In MUSIC & PARTIES we’ve looked at the psychedelic rock that came out of San Francisco, California in the second half of the 1960s as one of the defining factors in the development of popular music since. Acid rock had a wide-ranging effect over generations of musicians and across music genres. We’ve covered:
In MUSIC & PARTIES #025〜#041, we covered electronic dance music. From disco in the 70s to modern rave culture and EDM, psychedelic experiences—whether it’s induced by dance, music, drugs, or all of the above—have been at the center of the scene from its beginnings.
In this article we will look at how psychedelic rock from the U.S. and the U.K. affected Japan. We’ll look at some of the musicians that came to prominence in the early 70s, and the lasting impact they had in shaping the Japanese music scene to this day.
2. “New Rock” and “New Music” and the Question of Whether to Sing in English or Japanese
The epicenter of the hippie/counterculture (*1) scene in Japan was Shinjuku, Tokyo. In 1967, young, barefooted people wearing t-shirts and jeans and sporting beards and long hair started gathering in the streets. They were called saike-zoku (the psychedelic tribe) or fuuten-zoku (the vagabond tribe) for their fashions and their freewheeling lifestyle and disinterest in holding regular jobs.
*1 The hippie movement was a counterculture movement that rebelled against the established institutions, traditional values, and social norms that characterized the materialistic Western worldview up until the mid-1960s.
In terms of music, British bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had become popular among the youth. In June 1966, The Beatles performed their first concert in Japan, sparking the birth a many rock groups with the four-person vocal/electric guitar/electric bass/drums lineup. Their music, which fused Western rock music with Japanese popular kayokyoku music, came to be known as Group Sounds (*2).
*2 Group Sounds is a genre of Japanese rock music that fused Japanese kayokyoku (Showa-era pop) and Western rock music in the late 60s.
Group Sounds bands mostly liked to play covers of their favorite Western rock artists, but the Japanese record companies that signed them had other plans: they had professional kayokyoku songwriters and lyricists write music for them, and made sure those were the songs they were playing live. The Group Sounds fad would reach its peak in 1968, after which it went into a decline; the youth counterculture movement wasn’t as focused or robust as it was in the West. The delinquent/vagabond look did not go over well with older generations, and many middle schools and high schools began to prohibit their students from attending Group Sounds concerts, which led to venues and entire municipalities refusing to rent out their stages to the bands. The Group Sounds craze would come to an end around 1970—mirroring the decline of hippie idealism in the U.S.
The hippie culture and rock music that took root in Shinjuku would spread along the JR Chuo Line (*3) out toward areas like Ogikubo, Koenji, Kichijoji, and Kokubunji. The neighborhoods became home to many musicians, artists, and entertainers. They became popular among young Japanese moving to the city for college, and some even fostered small-scale commune-style communities. This is why to this day, these areas are known for their live music venues, jazz kissaten, small theaters, second-hand clothing stores, used bookstores, and other underground (*4) and bohemian (*5) subcultures.
*3 JR Chuo Main Line is a major railway line in Japan that runs across the center of Tokyo and connects to Nagoya.
*4 Often abbreviated in Japanese as “angura”.
*5 For a concentrated dose of Japanese bohemian culture today, also check out the Shimokitazawa neighborhood.
Among the musicians that were active in the 70s underground rock scene, some became even more infatuated with American and British rock. The bands that drew inspiration from the hard rock (*6) and progressive rock (*7) coming out of the U.K. came to be referred to as “new rock” musicians. Some of the most famous names to come out of this group were Uchida Yuya and the hard rock band he produced, Flower Travellin’ Band.
Meanwhile, others drew inspiration from American folk rock musicians and singer-songwriters who sang anti-war protest songs, or acts like The Beatles that managed to bridge rock and pop while maintaining their artistic vision. They came to be called “new music” artists. This group included names like Happy End, Inoue Yosui, and Yoshida Takuro (*8). They were generally less steeped in drugs than their “new rock” counterparts, and more interested in delivering a counterculture message.
*8 Yoshida Takuro (1946-) is a Japanese folk musician, singer-songwriter, music producer.
In the early 70s in Japan, the big debate among Japanese rock musicians influenced by western music was whether they should sing in Japanese or in English. The “new rock” musicians—namely, Uchida Yuya—believed that Japanese lyrics were not a good fit for rock rhythms and melodies, and saw English as the only way they could achieve global fame. Meanwhile, “new music” artists believed that the only way to win over Japanese audiences was to deliver their message in Japanese. Much of this debate took place publicly in round-table talks for the music monthly New Music Magazine (*9).
*9 “New Music Magazine” is a monthly music magazine founded in 1969. In 1980 it changed its name to “Music Magazine”.
In the end, the debate would fizzle out around the time Happy End released their album Kazemachi Roman in 1971, in which the band’s drummer and lyricist Matsumoto Takashi successfully brought together the rock sound and Japanese lyrics. Meanwhile, the Flower Travellin’ Band had relocated to Canada, where they had built a reputation through their live performances and were eventually signed to Atlantic Records (*10). In 1971 they released the album Satori, which showed that Japanese rock could be its own thing—not just a rehash or imitation of Western rock. Unfortunately, the 70s in Japan is not remembered as the era of rock—it is remembered as the era of folk music. After 1972, it became the norm for Japanese rock musicians to sing in Japanese. Considering the rise of J-Pop and J-Rock in the decades that followed, it’s clear that the Japanese rock scene collectively decided to focus on bringing their message to Japanese audiences rather than put it all on the line on the global stage.
*10 Atlantic Records is an American record company that was founded in 1947. It is currently part of the Warner Music Group.
3. 70s Japanese Rock Musicians Influenced by Psychedelic Music from the U.S. and the U.K.
●Uchida Yuya & The Flowers
Although in recent years Uchida Yuya has been more famous for being actress Kiki Kirin’s wife, he was one of the most important figures in the development of Japanese rock. Aspiring to be like Elvis Presley (*11), he dropped out of high school to become a musician. He signed with the talent agency Watanabe Productions and made his debut as a singer in 1959. In the years that followed he sang with a series of bands and gradually shifted towards a harder rock sound under the influence of bands like The Beatles and The Ventures (*12). He formed a band with a number of other Group Sounds musicians to open up for the Beatles’ first Japan concerts in 1966, which allowed him to strike up a friendship with John Lennon. In Spring 1967, he spent three months traveling around Europe and seeing acts like Jimi Hendrix (*13), Cream (*14), and Pink Floyd (*15) perform live. The experience was revelatory.
*11 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was an American musician and actor known as the King of Rock and Roll.
*12 The Ventures are an American instrumental rock band founded in 1959, known for their surf rock sound.
*13 Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) was an American musician known as the greatest rock guitarist of all time.
*14 Cream was an English hard rock band that was active between 1966 and 1968.
*15 Pink Floyd is an English progressive rock band known for albums like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
After returning to Japan, he started a band called Flowers and began performing psychedelic rock covers of bands like Jefferson Airplane (*16) and Janis Joplin (*17) in jazz kissaten. In 1969, the band released an album of covers called Challenge!—with album art featuring the band members nude—but was not commercially successful. In order to make a mark on the international stage, Uchida realized he was better suited for a producer role; he called on half-Japanese singer Joe Yamanaka (*18) and guitarist Ishima Hideki (*19) and started the Flower Travellin’ Band.
*16 Jefferson Airplane was an American rock band formed in 1965. After breaking up, it regrouped as Jefferson Starship.
*17 Janis Joplin (1943-1970) was an American singer-songwriter known for her husky, bluesy voice and stage presence.
*18 Joe Yamanaka (1946-2011) was a musician, actor, and pro boxer from Yokohama, Kanagawa.
*19 Ishima Hideki (1944-) is a Japanese rock guitarist known for incorporating Indian music influences and playing an electric guitar/sitar hybrid.
●Flower Travellin’ Band
The newly formed Flower Travellin’ Band would release its first album, Anywhere, in 1970—with cover art with the band members nude astride motorcycles. The album mostly features covers of songs by overseas artists, like psychedelic rock band Black Sabbath and progressive rock band King Crimson (*20), but the band puts its own unique spin on all of the tracks. Right around that time, they performed at the Expo ’70 in Osaka, where it caught the attention of Canadian rock band Lighthouse (*21). Lighthouse invited Flower Travellin’ Band to come to Canada; the band thus became the first Japanese rock band to make its mark abroad. And what a mark it was: the band’s magnum opus, Satori, is one of the towering achievements of Japanese rock.
*20 King Crimson is an English progressive rock band formed in 1968.
*21 Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968.
After getting a taste of success in North America, the band returned to Japan for a show at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. In 1973, they were billed to join the Rolling Stones’ tour of Japan as their opener, but Mick Jagger (*22) was unable to obtain a visa due to his drug record, and the tour was canceled. The same year the band released Make Up, a mix of live and studio recordings that demonstrates the band’s growth as a group. The title track, one of the best songs in all of Japanese rock history, received considerable TV airplay as the backing track to a Hitachi commercial. Unfortunately, by that time the Japanese music scene was all about folk music, and the band went on hiatus as its members all went in their own direction.
*22 Mick Jagger (1943-) is an English singer and songwriter known as the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.
Singer Joe Yamanaka in particular went on to enjoy success as a solo performer and as an actor. For the 1977 Kadokawa film (*23) Proof of the Man, he sang the theme song in addition to playing a key role. The song, a soulful ballad about life and loss and a man’s love for his mother, is made more resonant by Yamanaka’s personal history: he lost his mother at a young age, grew up in an orphanage not even knowing the name of his father—a U.S. Army soldier of Caribbean descent—and had experienced discrimination of all kinds growing up as a konketsuji (*24), or half-breed, to use the parlance of the time. Around the time of the film’s release Yamanaka was arrested for suspected violation of the Cannabis Control Law, and the song was subsequently pulled from the radio; despite not getting the chance to perform the song on TV at the time, the movie was a massive success and the song sold more than a million copies. Yamanaka passed away due to cancer in 2011.
*23 Kadokawa Pictures is the film division of the Japanese company the Kadokawa Corporation. It also refers to a series of hit films remembered for successful cross-media promotional campaigns.
*24 Today the preferred term is “hafu”.
Formed in 1969, Happy End had a sound that blended folk and psychedelic rock that was not unlike that of the American band Buffalo Springfield. In terms of its dynamic as a group, it was more comparable to The Beatles: vocalist/guitarist Ohtaki Eiichi (*25) and vocalist/bassist Hosono Haruomi (*26) had an artistic partnership not unlike John Lennon and Paul McCartney; guitarist Suzuki Shigeru, who would go on to further success after the bands breakup, evokes George Harrison; drummer and chief lyricist Matsumoto Takashi (*28), like Ringo Starr was for the Beatles, was a binding and stabilizing force that gave the band cohesiveness. The four of them, in their short time together, broke down the walls between rock, folk, and kayokyoku in Japan. To put it another way, Happy End paved the way for J-Pop and J-Rock to grow in the decades to follow.
*25 Ohtaki Eiichi (1948-2013) was a singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and music producer from Iwate Prefecture.
*26 Hosono Haruomi (1947-) is a musician from Minato Ward, Tokyo.
*27 Suzuki Shigeru (1951-) is a guitarist, composer, and arranger from Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
*28 Matsumoto Takashi (1949-) is a lyricist and musician from Minato Ward, Tokyo.
Their legacy becomes even clearer when you look at their careers post-Happy End. Ohtaki Eiichi launched a successful solo career from his home studio in Fussa (a city along the Chuo Line that is home to Yokota Air Base), scoring a massive hit with his 1981 album A Long Vacation (former bandmate Matsumoto Takashi wrote the lyrics to all but one of the album’s songs). City pop great Yamashita Tatsuro (*29) would make his recording debut in 1975 on Sugar Babe’s (*30) album Songs, which was released on Ohtaki’s label Niagara. Meanwhile, Hosono Haruomi formed the band Caramel Mama with Suzuki Shigeru and Matsutoya Masataka (*31), the latter of whom would go on to produce and marry singer-songwriter Arai Yumi). He achieved success as a solo artist with the album Hosono House, and later global success as a member of Y.M.O.—featuring pianist Sakamoto Ryuichi and former Sadistic Mika Band drummer Takahashi Yukihiro (*33).
*29 Yamashita Tatsuro (1953-) is a Japanese singer-songwriter and musician from Toyoshima Ward, Tokyo.
*30 Sugar Babe was a Japanese rock band active between 1973 and 1976.
*31 Matsutoya Masataka (1951-) is a Japanese music producer, arranger, keyboardist, and composer from Tokyo.
*32 Sakamoto Ryuichi (1952-) is a Japanese musician, composer, arranger, lyricist, and music producer from Nakano Ward, Tokyo.
*33 Takahashi Yukihiro (1952-) is a Japanese musician from Meguro Ward, Tokyo.
Suzuki Shigeru went to L.A. in the mid 70s, where he recorded his first solo album, Band Wagon, with musicians from American groups like Little Feat, Santana, and Sly and the Family Stone. He would later become a prolific arranger and session musician.
Matsumoto Takashi became one of the greatest lyricists of postwar kayokyoku, penning the words to popular tunes by pop idols like Matsuda Seiko (*34), Yakushimaru Hiroko (*35), Nakayama Miho (*36) and Kinki Kids (*37).
*34 Matsuda Seiko (1962-) is a singer-songwriter and actress from Fukuoka Prefecture.
*35 Yakushimaru Hiroko (1964-) is an actress and singer from Minato Ward, Tokyo.
*36 Nakayama Miho (1970-) is an actress and singer from Koganei, Tokyo.
*37 Kinki Kids is a pop idol due formed in 1993 by Doumoto Koichi and Doumoto Tsuyoshi.
Carmen Maki was born to an American father and Japanese mother in Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture. After dropping out of high school in 1968, she was inspired to join Terayama Shuji’s (*38) underground theater troupe Tenjo Sajiki after seeing them perform; her stage debut in Shinjuku caught the eye of a representative from CBS Sony and she subsequently was signed to a record contract. In 1969, she made her debut with “Toki ni wa Haha no Nai Ko no Youni” (Sometimes I feel like a lonely baby), featuring lyrics written by Terayama. The single sold over a million copies, and Maki made waves when she performed the song wearing jeans on the NHK Kohaku Utagassen stage. The president of CBS Sony gifted her a record player and a selection of LPs as a thank you, and Maki was inspired go in a more blues-heavy rock direction after listening to an album by Janis Joplin (*39). In 1971, she teamed up with the blues rock band Blues Creation, establishing a reputation for her bewitching stage presence and haunting voice with the album Carmen Maki & Blues Creation. For the rest of the 70s she performed as the lead singer of Carmen Maki & Oz, achieving her greatest commercial success in 1975—amid the folk craze, no less—with the album Carmen Maki & Oz.
*38 Terayama Shuji (1935-1983) was a poet and playwright from Suginami Ward, Tokyo.
*39 Janis Joplin (1943-1970) was an American singer-songwriter known for her husky, bluesy voice and stage presence.
Blues Creation, led by singer/guitarist Takeda Kazuo (*40), would break up shortly after collaborating with Carmen Maki, but it would reform less than a year later as “Creation”, sporting a heavier hard rock sound. In 1975, Creation released its eponymous first album from Toshiba EMI. Produced by none other than Uchida Yuya, the album cover features a group of nude young boys full-frontal peeing.
*40 Takeda Kazuo (1952-) is a guitarist, singer, and composer from Nihonbashi, Tokyo.
Meanwhile, Creation had garnered a reputation for its live performances, even touring Japan with American hard rock band Mountain in 1973. After Mountain broke up, its bassist, Felix Pappalardi, invited the members of Creation to his home in Massachusetts; over that time they would record the album Creation with Felix Pappalardi. The band would embark on a U.S. tour to promote the album, and also became the first Japanese group to perform a concert at the Budokan in Tokyo without any supporting acts. In 1977, it released its third and final album Pure Electric Soul, a classic of Japanese rock that incorporates funk and soul elements. The album cover features a group of nude young boys at the front of a bus.
Both the Flower Travellin’ Band and Happy End would break up in the first half of the seventies as folk music became the preferred form of popular music among young people in Japan. Nevertheless, other bands would forge a style of psychedelic, progressive rock that was uniquely Japanese. The most iconic (and most important) band among them was Yonin-Bayashi, which released its debut album, Isshoku-Sokuhatsu, in 1974. The album is now widely regarded as one of the seminal works of Japanese rock.
Yonin-Bayashi came onto the scene with one of the definitive artistic statements of Japanese rock, a pure gem of an album that was the magnum opus of a band that had internalized Western rock and channeled it back outwards through a uniquely Japanese prism. The word bayashi, or hayashi, refers to a group of performers who provide musical accompaniment for Noh or kabuki theater, rakugo performances, or at festivals. The group’s surreal lyrics capture the extraordinary and unusual in everyday Japanese life, such as in this line from their song “Sora to Kumo” (which has echoes of “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors): “There were many old temples in the area / And the children seemed to be having fun”. The third track of their debut album is even titled “Omatsuri”, that is, “festival”. In the aforementioned “Sora to Kumo”, the band also sings about “the cicada’s cry in the summer”; on another song, the band employs the sound effect of a ping-pong ball in much the same way Pink Floyd employed the sound of change in “Money”. But while “Money” is a commentary on greed, Yonin-Bayashi is going for something more specifically Japanese: the idea that there is a musicality to the sounds of nature and even the noise of everyday phenomenon.
Two names worth knowing from the band’s lineup are Morizono Katsutoshi (*41) and Sakuma Masahide (*42). Morizono was the band’s guitarist and husky-voiced frontman, able to play the guitar both delicately and aggressively. He would go on to play with the jazz-fusion band Prism (led by jazz guitarist Wada Akira (*43)) and work as a studio musician. Sakuma was the bass player but he could also play keyboards and guitar. He would go on to become the record producer behind a veritable who’s who of J-pop artists: Boøwy, The Blue Hearts, Glay, Judy and Mary, and Elephant Kashimashi, just to name a few.
*41 Morizono Takatoshi (1954-) is a guitarist from Tokyo.
*42 Sakuma Masahide (1952-2014) is a musician, composer, and music producer from Tokyo.
*43 Wada Akira (1956-) is a guitarist from Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.
●Sadistic Mika Band
After rising to fame as a member of The Folk Crusaders in 1967, Kato Kazuhiko (*44) embarked on a successful solo career in 1969. One day, a superfan named Fukui Mika forced her way into his dressing room, and they became lovers and eventually married. In 1971, they formed the Sadistic Mika Band, and were joined in 1972 by future Y.M.O. drummer Takahashi Yukihiro, and bass player Ohara Rei (*45). The following year they released their eponymous debut album, which was initially a flop in Japan, but later became successful after garnering attention in the U.K. It caught the ear of English record producer Chris Thomas (*46)—known for working with artists like the Beatles and Pink Floyd—who brought the band to England and produced their second album Kurofune (Black Ships), one of the classics of Japanese rock. The album is especially notable for the fantastic guitar work by Takanaka Masayoshi.
*44 Kato Kazuhiko (1947-2009) was a musician, composer, arranger, and music producer from Kyoto.
*45 Ohara Rei (1951-) is a bassist, composer, and music producer from Tokyo.
*46 Chris Thomas (1947-) is an English music producer.
Mika and Thomas would become lovers during the band’s U.K. tour; Mika and Kato would divorce in 1975, effectively dissolving the band. Ironic, considering the fact that the name Sadistic Mika Band was inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s(*47) group Plastic Ono Band.
*47 Ono Yoko (1933-) is an avant-garde artist, musician, and peace activist from Tokyo.
The band would subsequently reunite multiple times with different singers: in 1985 it performed as the Sadistic Yuming Band, featuring singer-songwriter Matsutoya Yumi (*48), and in 2006 it performed as the Sadistic Mikaela Band, featuring pop singer Kimura Kaela (*49) on lead vocals. Kato would later marry lyricist Yasui Kazumi and work as a songwriting team. He committed suicide in 2009 after a severe bout of depression.
*48 Matsutoya Yumi (1954-) is a singer-songwriter from Hachioji, Tokyo.
*49 Kimura Kaela (1984-) is a singer and fashion model from Tokyo.
Char was born in the Shinagawa Ward of Tokyo and started learning the piano in grade school, and playing the guitar at age eight. His interest gradually shifted to the guitar after he started listening to the music of guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Back. In the second half of the 60s, he starting playing in amateur bands performing covers of Western rock music. In 1971, at the age of 16, he competed in the Yamaha Light Music Contest (*50), winning second place in his local division for an original song that he had written. He subsequently began working as a session guitarist.
*50 The Yamaha Light Music Contest was for bands, while the Yamaha Popular Song Contest was for solo acts. Well-known artists that were discovered through these contests include Nakajima Miyuki and Chage & Aska.
Alongside his studio work he also continued to perform in amateur bands, garnering so much attention in the industry that he was invited by Uchida Yuya to perform at a rock music event he was organizing. In the second half of the 70s, he made his solo debut from Pony Canyon as a kind of kayokyoku idol/guitarist/vocalist, achieving success with his debut album Char and in particular the song “Smoky”. However, he soon became disenchanted with TV appearances and the other commitments of a kayokyoku idol, and he resolved to step away from pop stardom and reemerge with a real rock band.
Just as he was about to come back onto the scene as part of the supergroup Johnny, Louis & Char—which featured drummer Johnny Yoshinaga (*51) and Louise Louis Kabe (*52) of Golden Cups fame—he was forced to step back from the spotlight due to suspicion of illegal use of stimulants. In 1979, Carmen Maki hired Char to be part of her tour band, and afterwards Johnny, Louis & Char (later renamed Pink Cloud) would play a legendary free concert at Hibiya open-Air Concert Hall. Char has continued to perform as a solo artist as well as produce other acts.
*51 Johnny Yoshinaga (1949-2012) was a drummer from Fukuoka Prefecture.
*52 Louise Louis Kabe (1948-) is a Japanese bassist and guitarist.
The Fukuoka-born Inoue Yosui started listening to Western artists such as Elvis Presley as a grade schooler, and became obsessed with the Beatles in middle school. His father, a dentist, originally hoped his son would succeed him, but Inoue decided to move to Tokyo and pursue a career as a singer-songwriter after he failed his dental school entrance exams three times. In 1969, he submitted a home-recorded song to the radio show “Smash!!11”; he was signed to CBS Sony after the song received a large number of requests, but his first few singles were unsuccessful, and he eventually left the label. Around that time he met and became friendly with people like the folk singer Komuro Hitoshi and future RC Succession frontman Imawano Kiyoshiro. Komuro would introduce Inoue to Bob Dylan’s music, which would lead him down a more folk-leaning and socially conscious path.
In 1972, Inoue signed with Polydor Records and released his first album, Danzetsu, which featured what became one of his signature songs, “Kasa ga Nai” (I don’t have an umbrella). In 1973, he released the single “Yume no Naka e” (Into a dream), which became his first hit. He subsequently shot to superstardom along with the 70s folk music craze and became famous for his dark sunglasses, eccentric lyrics, and melancholic voice.
Inoue continued his solo career while cultivating other up and coming musicians: his backup band, centered on vocalist Tamaki Koji, embarked on a decade of commercial success as Anzen Chitai, and he also wrote songs and lyrics for artists like Nakamori Akina. In the 90s, he formed a successful collaborative partnership with fellow singer-songwriter Okuda Tamio, scoring a massive hit with the song “Asia no Junshin” (True Asia) for the female pop duo Puffy. Today he remains one of the most respected musicians in Japan.
このことは、はっぴいえんど解散後の活動を見ると一目瞭然です。大瀧詠一は、米軍基地のある福生(やはり中央線沿い)のレコーディング・ストゥディオをベイスにソロ活動を続け、1981年には1曲を除いて全ての歌詞が松本隆によって手がけられたアルバム『A LONG VACATION』で大ヒットを記録します。また、彼のナイアガラ・レーベルからは、山下達郎(※29)のデビュー作となったシュガー・ベイブ(※30)の『SONGS』(1975年)などがリリースされました。細野晴臣は、鈴木茂や今やユーミンの夫で自動車評論家としても有名な松任谷正隆(※31)とキャラメル・ママというバンドを組み、一方で荒井由実などのプロデュースも行いました。更に、『HOSONO HOUSE』など自身のソロ活動に加え、80年代にはストゥディオ・ミュージシャンの坂本龍一(※32)と元サディスティック・ミカ・バンドの高橋幸宏(※33)とY.M.O.を結成し、世界的な人気を得るようになりました。
バンドのメンバーの中でも特筆すべきなのが、ギターの森園勝敏(※41)と、ベイスの佐久間正英(※42)です。森園は繊細なサウンドからアグレッシヴなサウンドを引き分けられる個性的なギタリストで、ハスキーな歌声も音楽の世界観とマッチングしています。森園は後にジャズ・フュージョン・バンドでギタリストの和田アキラ(※43)率いる「PRISM」(※43)に参加したり、セッション・ミュージシャンとして広く活動しています。佐久間はベイス以外にもキイボードやギターも弾けるマルチ・プレイヤーで、後に「BOØWY」「ザ・ブルーハーツ」「GLAY」「JUDY AND MARY」「エレファントカシマシ」など数々のJ-POPのアーティストたちを手掛けた名プロデューサーとして活躍します。
It was complicated being a Japanese rock musician in the late 60s and 70s: not only was there the question of what language to sing in, bands had their work cut out for them trying to convey the appeal of rock music to the kayoukyoku-loving Japanese public. Of the “new rock” bands that incorporated psychedelic rock sounds and wrote English lyrics in the hopes of making it internationally, some were able to achieve a degree of fleeting overseas success before breaking up for one reason or another. In the end, Japanese audiences were not yet ready, and it would take a decade of folk music before the walls between rock and kayoukyoku were truly broken down.
Japanese rock musicians also struggled with whether or not to make TV appearances. Unlike their counterparts in the U.S. and U.K., who were unfazed by TV and were unafraid to offend or stir public controversy, Japanese rock musicians saw refusing to appear on TV as their way of taking a stand. Unfortunately, that meant their sound had trouble connecting with the general public. It didn’t help that for many of them, the counterculture and the rock lifestyle were a fad—a kind of fashion—rather than a political or social movement. It could be said they lacked a certain conviction.
Folk artists like Yoshida Takuro were also steadfast in their refusal to appear on TV. Unlike their rock peers, they could afford to do so, as their embrace of kayokyoku elements made their sound more accessible to general Japanese audiences. If anything, their principled stance elevated their status among young fans. But starting around the turn of the century, even they would have to start making TV appearances in order to remain relevant and make a living.
The musicians of the era also had to reconcile their love for American culture with Japan’s complicated relationship with the U.S. since the end of the Second World War. Ohtaki Eiichi was deeply enamored with American pop music, and as a youth religiously listened to the Far East Network (*53). After Happy End broke up, both Ohtaki and Hosono Haruomi based themselves in so-called America-mura (*54). All of it was even more complicated and difficult for half-Japanese performers like Joe Yamanaka and Carmen Maki.
*53 Far East Network was a network of American military radio stations serving U.S. Forces in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam, now known as the American Forces Network (AFN).
*54 American-mura are neighborhoods that developed a strong Western-oriented youth culture due to their proximity to U.S. military bases.
Then there is the issue of drugs like marijuana and psychedelic experience-inducing stimulants. In 1977, Uchida Yuya, Joe Yamanaka, and even Inoue Yosui were all arrested for suspected violation of the Cannabis Control Law. Happy End guitarist Suzuki Shigeru started using marijuana shortly after the band broke up, and was arrested on similar charges in 2009. The guitarist Char had to go on hiatus after he was suspected of taking stimulants. In 2019, Rize bassist KenKen and frontman Jesse were arrested for drugs as well—Kenken is the son of Johnny Yoshinaga and Jesse is the son of Char. The same year Pierre Taki, one-half of the techno pop duo Denki Groove, was arrested for cocaine use. In February 2020, Makihara Noriyuki was arrested again for the use of illegal stimulants.
Perhaps these drug problems partly persist because of the kind of struggles I’ve written about above. Many Japanese musicians, having seen overseas artists perform up close, realized that an insurmountable wall stood in front of them and international success. Dejected, they turned to the relief of drugs.
Despite their sometimes troubled history, it’s clear that they are also responsible for laying the foundations for modern Japanese music, both creatively and in terms of their progeny—many of whom are the J-Pop stars of today. Their legacy cannot be ignored, nor should it be forgotten. Part of that legacy is the truism that behind art that captivates audiences and brings about change in the world, there is the passion of those who partake in “immoral” behavior.
Spoken Readings for Japanese Study Japanese Musicians Influenced by the Psychedelic Rock of the Late 60s and Early 70s − The Music of California (30) サイケデリック・ロックの影響を受けた日本のミュージシャン − カリフォルニア生まれの音楽(30) 2020/08/24