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The Tigers

Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada – vocals
Katsumi ‘Toppo’ Takahashi AKA Katsumi Kato – lead guitar, vocals
Taro Morimoto - guitar
Osami ‘Sally’ Kishibe - bass
Minoru Hitomi - drums

In 1965, the hottest band playing the coffee shops around Kyoto’s ancient centre was a wild bunch that called themselves Sally & The Playboys. They were led by bass player Osami Kishibe, a madman who went by the name of ‘Sally’ in order to stir up trouble in the sleepy ancient city. But despite playing all of the most rebel rousing hits of the day, Sally & The Playboys were totally upstaged one night by their support band The Thunders, whose heart throb vocalist Kenji Sawada caused major swooning in the predominantly female audience. However, Sally & The Playboys were big enough local legends to tempt Sawada away from The Thunders, and the new ensemble – with former Playboys drummer Minoru Hitomi, and guitarists Taro Morimoto and Katsumi Takahashi - came together re-named The Funnies. Success eluded them for close to a year, however, before they discovered and booked by the promoter at Osaka’s big jazz kissa NANBA ICHIBAN. These 1966 Osaka shows impressed two art scene hipsters, the pop singer Akiko Wada and the ‘50s singer/actor Yuya Utchida, who each wished to help their careers. However, the street savvy Utchida won the day by placing the band with the powerful Tokyo management consultants Watanabe Productions, run by longtime industry mogul Shoji Watanabe. But Utchida planned to oust singer Kenji Sawada and take The Funnies for his backing band, an idea that had no appeal to Koichi Sugiyama, the Watanabe Production songwriter who had been put in charge of The Funnies’ repertoire. Sugiyama was a Rolling Stones devotee who saw Yuya Utchida as a ‘has been’ from a bygone era, and considered that The Funnies were almost good enough as they were. He ditched Utchida, renamed them The Tigers and suggested that the band members follow their leader’s lead by adopting female stage names. None of the band concurred except the effusive singer Keiji Sawada, who delightedly became ‘Julie’ after his beloved favourite singer Julie Andrews. Reluctantly, lead guitarist Katsumi Takahashi agreed to become known as Toppo, as it at least sounded asexual, as did drummer Minotu Hitomi, who took the name Pea. Rhythm guitarist Taro Morimoto, however, thought the whole idea sucked, and thenceforth became known professionally as Taro. Koichi Sugiyama’s first song written for The Tigers was a clichéd love song entitled Boku No Mary (My Mary)’, and it failed to chart in the Spring of 1967. Sugiyama wrote a hugely gimmicky summer single entitled ‘Seaside Bound’, and the song was massive throughout the summer of ’67. But the Watanabe Production management team demanded a new image for the next 7” single, and Koichi Sugiyama concocted a simultaneous song’n’image promotional thrust that had The Tigers done up as medieval princes singing the sickeningly bland barfothon ‘Mona Lisa No Hohoemi (Mona’s Lisa’s Smile)’. Then there were the problems discussed in Book One (Chapter Three: The Group Sounds Story). But the problems facing the group had only temporarily been sorted out, and the light Group Sounds was being challenged by the heavy organ doom balladry of Vanilla Fudge’s ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ and Procul Harum’s ‘A White Shade of Pale’. Superficially, TV ads for chocolates and sell-out shows at Tokyo’s Budokan suggested everything was cosy, but The Tigers sensed the paranoia running through their management company and changed course both musically and visually. And when they returned looking and sounding like The Bee Gees, The Tigers’ seemingly watertight career started to go right down the tubes. First, they were criticized for artwork that aped a Buffalo Springfield LP, then attacked for not having learned to write their own material, soon after this receiving shocklingly bad reviews for their HUMAN RENAISSANCE LP, which was deemed uncool, unrock, and just too showbiz. When guitarist Toppo quit the band in March 1969 to join the cast of HAIR, Watanabe Pro pretended he’d been kidnapped and caused a manhunt to begin. When they apologized, the press blamed the band for starting the rumours. Both band and management were so phased by this turn of events that they acted bizarrely, replacing the AWOL Toppo with Sally’s wandering hippy brother Shiro, who was in the United States writing LP reviews for Japanese magazine ‘Music Life’. But Shiro brought only anarchy to The Tigers, and often put down his bass during live performances in order to dance and shake the tambourine. Shiro influenced the others away from their leisure suits and into hippy gear. During the summer of 1969, The Tigers filmed their second movie HI LONDON around the Carnaby Street area of London, and recorded even more Bee Gees songs, this time with Maurice And Barry at the mixing desk. But the Group Sounds rug had been pulled from under them, and The Tigers were history. And on their final recordings, a double live LP entitled JIYU TO AKOGARE TO YUJO (FREEDOM, HOPE & FRIENDSHIP), they capitulated by adopting the heavy sounds of the day, including a version of Grand Funk Railroad’s beautiful soul sludge ballad. With their career sliding inexorably downhill, lead guitarist jumped ship and sensibly accepted an offer to play the role of ‘Claud’ in the hip musical HAIR. Leaders Sally and Julie split the band thereafter in favour of the short-lived supergroup Pyg, a cynical exercise in pretty boy versions of all the most famous heavy songs by the-credible artists such as Deep Purple, Mountain and Sir Elton John. Thereafter Julie Sawada and Sally Kishibe both became successful actors, the former also sustaining a singing career right up to the present day. In 1981, they re-united briefly, but disbanded again in 1983.

Julian Cope
  • THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR US (Polydor, 1967)
  • HUMAN RENAISSANCE (Polydor, 1968)
  • FREEDOM, HOPE & FRIENDSHIP (Polydor, 1969)
  • SOUNDS IN COLOSSEUM (Polydor, 1970)

Video Clips
Tigers: Seaside Bound
Posted by gullcity, Feb 19, 2008
>Katsumi ‘Toppo’ Takahashi AKA Katsumi Kato

Katsumi 'Toppo' Kahashi aka Katsumi Takahashi

"Katsumi Takahashi" is his real name. He used it (Takahashi) only a short time after quitting Tigers.

>as did drummer Minotu Hitomi, who took the name Pea.

His nickname was spelled as "Pee".

>And on their final recordings, a double live LP entitled JIYU TO AKOGARE TO YUJO (FREEDOM, HOPE & FRIENDSHIP)

a double live LP is SOUNDS IN COLOSSEUM (Polydor, 1970) mentioned in "Discography".
FREEDOM, HOPE & FRIENDSHIP is their last studio album, and their last live album is Tigers Finale recorded at their farewell concert.

Delete this comment after correcting them.
Posted by barbara_c, Aug 04, 2008
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