomu Mori, Part 1

Yep, time to put up my City Pop-friendly photo from the small community of Ito since I'm putting up an Author's Pick for some tunes from my favourite genre in the wide world of kayo kyoku. I was inspired by Marcos V's article on his own selection of his beloved songs. However, my article has a bit of a lemon twist on it which I will now explain.

My eyes decided to wake up before the rest of me did early this Sunday morning. Therefore, just on a whim, I decided to pull out my bible on the genre, "Japanese City Pop", and took an umpteenth look through it for the next hour in bed. On Page 58, there was an article by one of the contributors to the book, Tsutomu Mori(森勉), who is a manager of a record store somewhere in Japan (at least at the writing of the book), and he listed his selection of his 10 City Pop singles, titled originally as "Single de Kiku Japanese City Pop 10-sen" (シングルで聴くジャパニーズ・シティ・ポップ10 選).In fact, I will provide a translation of his opening paragraph (to be accurate, though, it seems like he may have just asked people around him [such as customers and colleagues] to come up with their favourite City Pop tunes and he simply collated them for the article):

I had songs selected just for the reason that they were well-loved and much-listened for many years. For space considerations, there are many songs that were omitted, but when it comes down to it, the feel of a single record is wonderful, isn't it? So from the oldest songs onward...

Now, I haven't asked Mr. Mori's permission to put up his list here but I am hoping that if he or any of his friends or contemporaries ever come across my interpretation of this list that he has contributed to "Japanese City Pop" that he can appreciate that I am simply interested in letting other people know of a professional's favourite list of City Pop. Unfortunately, for the most part, aside from some technical details, Mori doesn't provide a whole lot of personal insight about his choices for this particular list.

I'm providing the first five entries today with the second half a few days later. The comments for each of the songs are my own but if I find something interesting in Mori's original comments, I will paraphrase them in. Also, although the first two entries are new ones for me, the following three already have their own entries on the blog. In the end, I'm writing the article so I can get to hear some new City Pop fare and revisit the ones I've already talked about just to see if I have gleaned some additional insights of my own.

1. Chiemi Eri -- Tabitatsu Asa (1971)

With that certain sound of strings and those fat drumbeats (provided by legendary drummer Hal Blaine), that nostalgic 70s sound comes in loud and clear. I've written about the late Chiemi Eri(江利チエミ)before in "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for a song that she released later in 1974 called "Sakaba nite"(酒場にて)about having that rather melancholy night at the bar, but her earlier "Tabitatsu Asa" (旅立つ朝...The Morning of the Trip), her 84th single from May 1971 has a more hopeful air. It was composed by Kunihiko Murai(村井邦彦)and written by Kougo Hotomi(保富康午); the lyrics are actually about a woman's upcoming trip back to her hometown but my impression is that the lady is waking up in her small apartment in the big city. Plus, the arrangement really feels urban.

I don't know about you folks out there but when I was living in my bedroom town of Ichikawa east of Tokyo, I always found that there was something unique about the sun rising over a still-sleepy urban area.

2. Tonpei Hidari -- Tonpei no Hey You Blues (1973)

Someone brought in the atmosphere of New York City from "The French Connection" for this soul strut of a song. Tonpei Hidari(左とん平)is an actor who was born as Michihiro Hidaki(肥田木通弘)in Tokyo in 1937 and his nom de guerre came about with his last name making a slight sound shift from his birth name and the first name of Tonpei coming from the name of an izakaya he used to know.

Composer Goro Gou(郷伍郎)created "Tonpei no Hey You Blues"(とん平のヘイ・ユウ・ブルース...Tonpei's Hey You Blues)with lyrics by Yoshimichi Mochizuki(望月良道)for release in November 1973. I'm not sure whether Tonpei's character in the song was a gangster or a hard-bitten private detective but from the melody, I could feel that he was quite the worldly and world-weary type. And in terms of the lyrics, Tonpei was possibly wasted and wailing skyward about why he seemed to have become a human wad of gum under the crushing soles of society. The song managed to reach as high as No. 73 on the Oricon charts. Tonpei could have certainly used a sympathetic ear from Popeye Doyle (go watch "The French Connection"). Mori mentioned that although the music and vocals may have sounded somewhat mismatched at first, he gradually discovered that the overall sound worked out.

3. Taeko Ohnuki -- Summer Connection (1977)

I've already written about this song as a part of the article for Tabo's(大貫妙子)album of "Sunshower" from July 1977. That article was something I typed in all the way back in February 2012 so since then I've gotten a lot more listening in to that particular album as well as her other later albums. And considering that period in the early 80s when Ohnuki embraced that appealing and quirky mix of technopop and French pop, hearing something as urban kayo and sunny as "Summer Connection" also makes for a nice refreshing reminder that the singer-songwriter had been involved in genres such as City Pop and New Music.

4. Mother Goose -- Boekifu ni Sarasarete (1977)

"Boekifu ni Sarasarete", a mellow mid-tempo song that fits nicely into the sub-genre of Resort Pop within the bubble of City Pop, is also a tune that has already been covered. Listening to this one again, I feel that I gotta get that debut album "Indian Summer" by the female trio of Mother Goose. I'm just afraid though that every month that passes, this release will get pushed further deeper into the rarest of the rare. However, I've pulled off a few miracles before.

5. Minako Yoshida -- Koi wa Ryuusei Parts 1 and 2 (1977)

Probably one of my favourite Japanese songs...period. If there is a reason to turn off the lights, open the window and simply watch the stars during a night of enjoying a drink, it can be heard here. Minako Yoshida's(吉田美奈子)rhythm section and horns are absolutely splendid.

In any case, I will plow ahead with Part 2 later this week.


  1. Hi!
    I thought City Pop was born in the late Seventies... aren't those early 70s singles a bit out of context?

    1. Hello there.

      Good question. I was also a bit surprised when I was reading "Japanese City Pop" for the first time and discovered that the list of those albums went all the way back to 1970 with the band Happy End.

      But I gather that the contributors in the book felt that the arrangement and the lyrics must have brought home that feeling of the story of the song describing life in the big city. Mind you, I'm still not that convinced that Happy End was really a City Pop band; I think it's still more of rock/New Music group.

      And good thing that you commented on this article since I realized that I have yet to do Part 2 although I wrote that I would do the second half "within a few days". It goes to show what middle age will do to a memory.:)


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