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, April 30, 2020

Shigeru Suzuki -- Suna no Onna(砂の女)

Well, the second Japan-based pop song that influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)when he was a high school lad along with "Kyou wa Nandaka"(今日はなんだか)by Sugar Babe(シュガーベイブ)is Shigeru Suzuki's(鈴木茂)"Suna no Onna" (The Woman in the Dunes) from his solo debut 1975 album "Band Wagon".

As was the case with "Kyou wa Nandaka", when I wrote up "Who Influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu? (Pre-Debut)" yesterday afternoon, I found out that the three songs that had been made by Japanese artists were too good just to reference in one Creator article. Each of them deserved its own article, so "Suna no Onna" gets its due here.

Kadomatsu, having listened to the music of Suzuki's old band, Happy End(はっぴいえんど), mentioned that hearing "Suna no Onna" threw him for a bit of a loop since this and presumably all of the other tracks didn't sound anything like the Happy End stuff. Although I'm still at the exploration stage for that band, my impression of Happy End is that it dabbled in folk-rock and perhaps the beginnings of City Pop. It was pretty heavy stuff...not in a bad way, of course, but it just seemed like a quartet of musicians who really wanted to get across their sound in a serious way.

But with this first track from Suzuki's first solo effort, "Suna no Onna" feels like the guitarist-songwriter swapping out the leather jacket for an Aloha shirt, waving bye-bye to most of his former bandmates and immediately jumping into that red convertible for a sunny beachside destination. Ah, however, bandmate Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)has joined him in the passenger seat to provide the lyrics for this early Resort Pop which really does pop in a cool way. It's the guys having fun on a road trip to Shonan along the lines of Tod and Buz on the old US series "Route 66".

And it really was a road trip of international proportions. "Band Wagon" was produced and recorded in two different studios in San Francisco and Hollywood with Doug Rauch, David Garibaldi and Don Grusin backing Suzuki as the band, according to the J-Wiki and Wikipedia articles for the album. By the way, Suzuki and Matsumoto took care of all of the songs in terms of words and music.

When I first looked up "Suna no Onna" through, I got a lot of references to the 1962 mystery novel by Kobo Abe which was made into a 1964 movie. Indeed, the Suzuki song was named after them.

Who Influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu? (Post-Debut)

Continuing on from Part 1 that is "Who Influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu (Pre-Debut)", I bring you Part 2 with the singers and songs that helped in shaping this man's sound following his official start in 1981 as an entertainer. Again, as mentioned in that article, this is based on a section of Kadomatsu's(角松敏生)J-Wiki biography which has listed these pre-debut and post-debut influences. Unlike yesterday's pre-debut batch in which the majority of the songs were new ones for me, most of the post-debut entries coming up have been very well known and cherished to me since my school years. Kinda like homecoming week.

Hiroshi Sato and Wendy Matthews -- You're My Baby (1982)

I mentioned this in the KKP article for Hiroshi Sato's(佐藤博)classic "Awakening" in which Kadomatsu gave his stamp of approval to this 1982 album, a release by the keyboardist and singer that is perfect as a cool-down AOR project. According to that section on his post-debut influences, Kadomatsu did listen to "Awakening" after his own debut and found it so polished that he felt that he could never match that level of goodness. He even said that as a fellow just barely into his 20s at the time, he didn't have the vocabulary to respond or express for the chords and melody, and didn't have any hope in replicating them. Geez! I can only assume that Sato gave him a pep talk to buck up.

My take on what I just read there is one of surprise considering that Kadomatsu had already released a few albums such as "Weekend Fly to the Sun" before "Awakening" came out in June 1982. I personally found "Weekend Fly to the Sun" a great album, so I can only assume that Kadomatsu was totally in awe of "Awakening". I wonder whether he had been searching for a certain leavening agent to help take his music into more dreamier and introspective circumstances.

Steely Dan -- Aja (1977)

This influence on Kadomatsu made me go "Ah...naruhodo". Considering how much Steely Dan's riffs have been incorporated into many a Japanese City Pop/J-AOR song, I guess that I wouldn't be surprised that Kadomatsu would see "Aja", one of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's greatest creations, as a factor in how he developed his own sound. He said that he underwent a major learning experience from "Aja" which amassed all of the important things in music including musical sophistication, composition, freshness and the challenge itself.

Kadomatsu may have found out about "Aja" a bit late into the party, but he was much better than me because I only...finally...purchased the album only a couple of years ago, much later than Fagen's splendid solo work "The Nightfly". However, I have known about "Peg" and "Josie" for decades since that got regular airplay on the radio, and I've totally fallen in love with "Deacon Blues" and "Black Cow".

Earth, Wind & Fire -- After The Love Has Gone (1979)

Once again, another blessed song from my youth and it's up there in my love for EW&F tunes alongside "September". I actually first heard "After The Love Has Gone" on an episode on an old American sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" during a more contemplative scene, and that is perhaps the perfect scene in real life to hear this one by David Foster, Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin. For Kadomatsu, this was the first Foster song that he had ever heard, and found it had this amazingly sharp and sophisticated mood. He's even stated that "After The Love Has Gone" evokes the best emotion while hearing it during a summer evening. Works for me, too! And you know, I can now get the influence of this ballad upon some of his slower songs.

Christopher Cross -- Sailing (1980)

And perhaps that is also the case with Christopher Cross' "Sailing" when it comes to influencing Kadomatsu's mellower efforts. According to Kadomatsu, apparently when Cross' self-titled album carrying "Sailing" was released in Japan, it sold like hotcakes upon hotcakes, and when he, who at the time was listening to his fair share of disco, heard this number, he felt that AOR had also finally landed in his country.


Not sure how long after his debut he first heard "Sailing", but I actually first heard it when Eugene Levy as the late TV movie critic Gene Shalit performed it in a parody on one of my all-time favourite shows "SCTV". Then, I heard it for real when it was used in a yachting segment during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Luther Vandross -- Sugar and Spice: I Found Me A Girl (1981)

This is the one song that I had never heard before today, and yeah, I'm Gibbs-slapping myself. But better late than never, and don't we live in a wonderful time (COVID-19 excepted) when we have access to decades of great music that we can discover via sites such as YouTube?

Kadomatsu was truly knocked out by the upbeat and funky "Sugar and Spice" when he first heard it, and once again, along with his experience with Yoshitaka Minami's(南佳孝)"Poolside" from the pre-debut entries, he felt that Vandross expressed a world that was far away...a world that he himself wanted to experience. The Shibuya-born musician-producer really desired to know that vibe in New York City where he felt that Vandross was bringing out that world view of his, and sure enough, Kadomatsu got his wish a few years later in 1984 when he went to live in The Big Apple (not sure if he still resides there, though).

With the pre-debut and post-debut influences on Kadomatsu over the past couple of days, I kinda/sorta have a handle on how his music developed, but there is so much there that it will probably take quite a bit longer to absorb and understand it all. Hopefully, your brains will be able to sift through all of it better than I can.

One definite benefit from doing these articles is that when I was exploring Vandross' wonderful song, I also discovered "Street Life" (1979) by The Crusaders, formerly The Jazz Crusaders. It's the type of tune that I've always loved.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Sugar Babe -- Kyou wa Nandaka(今日はなんだか)

Well, I'm keeping part of my promise to cover individually some of those songs that influenced one of City Pop's greatest figures when he was a kid via the first part of the two-article series of "Who Influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu?"

The first one is "Kyou wa Nandaka" (Today, Somehow) by New Music band Sugar Babe(シュガーベイブ)which had members who would become stars on their own: Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎), Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and Ginji Ito(伊藤銀次) among others. One of the tracks on their lone 1975 album "SONGS", "Kyou wa Nandaka" is as joyful to hear as it is to read. The lyrics by Yamashita and Ito read off a very happy man's realization that love is about to come around; it's only a matter of time.

May I also add that Tats' music is sublime with that clarion call piano in the intro and the end along with the free jazz at the end as well? "Kyou wa Nandaka" is the melodic equivalent of a fun and rollicking car ride with the top down anywhere in the big city, and there is that riffing guitar that pops up a few times in the song that reminds me of a motor revving up. Plus, there are those sweet and warm horns accompanying Yamashita's vocals. The music seems to be enjoying life as much as the protagonist is and may even be illustrating the vibrancy of the metropolis itself.

Enjoy aiko's own sunny cover of "Kyou wa Nandaka".

Hiroko Yakushimaru -- Bamboo Boat(バンブー・ボート)

Today has perhaps ended up as being one of the more positive days for me so far during this COVID-19 nightmare. Toronto's rate of new infections dropped to around the low 300s and on a more personal level for our family, TV Japan just announced that their regular broadcasting schedule will be returning this Saturday after almost a month of the NHK World Premium schedule. Not that we had any complaints about the current regimen; most of the regular TV Japan shows are 85% NHK anyways. It turned out that TV Japan based in New York had a number of its staffers come down with the coronavirus which somehow led to the change, but the really good news is that everyone has recovered there. Generally, it's still too early to say that happy days are truly back again, but taking things day by day, perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little bigger.

One of those NHK shows that has continued to be a staple on both regular TV Japan and NHK World Premium has been the morning serial "Yell"(エール), and I just wrote about the theme song by GReeeeN, "Hoshikage no Yell"(星影のエール)some days ago. One of the characters is Mitsuko Sekiuchi, the mother of Oto, the young lady who has suddenly agreed to give her hand in matrimony to the congenial-if-jittery genius songwriter Yuuichi Koyama. Mitsuko is not too pleased with the announcement, especially since she had told her fierce-hearted daughter to break off the relationship with Yuuichi. However, despite telling her imminent son-in-law to his face that he's frankly a dolt, she can also see the good in him and the love that Oto has for him, so she has...reluctantly...allowed the wedding to go through.

Mitsuko is played by actress-singer Hiroko Yakushimaru(薬師丸ひろ子), and it really shows how much time has passed when she's playing a middle-aged mother who's mostly sweet but can unleash her inner dragon persuasively. She's the Taisho Era version of Mrs. Cunningham from "Happy Days". After all these years, I still see Yakushimaru as that wide-eyed teen ingenue in the sailor-suit uniform sporting a machine gun on posters.

And I still remember her as that 80s singer with the soft and resonant voice. Case in point, I found this final track from her 2nd album "Yume Juuwa"(夢十話)from August 1985. Titled "Bamboo Boat", it's been a while since I've listened to Yakushimaru's material, but this particular song is reflective of what my memories relate of her music: personal, whimsical and mellow with plenty of strings.

Written by Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)and composed by Takao Kisugi(来生たかお), the partnership between Kisugi and Yakushimaru is back again after their collaboration on "Sailor Fuku to Kikanjuu"(セーラー服と機関銃)in 1981. Hiroko-chan is singing about a South Seas romance that has since faded into bittersweet memory, but bittersweet chocolate is pretty tasty so the past affair is probably not too hard to take either. It's a nice way to finish up "Yume Juuwa".

Who Influenced Toshiki Kadomatsu? (Pre-Debut)

So, when I think of singer/musician/songwriter/producer Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生), the following phrases and images come to mind:

Summery music.
Moony-eyed romantic.
Urban funkadelia. What can I tell ya?
80s workout studio-friendliness.
Soulful balladeer of yesteryear.

I think that we can all agree that there are probably a few more descriptors that we can add here, but let's stick with this bunch. As for that first phrase of "Summery music", I can distinguish Kadomatsu from Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)in that (fully realizing that both Tosh and Tats have provided a wealth of both uptempo songs and slow love songs) whereas the latter is someone that I can see entertain a small group of good buddies inside the beach house, Kadomatsu is that fellow that I've imagined having fun with the masses at some large venue outside by the shore while he's manning some DJ's turntables. He lives life large, my friend.

Whether it's on his own albums such as "After 5 Clash" including "Step Into The Light" or whether he's providing music for other singers such as the eternally summery Anri(杏里)in "Timely!!", Kadomatsu has come up with that certain sound that brings to my ears and heart anything from Motown to LA of a certain decade to any sort of Resort Pop reminiscent of either Shonan or Venice Beach. He loves his tight horns, crashing synthesizers, boppy bass and angelic chorus.

So, then, what makes Toshiki Kadomatsu tick? More specifically, how did his sound evolve into the grand discovery for all those City Pop fans in the last few years? Well, Rocket Brown of Come Along Radio and I had a conversation the other day, and we found out that the both of us came across a section that exists only in Kadomatsu's J-Wiki article that dealt with how he had been influenced by certain songs and artists before and after his debut in 1981.

The Kadomatsu J-Wiki article has its share of footnotes, but this section on pre-debut and post-debut influences doesn't have them, and when I tried to look up Kadomatsu influences on the rest of the Net, I couldn't find any particular outside article that the section could have been sourced to. Therefore, anyone close to him or even the master himself could have plunked this interesting information down onto J-Wiki. Anyways, what I'm going to do is first provide the pre-debut influences here (with the post-debut influences next day) and a best-possible translated paraphrasing of what I found (although let me know if I did something wrong). Feel free to pour yourself a highball glass of Perrier to get into the mood.

B.J. Thomas -- Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head (1969)

Kadomatsu's first encounter with Western music was in kindergarten in the 1960s, but the first Western song that he fell in love with was "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head". Burt Bacharach and Hal David were behind this Oscar-winning song recorded by B.J. Thomas for the movie "Doc Hudson and SHIELD Official Pierce"...sorry, I should say "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" back in 1969. According to the J-Wiki entry for this particular influence on Kadomatsu, he wanted to create original music with a foundation in R&B along with jazz, and also take into consideration chord development and modulation with an inclusion of a Bacharach approach. Maybe that explains his love of some of the mellow horns and those ballads.

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" was also a song that I remember hearing a lot on AM radio for years and years, but didn't know about the connection with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" until I was almost in junior high school. The horns and the strings get me into a very sentimental mood.

The Beatles -- Hey Jude (1968)

One of the most famous tunes by The Fab Four was released in 1968, but Kadomatsu first heard this when he was in Grade 4 so perhaps just a little after he'd discovered "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head". Strangely enough, though, it wasn't the original version that he first heard but an orchestral version that was used as the theme song for a TV drama, and getting really interested in "Hey Jude", his older brother told him about The Beatles and he managed to buy the single. The following year, Kadomatsu took up the guitar and really got into playing their tunes. So, taking up the instrument and playing in front of an audience was all thanks to John, Paul, George and Ringo.

I mentioned about my observation that Kadomatsu was someone who loved to play to a crowd and made his songs to fit that want to whip up the masses. Wouldn't "Hey Jude" be the ideal template?

Sugar Babe -- Kyou wa Nandaka (1975)

The J-Wiki article here says that Kadomatsu played Sugar Babe's(シュガーベイブ)lone 1975 album "SONGS" so often that he probably wore out the record. Although this particular track by Tats and band isn't directly referenced in the explanation, I assume that it is this song for which Kadomatsu had a dickens of a time trying to match the chord tensions that Sugar Babe came up with, although by his high school years, he had mastered three-chord progressions for rock music. But he got there eventually and it was often "Kyou wa Nandaka"(今日はなんだか...Today, Somehow)that he played.

Shigeru Suzuki -- Suna no Onna (1975)

Reading the paragraph in the original article, it looks like Kadomatsu had also listened to a fair bit of Happy End(はっぴいえんど), the legendary band with Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂), Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣), Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and Eiichi Ohtaki(大滝詠一). So, once the band broke up and Suzuki went solo with his debut album "Band Wagon" in 1975, Kadomatsu decided to give that LP a spin, and was fairly floored by how different the album, including this first track "Suna no Onna"(砂の女...The Woman in the Dunes), sounded compared to the Happy End tunes. In fact, high school kid Kadomatsu, despite his initial good impressions toward "Band Wagon", seemed to have been mystified enough about how good it was that he asked his buddies who loved playing Deep Purple and Yonin Bayashi(四人囃子)at the time whether it was indeed cool. They reassured him that it was.

Yoshitaka Minami -- Poolside (1978)

A track from Minami's(南佳孝)3rd album "South of the Border", Kadomatsu as that teenager had assumed that the world depicted in the lyrics of "Poolside" was some exotic Valhalla for the grownups that he himself could never access. But he also stated that the world view of the lyrics and music helped him grow up to become an adult a whole lot more quickly. Perhaps it kickstarted Kadomatsu into that wonderful summery haven of City Pop/AOR that had been reflected by the overseas cities of New York and Los Angeles. Those earlier songs above may have assisted in the nitty-gritty of making music, but it seems as if "South of the Border" provided the ideal arena in which to create that music.

I definitely have to say that those three last songs in the pre-debut list are all worthy of getting their own articles soon enough on "Kayo Kyoku Plus".

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets -- Aoi Hitomi(青い瞳)

Just found out within the last half-hour from this week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)that drummer and leader of Group Sounds band Blue Comets, Jackey Yoshikawa had passed away on April 20th at the age of 81 in Gunma Prefecture.

For a lot of the kayo fans, the most famous song by Jackey Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets(ジャッキー吉川とブルー・コメッツ)will probably remain "Blue Chateau"(ブルーシャトウ)that was composed at The Lake Louise Hotel in Banff, Alberta, Canada by band member Tadao Inoue(井上忠夫), later to become songwriter Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔). However, I wanted to find another song in tribute to Yoshikawa, and noticed in the "Kayo Kyoku Plus" article for "Blue Chateau" that it was the third and final entry in the band's "Blue" series.

The first entry was "Aoi Hitomi" (Blue Eyes) which was released in March 1966 as an English-language single, their 2nd, written by Jun Hashimoto(橋本淳)with the late Inoue composing it. As to why it was given English lyrics, from what I could glean from the J-Wiki article for "Aoi Hitomi", apparently there was consternation from someone about why a Japanese song should ever be released from a Western label; the producing company was Columbia Records so the song was made to have English lyrics. If I can give my two pennies, I think that there was perhaps a feeling that if a Japanese band were to release a single in English, there would be a certain cool cachet given to them.

"Aoi Hitomi" the English version is the above video, and the plan did work since it sold over 100,000 records and was seen as the breakout song for Blue Comets. Some four months later in July, the Japanese-language version (below) was released as their 4th single, and it did even better by selling over 500,000 records and becoming a nationwide hit. I can imagine that it would have hit No. 1 if Oricon had existed back in those days.

Becoming famous as one of the foundation blocks behind the whole Group Sounds wave in the late 1960s, I gotta say that both the English and Japanese versions of "Aoi Hitomi" have that 60s "Cool, baby, cool!!" factor in there, especially with that organ. I could easily imagine Austin Powers swiveling his butt to it, and maybe it could have snuck onto the soundtrack for either a Tarentino flick or the first "Ocean's Eleven" movie from 2001 by Steven Soderbergh. "Aoi Hitomi" became such a hit that Blue Comets got their first invitation to play the Japanese version (also written by Hashimoto) on the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

My condolences to Blue Comets and Yoshikawa's family on their loss.

Hiroshi Sato feat. Wendy Matthews/Yukiko Haneda -- It Isn't Easy

Was hoping to return to this album, "Awakening" by Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博), a release that got the seal of approval by none other than Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生). Most fortunately, I did find a song that I hadn't covered in the original article for Sato's 1982 magnum opus.

After listening to the track "It Isn't Easy", my first and continuing thought was that it really doesn't need Sato's introductory vocal because I think it almost belongs to a different song. Once it hits 22 seconds, though, that's when we get the ironically easy melody (considering the title) by Sato, the musical equivalent of a hammock swaying gently on the beach. Wendy Matthews is back to provide her lovely voice for the English lyrics against the background of some synth-Asian arrangement, rather reminiscent of the material by Japanese-American band Hiroshima. Sato himself adds a brief jazzy element on the piano along with the background vocals. Lorrain Feather came up with the lyrics.

Yukiko Haneda(羽根田征子)is a Tokyo-born singer who was definitely blessed when she first started out in the late 1980s. Her 1988 debut album "Beating Mess" was produced by Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子), and then her sophomore effort in the following year, "Sora", had Hiroshi Sato in the producer's chair.

So it's not surprising then that one of the tracks on "Sora" happens to be a cover version of "It Isn't Easy", given the alternate title of "Renka Senri"(恋唄千里...Love Song Long Distance). Not sure on my reading of that title although YouTube uploader Keir Hardie's transcription has it as "Renka Chisato" (that first attempt of the second word is based on In any case, Haneda's cover is still within the AOR genre although it tends toward a more soulful arrangement and the singer delivers the song in both Japanese and English; apparently the lyrics in the former language were provided by someone named Yui Masaki(真沙木唯)according to JASRAC.

Haneda has provided 3 singles and 6 albums up to 2008, and according to her website, her full stage name is Johanna Yukiko Haneda, although her real name is Yukiko Ito(伊藤征子). On finding out that kaz-shin at "Music Avenue" reviewed "Sora", I also discovered that he has proclaimed her 3rd album from July 1997, "Good Times, Bad Times", as an AOR fan's must-have. Therefore, I will have to continue the exploration into her discography.

Yoko Oginome -- Dancing Hero: The Archives by jigenbakuda of "The Tasogare Touch"

Hi there, J-Canuck here! Last Friday, I put up an article introducing a fellow J-Pop blogger by the name of jigenbakuda and his own creation "The Tasogare Touch" where he gives some of his own musical insights into particular songs. By his own admission, he has mainly covered the music of contemporary aidoru but from time to time, he has also looked at the older Showa Era stuff as well.

In the name of good diplomatic relations, jigenbakuda requested whether he could provide a guest contribution to "Kayo Kyoku Plus", and I was more than happy to oblige. His article here is based on the Yoko Oginome(荻野目洋子)megahit "Dancing Hero ~ Eat You Up" originally recorded in 1985, and a 2017 album of various versions of that dynamic aidoru classic. So, without further ado, I will now leave it to jigen!

Tomioka Dance Club’s Bubbly Dance Routine, by Akane

So the song "Dancing Hero" is enjoying a bit of resurgence from its major feature in Tomioka Dance Club’s Bubbly Routine that went viral a while back. It happen to coincide (or maybe it was intentional, but I doubt it) with Oginome's release of the "Dancing Hero" archives.  The repackage is essentially every version of Dancing Hero since 1985, its amazing how many times this song has been redone and its still good every time. The track listing shows where the versions are from and who arranged them.


1. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up)
2. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Special English Version-
     English Lyrics:Marco Bruno
     Album 「ラズベリーの風」CD版に収録。
3. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Moderan Version-
     Album 「NON-STOPPER」に収録。再発版「NON-STOPPER+10」にはカラオケ版も収録。
4. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) - '70s mirrorball mix-
     Arrangement :"PARADISE GROOVE" Production's
     Album 「NEW TAKE BEST COLLECTIONS '92」、「ラズベリーの風+5」に収録。
5. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Club Mix-
     Arrangement :須貝幸生、神長弘一、片岡俊彦
     Album 「best hits non stop clubmix」に収録。
6. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Euro Mix-
     Arrangement :Hiroyuki Yasumoto
     Compilation Album「Dance Panic! Presents Euro Panic!」vol.2、3に収録。
7. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) - Extended Euro Mix-
      Arrangement :Hiroyuki Yasumoto
     上記の「Dance Panic! Presents Euro Panic!」の非売品プロモーション用LP盤に収録。
8. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Dancing Beat 2005 Mix-
      Arrangement :SANDRO OLIVE and DAVE RODGERS
9. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Dear Pop Singer Remix Version-
      Arrangement :小倉ヲージ
      Album 「Dear Pop Singer」に収録。
10. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Dear Pop Singer Version-
      Arrangement :本山清治
      Album 「Dear Pop Singer」に収録。
11. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) -Live-
     From the tour「VERGE OF LOVE【荻野目洋子 武道館ライブ】」中の音声トラックより収録。
12. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) <-Instrumental-> (Original・カラオケ)
13. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) <-Instrumental-> (Up-Tempo)
14. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) <-Instrumental-> (Dear Pop Singer Ver.)
15. ダンシング・ヒーロー (Eat You Up) <Accapella> (Dear Pop Singer Ver.)

I linked to the Mirror Ball version because I love love love me some music to vogue to, and this track sounds STRAIGHT out of a 90s New York Ball where they are voguing the old way (read: its my favorite track on the repackage).

The music in "Dancing Hero" is almost identical to the song it covered, Angie Gold’s "Eat you up", a 1985 Italo Disco Hit in Japan. I’ve linked to my favorite version of that song as well. The main difference between the songs is in the lyrics. If you read the translation hereyou can see the Japanese lyrics of "Dancing Hero" and the English lyrics of "Eat you up" are quite different, which lead to different levels of enjoyment. I love Angie’s English version, but don’t care for Yoko’s English version. Although overall, I think the Japanese Lyrics are the most enjoyable of all. There are some notable arrangers on the list, but I will point one out. Mr. Dave Rodgers, the king of Eurobeat helps to arrange the dancing beat 2005 version. It is a real treat... The arrangements are all different enough to justify its place on a release with only one song. Including the live version, which includes live instrumentation. What I would give to hear a live version of the mirror ball arrangement...

To briefly go back to the Bubbly Dance Routine, Akane-chan really knows her music and picked some great tunes and representative songs. So "Dancing Hero" came out like middle of the 80’s and "Cant undo this" came out in the middle of the 90’s. They represent the italo disco scene (dancing machine) in the clubs (like Club Maharaja in the late '80s) and the techno scene (can't undo this) in Juliana’s with their fluffy disco fans and girls in that revealing “BodyCon”. From what I can tell, they are the epitome of excess in Japan due to the Bubble, at least musically. And for those who care, you can find a page explaining some of the slang in the TDC's video, here  (In Japanese).

Anyways, I ended up buying Dancing Hero after hearing it on TDC’s Bubbly Routine... I think... it was a while ago, maybe I heard dancing hero first, but it was around the same time. I only wish I could have seen her perform it live in her heyday, but instead I got to see her perform live with TDC on YouTube! Fun times... fun times...

Yoko performing with the young ladies

Monday, April 27, 2020

Noriko Sakai -- GUANBARE

Y'know...I've seen this title for Noriko Sakai's(酒井法子)5th single, "GUANBARE" for a number of years now, but I couldn't really remember the song. Then when I finally heard it, I realized that I did hear it before. It just so happened that I was watching an episode of "The Best 10", and Nori-P was performing this very song on some elaborate set of a house. As she was traipsing through the living room toward the front door, crazy cut-up tall Takaaki Ishibashi(石橋貴明)of comedy duo Tunnels(とんねるず)was lying in wait right by the door, so when the lass stepped outside, he gave her his famous insane leer right in the middle of the song which threw her off. She could only scream and yell "Iya~da~!" in immensely cute fashion, and in all likelihood, that set off tons of hearts to flutter like butterfly wings. Hijinks aside, basically, this is probably the very first song by her that I had ever heard.

"GUANBARE" (Cheer Up) was released in February 1988 with Yukinojo Mori(森雪之丞)and Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二)taking care of words and music respectively. There isn't any J-Wiki article for the song so I can't find out why the title, which would usually be spelled ganbare(がんばれ), has that extra U. Perhaps it's an affectation for Nori-P's way of pronouncing words.

As for the lyrics, Sakai is singing about standing up from the ground and getting back onto that horse following the end of a romance. There are always plenty of other fish, she's saying. And I'm sure that there were plenty of fans who would have lined up to take the cad's place. Strangely enough, this most Nori-P of aidoru singles "only" got up to No. 7 after her three previous singles peaked at No. 4, but "GUANBARE" will still remain a dear Noriko Sakai song in my heart. ❤

Ichiro Wakahara -- Fukeba Tobu yo na(吹けば飛ぶよな)

Happy Monday to you! Well, while knocking on wood most vigorously, it looks like things just might be turning a positive curve with the pandemic in our province of Ontario since in less than a couple of hours, our Premier will be making an announcement on the timeline for re-opening up the economy. Considering that Doug Ford pounded the slogan "Open for Business" into our heads before COVID-19 hit us, he may be trying to hide some giddiness under that stony face that has been greeting us in daily pressers for the past several weeks. At this point, I think a lot of us will be happy for some good news although a local poll stated that 75% of the population is skittish about opening things up too early.

The surprising thing for me, though, is Tokyo. Despite the Greater Tokyo Area having three times the population of my province, it seems to have only a fraction of the infections that Ontario has been suffering. There are even rumours being bandied about that my old stomping grounds may end up re-opening up a lot earlier although the political leaders and medical experts are insisting that things should be kept under tight control for at least a few more weeks. Well, we shall see (with a healthy dose of skepticism), although if things truly are getting much better there at a much faster rate, they have my envy and gratitude.

In any event, I did PVR another rerun of "Songs of Japanese Spirit" over the weekend which my folks are watching right now. I'm always grateful for the broadcast of these kayo programs from happier times when audiences filled the halls and the singers were all together on stage without the need for remote screens. Not sure how the situation will last on NHK, although according to what I've observed through the previous paragraph, maybe the good ol' days will return soon.

Found this chestnut being performed at the beginning of "Songs of Japanese Spirit", and I think it's one that would be rather appropriate for this time. Titled "Fukeba Tobu yo na" (If You Blow On It, It May Fly) from November 1954, one would think that it's talking about a dandelion seed. However, the lyrics by Jusaburo Tojo(東条寿三郎)relate a happy-go-lucky fellow encouraging the lads that the good times are around the corner if not already here.

The jaunty music is from Masanobu Tokuchi(渡久地政信)who would provide a number of Mood Kayo tunes in the following decade such as Mina Aoe's(青江三奈)"Nagasaki Blues"(長崎ブルース). However, "Fukeba Toku yo na" has more of a feeling of a cheerful countryside enka although the setting is in the city. And before you think that I've forgotten about the singer, it was recorded by Ichiro Wakahara(若原一郎)who hailed from Yokohama.

Born Nakayoshi Tanokura(田野倉仲義), the future Wakahara won a prize at the 1948 NHK (Radio) Nodo Jiman(のど自慢)contest, and then made his debut as a singer the following year. According to the J-Wiki entry for Wakahara. "Fukeba Tobu yo na" may have taken its sweet time gaining success since the article states that the song became a hit in 1956! But with that success, Wakahara became a known name in music, and he got his first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year (although he performed a different tune), the first of five consecutive appearances on the NHK special. In the four succeeding appearances, "Fukeba Tobu yo na" was never sung either.

Wakahara would continue releasing singles until 1988 and would pass away in 1990 from liver cancer.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Happy End -- Ayaka-shi no Doubutsu-en(あやか市の動物園)

The current pandemic has turned a lot of things upside-down and that includes zoos. Over the past few weeks, I've read that the Vancouver Zoo was in danger of closing down permanently, so I'm hoping that the situation on the west coast has been alleviated somewhat. Our own Toronto Zoo has been making a plea for help since it relies heavily on parking fees and admission (and those aren't coming in during the lockdown) to help feed the animals, so it's been going on an emergency fundraising mission.

Found this track on Happy End's(はっぴいえんど)debut studio album "Happy End" released in August 1970. I think the title "Ayaka-shi no Doubutsu-en" has some punny intent. From the kanji for this folk-rock tune, it could mean to say "Ayaka City's Zoo" but there is a term ayakashi(あやかし)that refers to a ghost or something eerie. So it can also mean "Suspicious Zoo".

Lyrics by band drummer Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)have that playfully scary intent of walking through a zoo in the dark, so perhaps we may have discovered an early Halloween kayo. On the other hand, the addition of that kazoo near the end may be the aural equivalent of a knowing wink that everything's gonna be OK. Bassist Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)was responsible for the melody, and it's him and guitarist Eiichi Ohtaki(大滝詠一)behind the mike here.


The temperature may be in double digits for the first time in several days, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Pretty chilly out there and I've shut the window in my room for it.

Anyways, there was a little promotional film made in 1965 for Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" which I've wondered whether it would be considered to be one of the very first music videos ever made. I'd thought that the clip for Billy Joel's "Piano Man" was perhaps the first of its type, but then I caught the one for Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" and that was released back in 1966.

According to the Wikipedia article for "Subterranean Homesick Blues", a lot of other musicians in the decades since have emulated the video. One that I remember well is the video for "Mediate" by INXS which came right after "Need You Tonight".

The list didn't include it, but the rock band SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER had vocalist Aiha Higurashi(日暮愛葉)putting her own clever twist on Dylan's video via her song "Double Life". The track was included on the band's 3rd album "17" from September 1998, and this time, it isn't the throwing of placards but the doffing of T-shirts. Looks like there was a pretty intense relationship going on considering some of the pictorial T's near the end. I do hope that Higurashi was at least able to keep the shirts.

One of the commenters for the YouTube video pointed out the way that Higurashi was a rather frog-like style. To be honest, when I was much younger, I used to sit that way when I sat on floors. I really don't think that I can do that now but then again, I haven't sat on a floor in many years.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

℃-ute -- Tokai no Hitorigurashi(都会の一人暮らし) in Tokyo. Well, actually to be perfectly accurate, I was living in the satellite city Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture (which is only 20 minutes away by the Tozai Line to downtown Tokyo). As with any residential situation, one has got to weigh the good with the bad. Lots of things to do versus higher prices or commuting hell versus many interesting neighbourhoods with their own distinctive character.

Certainly, I'm not the first and I won't be the last to wonder about city living especially in one of the biggest vibrant metropolises on Earth (really gotta extend the subway hours, though). The aidoru group ℃-ute has also mused about the trials and tribulations of this very topic through their 23rd single "Tokai no Hitorigurashi" (Living Alone In The City).

Released in November 2013 as this rapid-fire funky disco number by Hello Project guru Tsunku(つんく), the ℃-ute ladies wonder nonchalantly about how to handle the changes brought about by a move from the countryside to the big city and then maybe even overseas, probably to get away from hectoring parents and then even the boredom of urban Japanese life. Considering that pad that they're dancing in within the video and all of that fashion, I don't think Airi Suzuki(鈴木愛理)and the bunch are hurting too badly.
"Tokai no Hitorigurashi" hit No. 3 on Oricon, and it was also placed in ℃-ute's 8th original album "℃maj9" which came out in December 2015. It hit No. 8. Right now, though, former member Suzuki is getting a fair bit of attention from a duet with another Suzuki.

Koji Tamaki -- Ikanaide(行かないで)

I was reminded by a comment for Anzen Chitai's(安全地帯)"IV" album that I had yet to write anything about Koji Tamaki's(玉置浩二)solo "Ikanaide" (Don't Leave Me Alone) single from November 1989.

It was used as the theme song for the Fuji-TV 30th Anniversary commemorative drama "Sayonara, Ri Koran"さよなら李香蘭), a biography for the singer Yoshiko Yamaguchi(山口淑子)who had gone by the name Li Hsiang-lan or the Japanese Ri Koran while living in the Republic of China around World War II. I never saw the drama starring Yasuko Sawaguchi(沢口靖子) myself, but considering Tamaki's song and the times depicted, I can only imagine many tears were shed in front of the telly.

As an old friend and fellow Anzen Chitai fan once told me years ago, Tamaki once performed a song in concert for the first several bars without any instrumental accompaniment and audience encouragement. It was just his voice alone singing a ballad, and he had everyone in the hall wrapped around his vocal cords with that incredible talent. Probably, a few gallons of lachrymal fluid were left on the floor, too. I wouldn't be surprised if the ballad in question had been the topic of this article. It's beautifully haunting and heartbreaking at the same time. Mind you, for non-fans, "Ikanaide" could also be treated as being a little too overwrought; I remember the song being played on some sort of parody in a "Tunnels" comedy show once. Still, assuming that "Sayonara, Ri Koran" was melodramatic, "Ikanaide" was the perfect tune.

This particular song would probably be the quintessential Tamaki song showing off that remarkable high range. Just how he was able to go through several rounds of practice and recording before the release of the CD without shattering his throat is beyond me. It's pretty much pop opera with that orchestral arrangement. Once again, it was the triumvirate of Tamaki, lyricist Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and arranger Katsu Hoshi(星勝)behind the creation of "Ikanaide". Since its release, it has been covered in both Mandarin and Cantonese by a number of other singers.

According to the J-Wiki article for the song, it wasn't seen as a huge hit for Tamaki when his 5th single peaked at No. 16 on Oricon, but it's been a favourite entry on the concert playlist for his fans for many years. That's no surprise and I'm sure fans knew to bring very absorbent handkerchiefs for that particular song. Apparently, "Ikanaide" first made its appearance on an album through "Anzen Chitai/Tamaki Koji Best"(安全地帯・玉置浩二ベスト)released in August 1994.

The man's still got it, even decades later!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Mayumi Horikawa -- CA-SI-NO(カ・ジ・ノ)

Pretty busy day and night today, so before I end the festivities for another broadcast day, let's try one more City Pop outing.

Let's give Mayumi Horikawa's(堀川まゆみ)"CA-SI-NO" a spin on the roulette wheel. A track from her January 1986 album "Maym", and yep, despite the dark background for that video above, it still works. A song from the jazzier side of City Pop, it still provides some walking fun...or maybe some strutting fun...on any of the main avenues of Tokyo on a Friday or Saturday night. Fine funky beat, tight horns and that sax solo...just the instruments you need for some cool urban contemporary stuff in Japan in the 1980s.

Through the Daemonskald method, I could find out that Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子)was behind the words, while it was a joint effort between Mayumi and Toshio Kamei(亀井登志夫)for the boppy music. "Maym" also has the track "FM Radio Band".

Tomita Lab featuring Yu Sakai -- Itsumo Dokodemo(いつもどこでも)

Like Kazuhito Murata's(村田和人)"TRUST", this song is another entry in "Light Mellow ~ Avenue". A lot of gems in that particular compilation.

"Itsumo Dokodemo" (Always Someplace) is that concoction of silky sophistication that I've come to expect from Tomita Lab(冨田ラボ). His stuff usually demands that flood of endorphins to wash through my brain. This time, his collaborator is singer-songwriter Yu Sakai(さかいゆう)and the two of them create this song of healing from a romantic breakup and perhaps even a lesson for the guy when the next relationship comes along.

The song was originally a track from Tomita Lab's 2013 album "Joyous". The Lab took care of the music but it was Kirinji's(キリンジ)Takaki Horigome(堀込高樹)who provided the tender lyrics. When I saw Horigome's name in there, I knew the partnership would be wonderful. "Joyous" also has Sakai helping out on another group effort, "Kono Yo wa Fushigi"(この世は不思議).

The Tasogare Touch(ザ・たそがれ・タッチ)

I was contacted yesterday by a fellow J-Pop blogger by the name of jigenbakuda regarding his own creation, "The Tasogare Touch".

"The Tasogare Touch" mainly deals in the contemporary aidoru scene in Japan, but jigenbakuda has also mentioned that he likes to also dissect songs from the Showa era since he's interested in what makes them tick and also why they make him tick. For example, he's provided articles on Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)"Eki"(駅)and Junko Ohashi's(大橋純子)"Tasogare My Love"(たそがれマイ・ラブ).

Now, my own comments on both "Eki" and "Tasogare My Love" weren't exactly voluminous so I appreciate the contact from jigenbakuda since he's provided more insights into them through more of a musicologist's approach including translations. I sometimes wish that I could provide a more "scientific" analysis of songs but with our blog, it's usually going to be more of an expression of the layman's like for the kayo.

In any case, have a look at his articles through the links in the second paragraph above and enjoy. It's always nice to have different angles on the same songs.

Greeeen -- Hoshikage no Yell(星影のエール)

Ordinarily, Japan would be entering one of the biggest holiday periods of the year, Golden Week. However with COVID-19, that's not going to be possible. In fact, this will end up becoming the largest mass staycation in Japanese history, and I hope that this record will be achieved. So, certainly, all of my good wishes are going out to my friends and relatives over there to stay safe and healthy during this time.

The last time that I showed any interest in an NHK morning drama serial (8:00-8:15) was all the way back in 2012, the year that I started "Kayo Kyoku Plus", when I watched "Ume-chan Sensei"(梅ちゃん先生). Right now, with the schedule being vastly changed on TV Japan, there is this huge block of time between 5 pm and 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time in which we're getting NHK in real time. So that means getting the 2-hour morning news followed by the current morning drama serial and then the information show "Asaichi".

I have watched the news and then "Asaichi" with the latter being usually presented at 1 pm on tape delay on weekdays when TV Japan used to have its regular schedule. I didn't have much interest in catching the morning serial, but frankly, I think it would have been rather churlish of me to just step away from the living room for 15 minutes between the end of the news and the beginning of "Asaichi" just to avoid the drama so I decided to grin and bear it.

Strangely enough, "Yell"(エール)hasn't been too bad at all. Basically the biography of sorts of songwriter Yuuji Koseki(古関裕而), whose works including the Hanshin Tigers fight song have already been represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", it's been pretty entertaining because there seems to be more comedy than what I would have expected for an NHK morning serial. There is the star, Masataka Kubota(窪田正孝)as songwriter Yuuichi Koyama(小山裕一)who looks a bit like David Hyde Pierce from "Frasier" and has the fidgety timidity of Don Knotts transmitting through his face and gangly limbs. His co-star, Fumi Nikaido(二階戸ふみ), who plays force-of-nature wannabe singer and future wife Oto Sekiuchi(関内音), has also displayed her own share of goofiness. The narrator, Kenjiro Tsuda(津田健次郎), only recently played a literal corporate lizard in an anime.

Of course, there is the theme song that always plays during the opening credits. This time, it's "Hoshikage no Yell" (Starlight Yell) by the band of dentists-cum-musicians GReeeeN, and I gotta say that the song is growing on me as I watch the show. It comes across as an optimistic happy-go-lucky march that foretells the musically-inclined couple's weathering of the usual obstacles (such as World War II) to happiness and success, including something to do with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"Hoshikage no Yell" will be released as a digital download single next month. As for the show itself, I'm not sure whether I will catch every episode, but so far, it's been a nice re-entry for me into NHK morning dramas again. I just wonder whether the current pandemic will cause any disruptions in filming future episodes.

As an update, "Hoshikage no Yell" hit No. 1 on the Oricon digital single charts.

Mariko Tone -- Matenro Monogatari(摩天楼物語)

Well, hadn't realized that it was so long since I put up a Mariko Tone(刀根麻理子)article, and in that one for "Just A Moment", I had mentioned that I regretted not including her in the blog a lot sooner. Some 5 odd years later...

For that matter, one Gibbs slap later, I've decided to include Tone's "Matenro Monogatari" (Skyscraper Story) into the blog. A track from her 2nd album "Purple Rose" from October 1985, this paean to the chilling effects of heartbreak in the cruel grey city was written by Tone and composed by Masahiro* Kawano(川野真寛), and it's got that lovely arrangement of a late 1980s City Pop with that certain melody line bringing in those certain synths of the time.

In a way, "Matenro Monogatari" (great name for a City Pop tune, by the way) rather reminds me of some of the songs that Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)sang during that decade. There's that feeling of sophisticated urban pop further enhanced by that doodling jazzy guitar. However, whereas I picture Kurahashi sitting rather languidly in that expensive restaurant at the top of the Keio Plaza Hotel in West Shinjuku, there's something closer to the ground floor when I listen to "Matenro Monogatari" as if Tone is not at the top of that ivory tower but she's actually surrounded by a lot of towers as she makes her way pensively through the concrete jungle. Nothing like West Shinjuku to bring up a lot of City Pop images.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kei Ishiguro -- I Remember You

Last November, I wrote about an elegant 1978 kayo by singer/actress Kei Ishiguro(石黒ケイ)called "Wasureyuki"(忘れ雪)which brought to mind some of the music by Mieko Nishijima(西島三重子).

Well, in October 1984, Ishiguro released her 9th single "I Remember You", and this one has more of a languid 50s love tune feeling along the same lines of a similarly titled song "Do You Remember Me?" by Yuki Okazaki(岡崎友紀). Heck, even the lyricist is the same: Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ). Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔)was responsible for the melody over which Ishiguro glides over like a soft evening breeze.

Apparently, "I Remember You" was also used as the commercial song for a brand of Suntory beer. I'd say that it would be an appropriate tune for nursing a can of suds while on the back porch. Maybe there's even a Thunderbird in the driveway.🚗

Tatoeba Anata to Watashi no Kankei ni Tsuite -- Move On

I've been more than happy to start up and continue with "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for a number of reasons. My initial mission to seek out other fellow kayo fans in the world quickly attained its goal within a few months thanks to the comments, and I'm happy that some of them became my fellow writers on the blog. Also, the blog and the commenters have provided me with a lot of new songs to enjoy to the extent that I've bought the originating albums. 

One other thing that I've been grateful for is that along with the ability to find out about new songs in City Pop, my favourite genre, I've also been to discover a lot of the artists and songs representing urban contemporary music in Japan going into the 21st century. There have been Ryusenkei and Hitomitoi, and then in recent years, I've been able to enjoy the sweet sounds of Blue Peppers and BLU-SWING.

In the last couple of days, I was informed on my Twitter feed that a new band decided to follow big ol' me. Tatoeba Anata to Watashi no Kankei ni Tsuite(例えばあなたと私の関係について)which translates as "For Instance, Regarding Our Relationship" has identified itself as a City Funk group that started up early in 2019 according to their website. First off, let me thank them for following me and I have followed them in turn.

Due to the length of their name, they've also kindly let folks know that it can be abbreviated down to Tatoana(たとあな)so I will refer to them from now on that way, and the Labels will indicate that as well. Back on April 11th, Tatoana released their first EP, "City Funk" for digital download, and with it, is the track "Move On". It's a healthy slice of fine groove, perfect for a café (are they performing in a café?). It's as short and sweet as that cheesecake as you can see in the thumbnail photo at the top, and along with the smooth vocals of Eri☆na, I enjoyed the Korg (the inheritor keyboard for the Fender Rhodes for 70s/80s City Pop?) and laid-back guitar work. Plus, it's the first time that I've ever seen a drummer (Noya) shimmy through his performance. The other members are Kaipan on keyboard, Corgi (?) on bass and Kenji Takagi on guitar.