Credits

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, January 31, 2016

Shonentai -- Kimi Dake ni (君だけに)




Man, we've just reached 4 years since "Kayo Kyoku Plus" had its first article published. My intent was never to write about every single song that has ever been written in the history of kayo kyoku and J-Pop but every time I reach an anniversary, I'm still surprised at the songs that are still out there.

So why not commemorate this article (No. 2934) by basing it on an old 80s tune since this was the decade for my awakening to the wacky and wonderful world of music? I'm going with "Kimi Dake ni" (Only For You) by the aidoru trio Shonentai(少年隊)since this was a song that I saw performed numerous times on the various video tapes of "The Best 10" back when we were all enjoying our VHS on VCR.

Released in June 1987, this was Noriyuki Higashiyama(東山紀之)and Co.'s 6th single and their first bona fide love ballad as a single. Yep, as I usually remembered the group just bopping all over the place with their high-energy material, to see these guys moving in relatively slower motion while channeling the music of crooners was a bit of a revelation. Supposedly the finger-snapping at the beginning of the performance became one of the symbols of the ballad. I'm sure a lot of junior high school girls were getting all googly and gushy at the guys.



Also, the intro to Kyohei Tsutsumi's(筒美京平)melody just reminded me of an old soul song from the 1970's (I think it could have been "Reunited") before it returned to the usual aidoru ballad. Chinfa Kan(康珍化)who wrote the lyrics to a number of Omega Tribe and Anri(杏里)songs was also responsible for the words for "Kimi Dake ni". The ballad turned out to become Shonentai's 2nd-most successful single after their debut, "Kamen Butokai"(仮面舞踏会)from 1985 as it hit No. 1 and became the 10th-ranked song for 1987. It also earned the group a Gold Prize and a Best Artist Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year as well as an invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen.

And for the folks at home, here is the link to my very first article on KKP. Just heard it again last week on the latest episode of "Kayo Concert".

Just for you....a butter tart

Kome Kome Club -- DECADE


Man, I'm sure glad that the songs on this BEST album by the legendary Kome Kome Club(米米CLUB)lasted better than the plastic cover on my own copy of "DECADE". I bought it as soon as it came out in February 1995 for all those crazy, funky, heartwarming and just plain fun songs that the eclectic band led by Tatsuya Carl Smoky Ishii(カールスモーキー石井)created over those 10 years since its beginnings in 1985. But it isn't just Smoky but everyone else including the larger-than-life James Onoda(ジェームス小野田), the amazing Big Horns Bee and Mari and Minako.

As I've said, I never got to see a concert by K2C (one of my regrets) but from what I've seen on YouTube, it was a blend of Cirque de Soleil, the most raucous Japanese summer festival, a slice of Carnaval, and good ol' Big Band jazz all led by Ishii who I always saw as the Japanese equivalent of Joel Grey's flamboyant Emcee from "Cabaret". I don't know how expensive tickets were to see Kome Kome but I'm pretty sure the audience got more than their money's worth.

Anyways, the list is as follows (all songs were created by the band):

1. Ai wa Fushigi sa (愛はふしぎさ)
2. Kimi ga Iru Dake de(君がいるだけで)
3. Dakishimetai(抱きしめたい)
4. I-CAN-BE
5. Ganso sure danse(元祖 sure danse)
6. Hitosuji ni Narenai(ひとすじになれない)
7. Aishiteiru(愛してる)
8. FUNK FUJIYAMA
9. Shake Hip!
10. Roman Hiko(浪漫飛行)
11. Ai Know Magic(愛 Know マジック)
12. TIME STOP
13. Konya wa Full Kaiten(今夜はフル回転)
14. Gokigen yo! PARTY NIGHT(ごきげんよう! PARTY NIGHT)




"Dakishimetai" (I Wanna Hold You) is your light funk fusion feel-good song by K2C that probably wouldn't been out of place in a Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)album. But actually it was the first track on Kome Kome Club's 10th album from November 1993, "Phi".


Not quite sure how audiences first saw the band when they debuted with "I-CAN-BE" in October 1985. Perhaps folks may have saw Smoky and the gang as the second coming of Kenji Sawada's(沢田研二)glam rock period but if they heard this first single, they would have heard good ol' funk. As for the title, I thought it was being inspired by something but reading the lyrics, Ishii is mourning and resenting the end of a relationship, and so I think the title is more of a pun on the expression akanbe which refers to a childish facial expression for dissing. The single was originally placed on their first album "SHARI-SHARITHM" from 1985, but the song was re-released as a single in March 1990 which got as high as No. 67 on Oricon.




"Ai Know Magic" (Love Knows Magic...or just a pun on I Know Magic) is another upbeat tune of disco-soul which was a track on K2C's 8th album, "Octave" from June 1992. Smoky is singing about a fellow who just can't seem to believe his good fortune that the girl he likes actually likes him back and is now doing some comical hemming and hawing. Sounds like many a Japanese comedy-drama.


"Konya wa Full Kaiten" (Firing On All Cylinders Tonight) is a re-acquaintance on this CD that I enjoyed so much that I played it twice on the player. More on the zoot suit jazz side of things, I wondered if the band had dancers in 40s gear jiving away on the stage while Ishii sang this one. Big Horns Bee really brought the house down here. The song in the video comes out at around 6:07 but the previous entries include "Kimi ga Iru Dake de" and "Roman Hiko".


Speaking of that last song, here is "Roman Hiko" once more, a K2C classic and a karaoke favourite.

Not surprisingly, "DECADE" hit No. 1 and broke the million barrier, eventually becoming the 8th-ranked album of 1995. Kome Kome Club had a sabbatical of sorts for almost a decade before coming back for a second round from 2006. Hopefully, that may mean there is some hope that I could make it to a K2C concert if I can scrounge up the funds to make it back to Japan again.

I only have one disappointment when it comes to "DECADE" though and that the band didn't decide to include the fantastic "Abracadabra" from 1994.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hiromi Go -- Samui Yoake (寒い夜明け)


Those nasal pipes are undoubtedly Hiromi Go's(郷ひろみ). "Samui Yoake" (Cold Dawn) is his 19th single from November 1976 and it's the first time I've heard it. Quite an interesting pedigree behind it; the lyricist was a man by the name of Kazuo Umezu(楳図かずお)who was not only an actor and a musician but was also an author of Japanese horror and manga, and according to his Wikipedia write-up, basically has written manga of every genre whether it be sci-fi or comedy. There is nothing particularly scary about the lyrics he wrote for "Samui Yoake"...just rather sad in that Go sings about putting on a brave face over the end of a teen romance.

The unusually cheerful melody was provided by prolific Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). Although the song was released closer to winter, there is that summery feel to "Samui Yoake" along with those disco strings which brought things fairly close to City Pop territory. And I wondered whether this would have been something that Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)could have tackled without raising any eyebrows considering the arrangement. As I said, it's a pretty interesting tune which got as high as No. 5 on Oricon. It is also a track on his 8th album "Machikado no Shinwa"(街かどの神話...Street Corner Myths)which was released a month after the single.


Mayumi Itsuwa -- Fuyuzareta Machi (冬ざれた街)


Kinda needed to cool down tonight. I had my usual Skype English lesson with my long time student who informed me that he needed some help preparing for a big meeting that he needs to conduct in English in a couple of weeks. Now, I've always appreciated his patronage and the lessons for the past number of years but it's even better to know that there is an imminent need to apply his language skills, so I was quite a bit more excited than he was about the prospects. In any case, I will be busy for the next couple of Saturday nights.

So, I was thinking about which kayo to cool down with. Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓)is someone that I hadn't covered since last summer, and her songs are often very calming and introspective...the perfect cafe ballad. I actually thought about "Atsui Sayonara"(熱いさよなら)from 1984 but found out that I had already written about that one back in late 2014 (considering the number of articles up on the blog now, I can hopefully be forgiven for some memory lapses).

Well, that gave me the opportunity to explore some of her earlier material in the 1970s. And so I discovered her 5th single from February 1974, "Fuyuzareta Machi" (Wintry Streets). It starts with a thumping drum roll before some nostalgic piano comes on and then things slow down to match the pace of a stroll on those wintry streets after a major storm when the sun comes out and the snow seems to absorb all of the ambient sound.


Written and composed by Itsuwa, it definitely has that 70s pop sound that I've identified with her buddy Carole King and also with Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)at around the same time. It's interesting to compare her New Music days of that decade with the more French-sounding material in the following ten years. I guess in a way comparisons can be made between Itsuwa and Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)in terms of how their respective careers evolved during the same time but there are some significant differences in their sounds.


Kazuko Matsuo and Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars -- Ozashiki Kouta (お座敷小唄)



Before I continue with articles on the other 3 members of the Yon'nin Shu, I'd first like to talk about "Ozashiki Kouta" while it's still on my mind - I'd wanted to write this a while ago but didn't because I forgot about it.

So far, I have written about quite a few "Mood Kayo All Stars" groups like Happy and Blue, Los Primos, and Tokyo Romantica, which only leaves out 2 more on my list. I'm still waiting for a Los Indios tune to come by, preferably something I'm not familiar with, but as of today, I'm glad to say that I can cross out Hiroshi Wada & His Mahina Stars (和田弘とマヒナスターズ). This band specializes in Hawaiian Mood Kayo; out of the 3 categories of Mood Kayo, this is the one I find a tad strange due to the addition of the wonky steel guitar. To me, it's kind of like adding the beach to the existing imagery of a nightclub or nomiya. Despite this contradicting imagery, I must say that it can intensify the mood depending on the song, like in "Nakanaide" (泣かないで), where the steel guitar made it much more unnerving and mysterious. Likewise it gives the jaunty melody and fun dodonpa rhythm of "Ozashiki Kouta" an exotic flair.



Earlier this week, the "Kayo Concert" episode had the Mahina Stars as one of the guests aboard - that was enough to make me happy - and they sang none other than "Ozashiki Kouta" with Natsumi Kawano (川野夏美) as a stand-in for the Queen of Mood Kayo, the late Kazuko Matsuo (松尾和子), in a theater situated in Bonto-cho, Kyoto, which is the first area of interest that appears in the song. Quite a quaint-looking place. Sticking to the theme drinking and getting drunk, the lyrics from an unknown lyricist are about a couple having rendezvouses at presumably a bar in Bonto-cho where they can meet and have a drink. Unfortunately for the both of them, the fellow is already committed and so the lady has to leave him by the end of each encounter no matter how much she loves him... I know this may be a little late for me to notice this, especially since I listen to the genre (including enka) a lot, but "Ozashiki Kouta" is one of the few songs where I'm able to see/hear (for myself) that the characters are having a tryst/trysts. Must be because it was explicitly stated in the second stanza sung by Matsuo, so I need not infer from the rest of the lyrics.

"Ozashiki Kouta" was composed by Akira Mutsu (陸奥明) and was released in August 1964. It was very well received, selling around 2.5 million copies, and so it spawned a sequel in the following year, "Zoku Ozashiki Kouta" (続お座敷小唄), as well as a number of singles that are similar in style to it, like this one called "Uramachi Kouta" (裏町小唄).

Man, the MK group single covers...
blogs.yahoo.co.jp/teds3d/60959114

I was wondering what a "Kouta" is so I went to look it up. I still have not a clear idea on what it is, but what I managed to gather was that this type of ditty goes way back to the Edo era.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Atsuko Hiyajo/Ryusenkei -- Maware Maware (まわれまわれ)


During my usual translation work today, I put in "Light Mellow - Twilight" into the player for a second round, and I found myself starting to really like Track 1 which was "Maware Maware" (Turn, Turn) by Atsuko Hiyajo(比屋定篤子).

I had come across that name before in kanji although I didn't quite know how to read it at the time. Once again, it was through my curious searches for City Pop that I had yet to hear on YouTube that I first found the name. But it wasn't until I got "Light Mellow - Twilight" that I finally got to hear the pearly tones of Ms. Hiyajo, and in fact, I was only able to read the name finally by finding her official website.

Hiyajo, who has enjoyed singing since she was a little girl, hails from Okinawa and when she was attending Musashino Art University in the suburbs of Tokyo, she entered a circle which focused on the study of Latin music. It was from there that she got involved in a band with her as vocalist. During her time at university, she also met Jiro (or Haruo) Kobayashi(小林治郎)who was trying to become a composer, and the two started picking up gigs at the live houses in the Big Sushi. In 1997, she made her debut and it was with her 2nd album in 1999, "Sasayakareta Yume no Hanashi" (Talk of the Whispered Dream) that "Maware Maware" became a track. Hiyajo wrote the lyrics while Kobayashi composed the music.

There is some very nice and sunny groove going on with "Maware Maware" which makes it a fine tonic during the current winter and a good accompaniment for the later summer. The arrangement for the original song also had me thinking a bit of Shibuya-kei, and with Hiyajo's vocals, the band paris match in particular.


In the decade since, Hiyajo has put out a number of albums but in 2009, she had a collaboration with groovy band Ryusenkei(流線型)via the album "Natural Woman" and in that release, she and the band put out a new version of "Maware Maware" which, as one commenter put it, sounded a bit more in the TOTO vein (the band, not the toilet). Both versions sound just plummy to me.


Tomokazu Sugita, Shinnosuke Tachibana, Jun Fukuyama and Daisuke Ono -- Hoshizora Rendezvous (星空ランデブー)


For my friend and I, it's been an unsettled picture in terms of the newest anime season. We caught some of the pilot episodes of the new shows a few weeks ago but it looks like things may be a bit leaner than usual. However, the two of us have caught onto one of the more bizarre shows in recent memory and I say this as someone who has seen and enjoyed anime that involved animals in a "Cheers"-like setting and heroines who use high technology and the sound of music to battle evildoers.

Yup, I'm talking about "Sekko Boys"(石膏ボーイズ...Plaster Boys), an 8-minute comedy series about an aidoru group composed of 4 plaster busts: St. Giorgio, Medici, Mars and Hermes, and the manager who has to take care of the....guys. And they are all voiced by some of the star male seiyuus who pull out the full ham.




We've got Tomokazu Sugita and Daisuke Ono(杉田智和・小野大輔)from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya", Shinnosuke Tachibana(立花慎之介)from "Gundam Build Fighters" and Jun Fukuyama(福山潤)from "Shirokuma Cafe" and "Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai" as the titular Sekko Boys also singing the ending theme called "Hoshizora Rendezvous" (Starry Night Rendezvous). It sounds a bit like your run-of-the-mill Johnny's Jimusho aidoru tune (the title sounds like an 80s female aidoru song) but that intro had me thinking of the Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" way back in the 1970s. The song was written by Bonjour Suzuki(ボンジュール鈴木)and composed by Masuda Moveman(満寿田ムーブマン).

Not sure how "Sekko Boys" is gonna do this season but I gotta give my respects at the way-out-of-left-field idea.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ami Ozaki -- Foggy Night


Ahhhh...I do love my old 80s Japanese funk...or City Pop. I should be paying some more attention to the Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)albums from around the late 70s and early 80s at the very least. "Foggy Night" is a title that I would have placed for some sort of ballad, but instead as Ozaki had created it, it's a cool little number driven with guitars by Michael Landau and keyboards by Canada's own David Foster. And here I thought it was just Anri(杏里)and Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)who was involved with the cross-Pacific musical pollination back in that decade.


My image of Ozaki is usually of her sitting behind a synth or a piano playing away so I was quite happy to see her getting in a bit of dancing with her backups on stage as she's performing "Foggy Night" in concert. The song was actually the B-side to her 5th single for Pony Canyon "My Song For You" released in May 1982, but it had originally been a track on her 3rd album for the the same studio, "Air Kiss" from December 1981.


Shingo Katori -- Shingo Mama no Oha Rock (慎吾ママのおはロック)


Man, has it been that long?! I remember when this song and the singer behind it were all over the airwaves.

Japan is the one country I know whose pop culture is whimsical enough that one word or phrase can catch so much of the popular imagination that the Top 10 Catchphrases of the Year has been a mainstay year-end event since 1984. And for one year, it helped spawn a hit song that just managed to miss getting into the Top 10 for 2000.



My daily schedule back in Japan was such that I often didn't need to leave the apartment for work until some hours later in the day. So I often lounged around past breakfast doing some channel surfing, and aside from the morning news shows, there were quite a few kids' programs around including one on TV Tokyo called "Oha Suta"(おはスタ...Mornin' Studio)in which one of the ways of greeting was "Ohhaa~".

Well, the goofy member of SMAP, Shingo Katori(香取慎吾), had a comical character which originated on one of the many SMAP shows scattered all over Japanese TV "Sata Smap"(サタ☆スマ...Saturday SMAP)who looked like a hybrid of June Cleaver and an ostrich by the name of Shingo Mama(慎吾ママ). Somehow he and the "Ohhaa~" expression got together and a phenomenon was born. I can no longer see Shingo Mama without hearing "her" cheerful "Ohhaa~"....not that I've seen Katori's alter ego in the past decade or so.

Then Mama and "Ohhaa~" got a further bump up by getting their own song. Given the drawn-out title of "Shingo Mama no Oha Rock", the single was released in August 2000 and was written, composed and produced by Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽)from Pizzicato Five. And as would be expected with such a combination of folks and contagious pop gimmick here, it sounded like a kids' tune on a couple of cans of Red Bull. Thanks to Konishi, it's pretty darn catchy and Shingo Mama doesn't sound too bad.


The video for "Shingo Mama no Oha Rock" further amped things up with not only a cast of dozens doing the goofball choreography (that probably had the kids of the nation dancing in the living room) but a fistful of cameos by actors, comedians and tarento (plus Shingo's bandmates) chanting out the mot d'annee on a scale similar to the "Ghostbusters" music video. The one jaw-dropper is seeing a certain American music legend even getting in on the act near the end.

Shingo Mama hit No. 1 on Oricon and quickly became the 12th-ranked song of the year. It was also the first hit single by a solo SMAP member to reach the top spot, selling around 1.3 million copies.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yasuhiro Abe -- Kimi (君)


Virtually all of my entries on singer-songwriter Yasuhiro Abe(安部恭弘)have been during the 1980s. According to his article on J-Wiki, he stopped releasing singles in 1993 and there was a 7-year gap between albums from 1995 to 2002. However, he came back with a new album "4 New Comers" and then the next year, out came "Heaven Roses".

I found one track on the album simply titled "Kimi" (You) and despite its 21st-century entry, the ballad had that mix of new and nostalgic. For that latter adjective, I started thinking about some of the Latin-tinged kayo that had been released back in the 1970s with the best representative being Keiko Maruyama's(丸山圭子)"Douzo Kono Mama"(どうぞこのまま)from 1976. With lyrics by Saeko Nishio(西尾佐栄子)and music by Abe, I realized that the singer may have taken some time off but he could still give out some fine croon. And in the unlikely case that Abe actually reads this article, this is not to give offense about the song which I do like (especially that sax) but I automatically mused about having dinner in an especially nice restaurant as I listened to it. A fine glass of wine I would order to this and I don't really drink. If any more of his tracks on "Heaven Roses" are on this level, then I could be persuaded to part with my cash for the album.


the brilliant green -- Tsumetai Hana (冷たい花)


I didn't follow the brilliant green too closely as a fan but along with their breakthrough hit, "There Will Be Love There" from May 1998, I did like the single that immediately followed it, "Tsumetai Hana" (Cold Flowers) which came out a few months later in August.

To be honest, I had forgotten the title but I still remember the melody created by bassist Shunsaku Okuda(奥田俊作)which had that deeper growl in the guitars. Vocalist Tomoko Kawase(川瀬智子)wrote the lyrics about gradually getting out of a bad time with renewed quiet strength, and the combination of her vocals and those guitars has given me that nostalgic sense of J-Pop back in the 90s. Of course, I know that there was the Komuro Boom of dance pop and the return of a more disco-ey and glamourous aidoru during that decade but there was also that musical breather in the form of guitar-based bands like the brilliant green. Songs like "Tsumetai Hana" would be stuff that I would love to hear at home on a rainy day. Strangely enough, I think the leaves tend to pop into a brilliant green after a good rain.


"Tsumetai Hana" was BuriGuri's 4th single which hit the top spot on Oricon and later became the 62nd-ranked song of the year.


Hideo Murata/Hibari Misora -- Muhomatsu no Issho (無法松の一生)


Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho yes! Now this is a Murata song. "Muhomatsu no Issho" is fierce with an air of authority, which is pretty much how I view Hideo Murata (村田英雄) - the perfect song to start off the enka veteran's 44 year-long career. Plus just seeing him stand on stage with his head held high while wearing a dour expression on his face and growling out the song so awesome. It kind of looks as if he's going to deliver a beat down on someone who crossed him! But I suppose that's appropriate, especially with the song featuring a violent character from a novel who picks fights over every little thing.

As you can see, "Muhomatsu no Issho" was based on the 1938 book, "Toshima Matsugoro Den" (富島松五郎伝), which was later renamed "Muhomatsu no Issho" in 1943 by the author when the first movie adaptation was made. The story, set in Kokura, Fukuoka, revolves around the titular Matsugoro, a rickshaw-puller who also goes by Muhomatsu (lawless Matsu) because of his rough and tumble, quick to anger personality (I can easily imagine Murata as this character), and his relationship with an army general's widow and son.

The 1958 movie commercial.

For how Muchi's debut single came to be, legendary composer Masao Koga (古賀政男), having heard the then young rokyoku singer over the radio, decided to create a song with Otojiro Yoshino (吉野夫二郎) regarding the story of Muhomatsu since the theater plays and movies (as of 1958) had element of rokyoku in it... or something on that line. And so "Muhomatsu no Issho", the song, was made and released in July 1958, 3 months after the 2nd "Muhomatsu no Issho" movie a.k.a. "The Rickshaw Man" was shown. Many years later in 1981, the words "Dokyo Senryo", which was actually the name of the B-side to the single in the late 50's, were officially added to the tune's title, eventually making it "Muhomatsu no Issho (Dokyo Senryo Iri)" (無法松の一生〈度胸千両入り〉). I'm not sure why the need for that, but it makes the title look pretty cool.


What I like best about "Muhomatsu no Issho" is Koga's melody. The combination of shrill strings and the shamisen makes it rather ominous and foreboding. Then about a third of the way into the song the tapping and thumping of the taiko comes in to set tone for when Muchi describes the Gion festival and the notorious Muhomatsu getting into yet another tussle.

With it being one of Murata's well-known works - he only sang it once on the Kohaku in 1975 though -  "Muhomatsu no Issho" had been covered multiple times by other enka singers. Aya Shimazu, Fuyumi Sakamoto, and Kiyoshi Hikawa are some examples, but the one that I'd like to show here would be Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) rendition simply because it introduced me to the song. I sort of hijacked Mom's phone as she was watching listening to the Queen of Kayo on YouTube and found the video you see below. At that time (just a few months ago) I knew "Muhomatsu no Issho" was a popular Murata song but I never got around to listen to it so I took that opportunity to do so. As expected, Mom didn't like it even with her favourite Misora behind the mic, but I thought the music and Misora's muscular delivery was definitely worth another listen. Now it's one of my Muchi-favourites. Misora's cover can be found in one of her posthumous cover albums, "Misora Hibari Showa wo Utau" (美空ひばり 昭和を歌う), from 2002.



Muho-Muchi
tayune.com/?pid=500048

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Yoshiko Ohtsu -- Tokyo Anna (東京アンナ)


Tonight's episode of "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)was about having a boisterous time at the bars of which there are many all over Japan. And to go along with them, there is plenty of Mood Kayo. There were quite a few of them Noelle and I have already written about, but then I came across this one that I hadn't heard before.

Kaori Mizumori(水森かおり)did the cover of "Tokyo Anna", a rumba dance of a Mood Kayo which was originally released as the 2nd single for then-17-year-old Yoshiko Ohtsu(大津美子)from Aichi Prefecture. It was quite the heady start for the singer who had just released her debut single of "Chidori no Blues"(千鳥のブルース...Plover Blues)just a couple of months before in July 1955. It became a huge hit which led to Ohtsu getting onto the 1956 Kohaku Utagassen for the first of 7 times.


"Tokyo Anna" was written by Tetsuro Fujima(藤間哲郎)and composed by Masanobu Tokuchi (渡久地政信)who acted as Ohtsu's mentor from 1953. As for the lyrics...well, the title says it all. It's about this legendary lady hitting the establishments of Ginza with the guys probably begging for a dance with her. In a way, the melody sounds somewhat like what would have been customary for a tokusatsu program. Considering that this was a song in the mid-50s, it made me wonder about what the most expensive neighbourhood of Tokyo (if not Japan) was like back then. The metropolis was still just a decade after World War II but I gather that Ginza had already become quite the happening place even then.


Singer Natsuko Godai(伍代夏子)puts on quite the show for her rendition of "Tokyo Anna" and such was the case tonight with Mizumori. But that's pretty much what Anna deserves when it comes to her song.


Naomi Sugimura -- Sunset Memory (サンセット・メモリー)


I didn't think I would ever see a YouTube video featuring somewhat obscure singer Naomi Sugimura(杉村尚美)but I found one the other day. However then again, I had never expected to come across any sort of video featuring her old band, Higurashi(日暮し), but I was delighted to not only find them online but also to find that mystery song that I had been searching for decades, "Aki no Tobira"(秋の扉). Miracles do happen.

With the breakup of Higurashi in 1979, Sugimura had a very brief solo career before calling it quits in 1982. In 1981, she had her debut single as a solo singer, the jaunty "Sunset Memory". The song was written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and composed by Toshiyuki Kimori(木森敏之), and instead of the breezy City Pop/J-AOR of "Aki no Tobira", Sugimura's "Sunset Memory" seemed a bit more in the traditional kayo pop vein...almost as if it should have been released at least some years beforehand. Lyricist Ryu had also written for another singer Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)and it is that singer which I was reminded of when I heard this particular song.


According to J-Wiki, "Sunset Memory" did become a hit for Sugimura although I couldn't find out how high it got on Oricon. I'm assuming that it was also on her first album, "Naomi FIRST". However, after another couple of singles, she hung up the mike for good and got married. She is now a beauty adviser.

A sunset memory of Shibuya 109

Kanae Ito, Mai Nakahara, Kana Ueda and Mamiko Noto -- Romantic Strike (浪漫ちっくストライク。)


Well, another Sunday of anime and food. And I got to see more of the 2009 TBS anime "Taisho Yakyu Musume"(大正野球娘。...Taisho Baseball Girls), the heartwarming tale of a group of high school girls in Taisho Era Japan trying to create their own baseball team. I did mention in the article for "Tokyo Bushi"(東京節), the musical number that the main character of Koume sings in the first episode, that her performance was the only spot of zany humour I saw. Ah, once again I spoke too soon. Last night, I saw a couple of later episodes which were downright out in left field (pun fully intended) and then I came across the above YouTube capture of a scene that I will probably catch next time at my friend's place which covers the usual anime trope of walking through a scary forest. Much hilarity ensues.

The other observation was realizing how many well-known seiyuu were crammed into this show. Of course, back then perhaps not all of them were as famous as they are now, but still to know that a number of these ladies would end up in some of my favourite anime such as the "Fate/Stay Night" franchise, "Uchoten Kazoku"(有頂天家族)and "Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun"(月刊少女野崎くん)was enough to feel that with "Taisho Yakyu Musume", I was watching something even more special.


Anyways on to the topic of the article. The opening theme song "Romantic Strike" hasn't exactly become an earworm like seiyuu Kanae Ito's(伊藤かな恵)rendition of "Tokyo Bushi", and in fact, I had to refer to the video on YouTube to remember how exactly the song went, but still listening to it again with Ito and her fellow cast members Mai Nakahara(中原麻衣), Kana Ueda(植田佳奈)and Mamiko Noto(能登麻美子)had me getting happy again. Written by rino and composed by Takayuki Hattori(服部隆之)who I just wrote about the other day for creating the dramatic soundtrack to the old PS1 game "I.Q.", the song is all sunniness and cherry blossoms that had me pining for some of the J-Pop tinged with a bit of disco or Shibuya-kei at around the turn of the century with Misia and bird among other singers. It was arranged by Kaoru Okubo(大久保薫)who would come up with an even breezier and happier anison some years later.


I love the horns in the opening credits but boy, do they turn loose in the full version of the song. Kinda wonder if Ito and company looked pleasantly surprised when the trombone and trumpet burst out in the second verse. "Romantic Strike" managed to hit a double of sorts when it reached No. 58 on Oricon.


Monday, January 25, 2016

HOUND DOG/Akiko Wada -- ff (フォルティシモ)



Not sure but this could be the last song that I remember from my Kuri days that I have yet to put up on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". The title is easy to remember with just two identical letters (standing for Fortissimo), and it was often a song that roused the bunch in the karaoke bar whenever anyone who was liquored enough gave this one a try.

The other things I remember from HOUND DOG's 10th single is the intro whose synths made it sound like the theme song for some 80s action-adventure series by Stephen J. Cannell (a la "The A-Team") and gravelly-voiced Kohei Otomo's(大友康平)anthemic delivery of the refrain. I bet just about every young company worker who's gone through a hellish week of bowing in profuse apology to angry clients and getting screamed at by the kacho gave "ff" the good ol' college try at karaoke. It just has that sort of tone that references an old Hollywood line "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!!" and demands copious amounts of Asahi.



Ironically enough though, it was actually used as the commercial song for Nissin's Cup O' Noodles since university students probably had lots of issues as well.



Well, whatever the need, "ff" has become the karaoke favourite for a certain generation of amateur singers. I never tackled it though since I couldn't be convincing at all as a rock pretender. Written by Yukio Matsuo(松尾由紀夫)and composed by Hitoshi Minowa(蓑輪単志)who was the keyboardist for the band, it was released in August 1985 after which it peaked at No. 11 on Oricon. The song also got onto HOUND DOG's 7th album "Spirits!" which was released in August 1985.

Kohei Otomo has always been the frontman for HOUND DOG since it first started up in 1976. There have been a number of changes in the lineup over the decades but it seems that, according to the J-Wiki article on the band, the most stable period was between 1978 and 1984, with Junichi Yajima(八島順一)and Yoshihide Takahashi(高橋良秀)on guitar, the aforementioned Hitoshi Minowa on keyboards, and Sadao Kaito海藤節生...I hope that this is the right reading)on bass. However since 2006, it's just been Otomo who has also plied his trade as an actor and tarento.


HOUND DOG didn't get onto the 1985 Kohaku Utagassen to sing "ff" but in 1991 when the 42nd Kohaku Utagassen was due to be broadcast, NHK extended the invitation to the band to sing the song, but the members didn't cotton onto the idea since they felt it was too old an song and they just didn't want to sing it, instead feeling that they would prefer to try out "BRIDGE" which was to be released in February the next year. NHK nixed that idea and HOUND DOG was taken off the list to be replaced by Bubblegum Bros. The band has yet to considered for another appearance but I imagine Otomo has never really lost any sleep over it.

In 2011, Akiko Wada(和田アキ子)did a funky cover of "ff" for a Suntory beer commercial which consequently became her 87th single in April.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Yujiro Ishihara -- Brandy Glass (ブランデーグラス)


I'm glad that this week is finally over. It started off with having to do Mahjong-paper-based presentations, which I find much more stressful and troublesome to do than your regular PowerPoint slides, for 3 consecutive days for 3 modules. Immediately after came an enjoyable albeit harrowing field trip to the S.E.A Aquarium - mode of presentation switched to standing in front of an aquatic exhibit of each group's choice with no notes for reference, all while competing with noisy tourists and annoyingly boisterous Chinese New Year music on the speakers. To cap it all off, a repetitive but somewhat interesting lab session where we had to isolate fish DNA. Now that it's over, I feel like a tire being deflated and the need to listen to something soft and mellow to help me wind down was strong.

Naturally, the singer who first came to mind was none other than Yujiro Ishihara (石原裕次郎). His delicate and smooth vocals are very much welcomed when the internal battery is flat. However, being not particularly well-versed in his songs - haven't had the time or thought to explore much of that Yujiro album I got - I went to have a look at the jazzed-up renditions of his hits from Hiroshi Tachi's (舘ひろし) cover album. "Brandy Glass" was my pick as I have developed a newfound liking for it, which I attribute to the trumpet-and-saxophone-filled arrangement from Tachi's version. It's more like something you'd hear at a jazz bar. As for Ishihara's long-selling hit from 1977, I was actually disappointed by it when hearing it for the first time early last year as I expected more than just that. But giving it a second chance since Tachi's cover was pretty good, I learnt to appreciate it.


The original has a slightly different feel to it; I find it more Latin Mood Kayo with a hint of jazz and the lone trumpet and the piano tinkling away gives off a more lonesome feeling, making it easy to imagine Tough Guy sitting at the bar by himself swirling his brandy in the round-bottomed glass. To a certain extent, it also feels warmer and more comforting. The only thing I don't like from this song is the female backup singer who greets you at the start of the song with her high-pitched voice and chimes in from time to time throughout. Makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. But I guess it sets the tone for "Brandy Glass".

As mentioned above, "Brandy Glass" was first released in 1977, but if I read correctly on the song's J-Wiki page, it didn't sell well then and there. Only in 1979 did it gain popularity after it was sung by Ishihara's character during an episode of "Seibu Keisatsu" (西部警察) with the title "Wakare no Brandy Glass" (別離のブランデーグラス). It was re-released in that year, this time peaking at 11th place on the Oricon charts, and it stayed within the top 100 for 65 weeks (that's amazing!), allowing Yujiro to recieve the Long-Seller award at the 23rd Japan Record Awards in 1981, where it was the 22nd best selling song for that year.

Oh, not to forget that "Brandy Glass" was put together by the renown lyricist Yoko Yamaguchi (山口洋子) and composer Mitsuru Kotani (小谷充). And J-Canuck did an article on this song a while back, you can check it out here.

topicks.jp/20495

Top 10 Singles of 1968

1.   Masao Sen                                 Hoshikage no Waltz
2.   The Folk Crusaders                   Kaettekita Yopparai
3.   Pinky & Killers                         Koi no Kisetsu
4.   Masayoshi Tsuruoka &             Otaru no Hito yo
      Tokyo Romantica
5.   Yukari Ito                                  Koi no Shizuku
6.   The Tigers                                 Hana no Kubi Kazari/Ginga no Romance
7.   Simon & Garfunkel                   The Sound of Silence
8.   Tomoko Ogawa                        Yuube no Himitsu
9.   The Bee Gees                            Massachusetts
10.   The Tigers                               C-C-C





Rentaro Taki -- Yuki ya Konkon (雪やこんこん)


Not a whole lot of time to do any writing today due to work and then my brother's family coming over for dinner so I thought it was time to put up an old children's song that was sung to me by Mom all the way back.

"Yuki ya Konkon" (Snow Falling Thickly) was composed by Rentaro Taki(瀧廉太郎)who sadly passed away at the very young age of 23 in 1903. However in 1901, he came up with this well-known cheerful winter song with lyrics by Kume Higashi(東くめ).


Another reason that I'm putting this song up is that the Eastern Seaboard is getting hammered with a weather phenomenon that will probably go down into lore as "The Blizzard of 2016" so I'm hoping that some of my friends/commenters in the affected areas are doing OK. The translation for "Yuki ya Konkon" can be found here.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Kyoko Koizumi -- GOOD MORNING-CALL


Oooh, wow! Blast from the past or what? I used to see Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子)perform this song all the time on those rental videos of "The Best 10" or "The Top 10".

"GOOD MORNING-CALL" was Kyon-Kyon's 25th single from March 1988...man, did she ever pump out the singles! I had no idea that it was Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)who composed the song. When I was writing up "The Works of Tetsuya Komuro" last weekend, I did point out that his 80s contributions for female singers were of the hopeful and moving forward type. However, this one for the pixieish Koizumi was just plain sweet and cutesy like a particularly well-arranged Cinnabon...certainly Kyon-Kyon's adorable voice kept up the image. Listening to the synths, though, I should have figured that TK had something to do with it.


The song was also notable in that this was the first song that Kyoko actually provided her own lyrics for. And they were about waiting in great anticipation for her darling's wake-up call; I could just see the valentines popping out all over her. I can only assume that she was already living in her own place since I can also envisage the awkwardness if she were still living with the parents and one of them answered Loverboy's call (remember, the 80s were still far before the age of cellphones).


"GOOD MORNING-CALL" managed to hit No. 2 on Oricon and was the 49th-ranked song for 1988. It was also the campaign song for Knorr Soups, a company that she represented for some years. I used to buy the package fairly often since I was a sucker for their cream soup with added croutons. Yeah, it was probably as chemical as Cup O' Noodles but still...


KMM Dan -- Saturday Night Witches


I think this might strike readers from outside of North America rather ironically but currently there is a massive snowstorm smashing into the eastern half of the United States while Canada stays quite calm. CNN is doing a full court press.

Meanwhile, KMM Dan(KMM団)will probably have a grand old time at the karaoke box singing this tune, if the above video is any indication. Yup, it's been a couple of years but I'm finally putting up the other song by the group of seiyuu involved in "Witchcraft Works". Not as much of an earworm as "Witchcraft Activity", "Saturday Night Witches" was also written and composed by the technopop unit TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN FUND as an interesting tribute to what I think is old 80s synthpop. It's not quite full funky R&B and not quite full New Wave but it is an intriguing Japanese tribute to the music of the big hair, gaudy makeup and broad shoulders that was all the rage back in the decade of my high school and university years.


In terms of the lyrics, it's all about having a great time downtown tripping the light fantastic, preferably without the gigantic violent bunnies. I very barely head out on Saturday nights nowadays so there is definitely a natsukashii element listening to "Saturday Night Witches"...all those old discos, trips to Kuri and late-night midnight snacks.





Thursday, January 21, 2016

tohko -- Bad Luck On Love ~ Blues On Life ~


Throughout the 4 years that I've been writing on this blog, I was scouring my brain for a particular singer that I had vaguely been able to remember back in the 90s. At the time, the name escaped me although I could remember an album cover of hers, but when I was writing the Creator article for Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉), my memories finally divulged the name: tohko.

For a while, she seemed to be the It girl on the charts as the music video for her debut single, "Bad Luck On Love ~ Blues on Life ~" got heavy rotation on the various music shows. Released in January 1998, it was written by Marc Panther from globe and composed by Daisuke Hinata(日向大介). Even though, the song wasn't directly a Tetsuya Komuro creation, there was something about the sound which fairly hinted at his involvement as producer. Plus, at the time she reminded me quite a lot of TK's then-ingenue (or not...not quite sure how long the relationship lasted) Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美). The reason that I could remember her at last was because her name (which was then written as トーコ until her 3rd single) was listed as being one of the Komuro Family.


However, "Bad Luck On Love" has a more down-to-earth sound to go with the girl-next-door look of tohko. When I was re-acquainting myself with the song, I have to admit that I couldn't quite remember the verses but then when the refrain came out...ahh...now I could since it was always that part of the video which was shown on programs like "CD Countdown". Nowadays, my exposure to the latest Japanese pop music has mostly been restricted to anison and the AKB stuff so that it is nice to hear some of the mellower late 20th-century material again.

"Bad Luck On Love" peaked at No. 14 (spent 9 straight weeks in the Top 20) and went Platinum before becoming the 72nd-ranked song for 1998. It was also a track on tohko's debut album, "Tohko"(籐子)from August of that year which went all the way to No. 3.

As for the singer herself, she was born Tomoko Saito(斉藤朋子)in 1977 in Tokyo. She was a member of the Otowa Yurikago Kai(音羽ゆりかご会), a very famous children's choir which has performed a ton of anime and tokusatsu songs. When she graduated junior high school, she had tried to enter the prestigious Takarazuka Music Academy but failed the 2nd round of examinations.


Asako Toki with Sho Wada from TRICERATOPS -- Human Nature


I remember Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" getting heavy rotation on the radio back in the early 1980s and also in my ears and heart. It was a wonder that I didn't rush out and get "Thriller" in those days but it wouldn't be until well into my time teaching in Tokyo that I finally got the classic album. By that time, I was no longer listening to radio so hearing the song again (and every other song) fired off waves of nostalgia for the R&B of my youth.


Speaking of my Tokyo days, I have to give my thanks to Tower Records since it was there that I had first heard of Asako Toki(土岐麻子), the chanteuse of contemporary mellow pop. It was often the case that I entered the huge Shibuya branch and when I got onto the 2nd floor, there was a display of one of her albums. Always interested in giving artists that I had never heard a chance, I put the headphones on when her 2011 BEST compilation of covers and commercial songs "LIGHT!" was first released. Among one of the tracks was her own version of "Human Nature" with Sho Wada(和田唱)from the rock band TRICERATOPS. Suitably mellow and more acoustic than the original by Jackson, I was quite struck at how close Wada sounded to the legendary Michael.

In any case, the duet by Toki and Wada plus some of the other tracks (one of them is "Gift", a duet with EPO) did the trick and I bought my first Toki album. But actually, her version of "Human Nature" originally came out on her 13th studio album from 2010, "Ranhansha Girl"(乱反射ガール...Girl of Diffuse Reflection)which I would also purchase some time later. It would peak at No. 32 on the album charts.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mina Aoe -- Ikebukuro no Yoru (池袋の夜)


As many people who have lived in Tokyo will attest, the megalopolis has a number of city centres. Shibuya is the Mecca of Youth, Akihabara is the Electronics Haven and Shinjuku has got that split personality of tall skyscrapers and tightly packed bars and red-light establishments. Ikebukuro, though, is that amalgam of city centres that could just be an overall downtown, albeit a fairly dense one. It has the youth, it has the electronics stores and it has that one big tower in the form of Sunshine City 60 plus its fair share of seedy bars. I've visited the area as much as I have the other centres and I think I can say that Ikebukuro comes across the jack of all trades compared to the specialists of Shibuya and Akiba. It's got a bit of everything.


Therefore, I cannot be surprised that this hustling and bustling area also has a kayo in tribute to it, and it's done by the husky-voiced lady of class, Mina Aoe(青江三奈). "Ikebukuro no Yoru" (A Night in Ikebukuro), Aoe's 16th single from July 1969, has lyrics by Shizuo Yoshikawa(吉川静夫)which go over the usual pining over a lost love affair in the particular area.  However the music by Masanobu Tokuchi(渡久地政信)has more of an enka feeling than a Mood Kayo one although I can still envisage Aoe crooning away in some smoke-filled bar somewhere between JR Ikebukuro Station and Sunshine City 60.


"Ikebukuro no Yoru" became Aoe's biggest hit, selling over a million records and spending 6 straight weeks at No. 1. It would later become the 7th-ranked song for 1969 and it had enough push to even become the 30th-ranked song for 1970. Not surprisingly, it earned a spot for the singer on the 1969 Kohaku Utagassen as the top batter and also a Japan Record Award.

Taeko Ohnuki -- Romantique (Follow-up)

Bohemian (17:03)
Hatenaki Ryojo (21:13)

This is a follow-up on an article I did all the way back in 2012 on singer-songwriter Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)4th studio album, "Romantique" from 1980. As I mentioned in that article, "Romantique" was a change in direction for the former member of Sugar Babe who had hit a rut of sorts a couple of years back. It was notable for incorporating some of that trendy technopop spearheaded by her friends in the Yellow Magic Orchestra and a more exotic European sound compared to the New Music and City Pop that she had been writing and performing. You might say that this was even Newer Music.

In the other article, I covered the synth-driven "Carnaval", the quirky "Decade Night" and the wistful "Ame no Yoake"(雨の夜明け)which has the synths combined with her new European sound. In this article, I have a couple of more tracks, "Bohemian" and "Hatenaki Ryojo"(果てなき旅情).

"Bohemian" continues from "Ame no Yoake" with the combo of Euro and synths. However, it also contains some further and interesting mixing of some gently pulsating Latin rhythms at the beginning followed by an elegiac waltz before those rhythms return to extend into a melody of life in the big city with Ohnuki making shoutouts to New York and Hollywood. According to a 1983 interview in the journal "Music Steady" via J-Wiki, she mentioned that the bohemian in the title referred to her. As she put it, it was about "That one person having the dream and heading out to succeed in one city, and if he/she fails in grabbing that chance, heading over to the next city to try again". Perhaps the song was inspired by those several months between "Romantique" and her previous album "Mignonne" when she was thinking about what to do with her career. Just from listening to the music, it seems as if she were portraying some of that early angst before the melody lightened up considerably signalling her getting back down to brass tacks.

"Hatenaki Ryojo" (The Neverending Mood of Traveling) is another fascinating track that just sweeps through like a romantic epic. It is also reminiscent of "Bohemian" in that Ohnuki describes a woman looking for love and her life's work although instead of moving around America, this lass is jumping from city to city in Europe. There is that sense of her waiting on train platforms for not just the train but also for what could be the next big opportunity in romance. That mandolin in the instrumental bridge might represent one extended adventure in one exotic country.

So it looks like a couple of these tracks shows a bit of wanderlust on Ohnuki's part.

I dunno but this photo makes her look slightly elfin.




Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tazumi Toyoshima -- Tomadoi Twilight (とまどいトワイライト)


Tazumi "TAZZ" Toyoshima(豊島たづみ)is a Fukuoka-born singer-songwriter who I first found out about through one of the CDs in the "Good Times Diva" series with her song "Tomadoi Twilight" (The Bewildering Twilight) from February 1979. Showing that Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)wasn't just their only client, Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木燿子)created this atmospheric ballad about a woman going through the sufferings of loneliness. The heroine seems to be spending her nights at the bars surrounded by the usual barflies only to come home to an empty room.


Although the lyrics hint at life in the big city, the music has a bit more of a countryside feeling due to those pan flutes (?) that are part and parcel of the original melody. Momoe may have sounded like the toughest suffer-no-fools-period woman of the city, but Tazumi's delivery of "Tomadoi Twilight" has a more crackly quality as if that same woman Momoe had portrayed was now a wiser, sadder and more resigned veteran now simply going through the motions of hitting the watering holes and hoping beyond hope that someone would even greet her with a friendly word.


Of the 10 singles that Toyoshima has released, this was arguably her most famous song as it peaked at No. 19 on Oricon, becoming the 78th-ranked song of the year and selling almost 150,000 copies. The sad ballad also became the theme song for a 1979 TBS drama titled "Tatoeba, Ai"(たとえば、愛...For Example, Love)about a popular radio DJ who's caught between her current husband and her previous one.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Chikuzen Sato/Superfly -- Desperado


A few celebrities have passed on in the past several days. David Bowie was one with actor Alan Rickman coming very quickly after (loved him as the deliciously villainous Hans Gruber in the original "Die Hard"). And now I have found out that Glenn Frey of The Eagles also left this mortal coil earlier today.

I was not an Eagles fan but certainly through the karaoke bars and boxes, I've heard enough takes on "Hotel California", and the band was almost right up there with The Beatles, The Ventures and Carpenters in terms of popularity in Japan. In fact, the first teacher I worked with on the JET Programme was an Eagles fan and I think part of the reason for him being so musical was his love for the music of Frey and Don Henley. Of course, my connection with him was through his work in the 1980s with his pop hits of "The Heat Is On" and "You Belong To The City".

However one of the most hauntingly beautiful ballads that I have heard was "Desperado" as sung by Frey. My own rule on the blog as applies to me is not to feature the same singer twice in a month, but I wanted to give my own tribute to Frey through a couple of cover versions by Japanese artists, one who was just put up a few days ago.

Chikuzen Sato(佐藤竹善)gives an absolutely beautiful bluesy version of "Desperado" on his 1995 "Cornerstones" album. Perhaps not through his voice, but melodically, he may have been channeling Ray Charles though the synths were a bit twee.


Then, there is Superfly's version which came out on her 2010 album "Cover Songs: Complete 'Track 3'". I couldn't help but be reminded of Linda Ronstadt singing the song while listening to Superfly.


Of course, I will leave off the man himself. I'm not a religious person by any means but if I were, I can imagine that both Bowie and Frey must be having one heck of a jam session right now.


Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Be A Superman (ビー・ア・スーパーマン)


Over the past weekend, the movie channel Showcase was running multiple viewings of "Man of Steel", another reboot of the Superman franchise. I did see it on the big screen and my good friend actually gave me the DVD but until this past weekend, I hadn't bothered seeing it again. Watching it with relatively fresh eyes again, I could appreciate certain scenes (Krypton, the battle scenes) but I thought it was basically a movie of some good scenes which wasn't quite more than the sum of its parts. I am hoping that "Batman vs. Superman"  which comes out in a few months brings something far more magical and is perhaps somewhat even better than the past year's "Avengers" entry.



Well, let's make a cheap segue to YMO or perhaps for this song anyways, YMO. I first came across "Be A Superman" on my purchased "YMO Go Home!", and I had never heard of this entry since it came out in August 1993, well over a decade after my awe for the Yellow Magic Orchestra had dissipated. The title was certainly intriguing enough. Were Sakamoto and the boys paying tribute to the American superhero or were they going for the more philosophical Man/Superman (not that I know much more about it)?

It was indeed a single created by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi(坂本龍一・高橋幸宏), and I was impressed by the nice little R&B groove added to the percolating techno. Would have loved to have seen this performed at a rave in the later hours. As for the "Superman" part, the lyrics didn't go either way. Instead it was just a gravelly voice (and a pretty voice) exhorting what seemed to be a perpetual hikikomori to get off his or her duff and make something of himself or herself.


Imagine my surprise on finding out in the liner notes that the gravelly voice belonged to the late William S. Burroughs. "Naked Lunch" W.S. Burroughs?! Did YMO actually lure this guy out to the recording booth? I'm not totally sure but I think the band just pulled out a few samples although I don't know which speech or lecture the phrases came from. Whatever the case may be, it was quite the inspired song. The above video, by the way, is of the Technodon concert by the guys but the music is a remix by Towa Tei.

"Be A Superman" was indeed on YMO's 7th and final studio album, "Technodon" from May 1993 which peaked at No. 2. As for the single itself, it only got as high as No. 76. But hey, that doesn't take away at how cool it still sounds.