Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Japanese Groupsounds

I nominated a Spiders song for RR a couple of weeks ago and that (along with Fintan's "WTF" post recently) prompted me that I had never followed up on my long-ago promised expose of Japanese 1960's Groupsounds music. The main reason I didn't is because it seems to me that without understanding Japanese, the tunes are possibly a little hard to like! The Japanese voice doesn't have the allure of French or the lilt of the Latin languages and to be honest it's not a particularly pleasant sound when viewed as another instrument.

But it holds a lot of appeal for me, so i've put together a few of my favourite songs from the era for your delectation.

Here's the brief history:
As Beatlemania swept the world in the mid-60's, Japan was not immune to the charms of the mop-topped ones and the hip young things of Tokyo started growing their hair and attempting to shake off the conservatism of post-war Japan and forge their own future. Music-wise, the result of this was a movement called Groupsounds (GS) that was a mixture of raw 60's garage sounds and manufactured saccharine sixties pop. You have to dig deep to pick out the diamonds from the fluff but it's rewarding when you do find a gem.

The Spiders - KoKeKokko
First up are the kings of GS and the closest Japan had to the Beatles (in terms of popularity that is, i'm not suggesting that these chancers had an ounce of the vision and talent of Lennon & McCartney). The Spiders were pure manufactured mid-60's pop, but under the leadership of singer Masaaki Sakai (later to become a hero to a whole generation of British schoolkids as Monkey), they had a certain charm. This is the tune I nominated for RR and the lyrics seem to be an argument about what came first, the chicken or the egg?!

The Carnabeats - Sukisa Sukisa Sukisa
Sticking with the lighter side of GS, I just LOVE this tune by The Carnabeats (that's them in the photo above). Not sure why, but the story of unrequited love that unfolds and the impassioned cry of "O mae no subete" ("you are everything") strikes the underdog chord.

The Golden Cups - Hi Wa Mata Noboru
If The Spiders were the Beatles, The Golden Cups were The Rolling Stones (but not quite so famous!). Tall and rakishly handsome bassist Louis Louis Kabe had a don't-give-a-fuck attitude reflected in the more reckless and raw sound, making them one of the best GS bands. The title can be translated as "The Sun Will Rise Again" and is a B-side.

The Mops - Hayaku
The Mops are another favourite of mine, I was going to post their self-referential classic "I'm A Mops" (sic), but ruled it out because it's all sung in English (well, one form of English at least!), and chose this one instead. I'm not sure of the exact title, the version i've got is from a compilation LP made for a western audience that lists the song title as "Haiku", but it's definitely not called that, because he's singing "hayaku" ("hurry!") not "haiku", so i'll call it my version of "Hayaku"!

The Tigers - C-C-C
The Tigers were second only to the mighty Spiders in terms of popularity. They put out a huge number of singles and albums, splitting up once in 1971 and re-uniting again at the start of the 1980's. This tune is a bit cheesy, but the handclaps alone make it irresistible to these ears.

The Mops - Omae No Subete
Just as an extra, I can't resist posting this deranged nugget by The Mops (again!). This tune popped into my head a couple of days after the deadline for "desperation" songs had ended, it would have been a surefire A-list i'm sure!


ejay said...

I love this kind of stuff, and liked all of these. I have a compilation of Okinawan music, which is a bit less rock-y but there's some fine stuff in there, although you have to be ready for some marmite singing. I'll drop it.

Makinavaja said...

I'm looking forward to listening to this. Thanks.

Japanther said...

Got it Ejay, thanks for that, looking forward to giving them a listen tomorrow........I played the first track and after a few bars Mrs J's ears pricked up with a "Eh...what's that? Okinawa?" which shows how distinctive the Okinawan sound is!

Blimpy said...

cant wait to get stuck in!

Blimpy said...

cant wait to get stuck in!

TonNL said...

More great Japanese stuff from the 60's can be found on the excellent compilation "Nippon Girls" on the always excellent Ace Records....

Shoey said...

Was having a little trouble getting some of these to play. Liked what I heard - was like the 60's happening in some strange alternate universe.