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Keizo ‘Kennichi’ Hagiwara – vocals, harmonica
Yoshiharu Matsuzaki – lead guitar
Toshio Tanaka – rhythm guitar, organ
Takaku Noburo – bass
Hiroshi Oguchi –drums

The origins of The Tempters began in 1965, in the Omiya suburb of Saitama, where high school friends Toshio Tanaka and Takaku Noburo learned to play guitar and bass respectively. Drafting in lead guitarist Yoshiharu Matsuzaki from a nearby high school, they played Ventures instrumentals at local clubs, that is until they heard 15-year-old Kennichi Hagiwara hammering out his version of Barrett Strong’s soul stomp ‘Money’ at the local Okura Club. From here on in, the band orientated itself towards a Rolling Stones/Them-type of sound and spent 1966 perfecting their act. As big fans of The Spiders, the band was happy to be asked to sign to The Spiders’ management company Spiduction, and October ’67 saw the release of the debut Tempters 45 ‘Wasureenu Kimi’ backed with a Japanese cover of The Grass Roots’ single ‘Let’s Live For Today’, renamed ‘Kyo Wo Ikiyo’. The Tempters’ second single was the storming smash hit ‘Kamisama Onegai’, which charted at number 2 and was written by their lead guitarist Yoshiharu Matsuzaki. The band was therefore deeply miffed when their management got an outside writer in to write a ballad for the group, but ‘Emerald No Densetsu’ was another monster and reached the top of the Japanese charts, ensuring that the debut LP THE TEMPTERS’ FIRST ALBUM was also a big success. The album, on the front of which they dressed as Spanish gauchos, contained all four sides of their first two 45s, plus versions of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Lady Jane’, Howlin’ Wolf’ ‘Boom Boom’, The Monkees’ ‘Valleri’ and their own arrangement of George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, plus several others. Unfortunately, due to further management interference, another sop to the parents was released in the form of the cheesy ballad ‘Okaasan (My Mom)’, but Yoshiharu Matsuzaki was determined to write the majority of the second Tempters LP, and the band titled the LP 5-1=0, as a statement of their unity. In March 1969, the band appeared in the movie NAMIDA NO ATONI HOHOE, which continued to build their reputation. The band’s third LP TEMPTERS ON STAGE was a live album designed to showcase their fiery live act, and a three-song Rolling Stones medley was included alongside versions of their chart hits. However, a schism developed within the band when the management insisted on using studio musicians for the fourth LP, and concentrating on the talents of vocalist Kennichi Hagiwara. Worse still, the album was poorly received and The Tempters called it a day. Along with members of The Spiders and The Tigers, drummer Hiroshi Oguchi joined the short-lived supergroup Pyg, before taking off on his own in 1972, to form the glamrock-styled Vodka Collins with Japanese-based American singer-songwriter Alan Merrill. Singer Kennichi Hagiwara later became a moderately successful actor.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Hiroshi Miyagi – vocals
Tamiya Koga – lead guitar
Masami Tsumura – rhythm guitar
Takeshi Nakatani – Yamaha Electone organ
Akira Mine – bass
Tomoaki Morimoto – drums

Despite four of The Rangers being just 18-years-old, this GS act were a particularly old fashioned six piece, who sounded as though they had just stepped out of 1962, after a career singing adaptations of Brian Hyland’s version of Sealed With A Kiss’. With their green double-breasted jackets and action poses, The Rangers were outfitted so as to provide contrast to their red clad star singer Hiroshi Miyagi. In 1967, the band made two unmemorable singles on Crown Records that I know of, neither of which would shake the foundations. The Rangers’ first single ‘Hoshizora No Koibito’ suffers from a French horn introduction, overly sweet string lines and a spy guitar theme, all of which are merely clichéd rather than memorable. The far catchier B-side ‘Let’s Go Rangers’ employs the kind of ‘Dark Side Of The Mushroom’ traditional Shadows/Ventures guitar spangle that Zappa or The Chocolate Watchband offered, but without the sarcasm. The ‘50s stylings of second single ‘Sally No Hitomi’ include irritating hiccupping vocals and ultra-shrill harmony vocals, whilst the B-side ‘Akaku Akaku Heart Ka’ is a soul stomp performed as a stentorian bark. But then again you try singing ‘Akaku Akaku’ more than once and try to keep a straight face.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yuji Nozawa – vocals, dancer
Tadao Suzuki – vocals, dancer
Rikiya Yasuoka – vocals, dancer
Masao Koyama – vocals, dancer
Jimmy Lennon – vocals, dancer

Starting out in 1963 as a four boys/one girl soul revue band, The Sharp Hawks were considered a very exotic proposition because of their international heritage at a time when the Japanese audiences still struggled to find western music authentic when performed by their own kind. Comprised of one American singer, one Spanish, one Eurasian, and two Japanese, Sharp Hawks performed such songs a as ‘Land of A Thousand Dances’ and Ray Charles’ ‘What I Say’, plus their own hits ‘Let Me Go’ and a Flamenco version of the standard ‘Unchain My Heart’. However, with the coming of the Group Sounds phenomenon, Sharp Hawks were expected to play their own instruments, which they attempted but failed to achieve. Their management brought in a heavyweight backing band, the eleki stars M. Inoue & His The Sharp Five, and Sharp Hawks’ female singer was deemed inappropriate for Ground Sounds and unceremoniously dumped. Unfortunately for the band, their backing group became hot property and The Sharp Five signed their own record contract with Columbia Records, in December 1967. Now forced to pick up their own instruments, The Sharp Hawks achieved this monumental task and, with one new member, continued until their dissolution in 1969. Ironically, their former backing band continued its career into the 1970s, with a quadraphonic demonstration LP for Columbia Records entitled BIG OPERATION FOR 4 CHANNEL, which contained rock takes on such classical pieces as Bizet’s ‘The Pearl Fishers’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’. The record was probably inspired by The Love Sculpture’s whirly dervish 45RPM take on Khachaturian’s ‘The Sabre Dance’, which Sharp Five also covered on this LP.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Masaaki Sakai – vocals, flute
Jun Inoue - vocals
Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu – guitar, vocals
Takayuki Inoue – guitar
Katsuo Ohno – keyboards, steel guitar
Mitsuru Kato – bass
Shochi Tanabe – drums

Although known as the first of the Group Sounds acts, The Spiders were actually formed in 1961, by drummer Shochi Tanabe, as a backing band for foreign singers such as Peter & Gordon. Mostly playing Country & Western songs in their early days, it was only in 1964, with the addition of young singer Jun Inoue, that The Spiders began to take the shape that they are best known for – that is: overblown scat singing, big band arrangements and jazzy drumming. Although by this time a septet containing two guitarists, two vocalists and an organist, The Spiders nevertheless made much of their money from recording surf instrumentals such as The Ventures’ ‘Wipe Out’. Gradually, however, The Spiders incorporated the sounds and styles of The Animals, Beatles, Kinks and Rolling Stones into their act, adopting the British beats’ love of matching suits and playing support on major first tours by The Beach Boys, The Ventures, The Animals and The Astronauts. However, in July 1966, they turned down the support slot for The Beatles, unsure how they would be received. The Spiders’ first LP ALBUM No. 1 was released in ’66, and contained no cover versions, whilst later the same year, ALBUM no. 2 contained no originals. The following year’s ALBUM NO. 3 continued their trend for recording cover versions, and included version’s of The Troggs’ ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ and ‘With A Girl Like You’, The Animals’ ‘Inside Looking Out’, The Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’, Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land Of A 1000 Dances’, and an insane rendering of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’. However, these were combined with such typically full-on originals as ‘Chibi No Julie’, ‘Narebaii (Upside down)’ and the single ‘Nanntonaku Nantonaku’. Spurred on by the success of The Beatles’ movies A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and HELP!, The Spiders spent the rest of ’67 making their first feature film. Indeed, The Spiders eventually made four of their own movies: 1967’s WILD SCHEME-A-GO-GO, and 1968’s GO FORWARD, THE ROAD TO BALI and BIG COMMOTION. In typical whacky Monkees/Beatles style, the seven band members were filmed charging around pursued by persons unknown, spy movie-style, as hordes of fans mobbed them and gaggles of models snubbed them. By 1969, however, The Spiders’ Group Sounds careers were over. Although nothing further was heard from bass player Mitsuro Kato, everyone else had some success. Singer Jun Inoue went on to be a solo performer and comedian, founding member and drummer Shochi Tanabe started the massively successful Tanabe Management Agency, guitarist Takayuki Inoue and keyboard player Katsuo Ohno both joined Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada’s short-lived supergroup Pyg, the former thereafter launching a successful career in music for film and TV, whilst guitarist Hiroshi Kamayatsu joined the superstar Glam Rock act Vodka Collins. Last but by no means least, vocalist/flautist Masaaki Sakai achieved immortality when he won the title role in the legendary TV show ‘Monkey’.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Tetsuya Tsubaki – lead vocals, MC
Tadashi Kuriyama – lead guitar, vocals
Toshio Fujino – rhythm guitar, vocals
Mitsuharu Yamada – e. keyboard, vocals
Shigeo Miyazaki – bass, vocals
Jiro Suzuki – drums, vocals

Discovered, named and signed to King Records’ subsidiary Seven Seas by eleki guitar legend Takeshi Terauchi, The Phoenix were a young sextet from Tokyo whose sole claim to fame was their early, some say first ever, use of wah-wah pedal on a Japanese record. As The Phoenix were all ardent fans of Terauchi, who was their GS mentor from the beginning, it's difficult to verify these claims, as one would imagine that any such pedal passing first through Terauchi’s covetous mitts would have remained there long with him at least long enough to have allowed him to be the first to make such a claim (he did claim to have invented the first electric guitar when he was five years old). Considering their claim, the band’s sole single for Seven Seas, ‘Koisuru La La La (La La La In Love)’ b/w ‘ Namida No Shirubia (Silvia In Tears)’, was hardly ground-breaking stuff, consisting of a fine evocative introduction and not much else. Indeed, the sole unusual element was Mitsuharu Yamada’s intelligent use of the Yamaha Electone keyboard.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Kenji Todoroki - vocals
Jun ‘Kimio’ Mizutani – lead guitar
Koichi Fujita – rhythm guitar
Yuyu Hoguchi - organ
Ryoji Ono – bass
Takamitsu Nakazawa - drums

With their double-breasted suits and neatly styled hair, this smartly dressed sextet was the first band to come from the Watanabe Production management company. They were formed in mid-1966 by legendary guitar mangler Jun ‘Kimio’ Mizutani and organist Yuyu Hoguchi, both of whom had formerly played with Ryuichi Tsuda & The Blue Ace. After moulding the boys into a suitably commercial image, Watanabe signed The Out Cast to Teichiku Records, who released their first single, a folk song ‘Tomodachi Ni Naro (Let’s Be Friends)’ which was a flop. Hot on its heels came a second single, another folk song ‘Aisurukoto Wa Darede No Dekiru (Anyone Can Love)’. This was also a flop, but the b-side, entitled ‘Denwa De Iikara (Just Gimme A Call)’, was a bubblegum classic flip out which guaranteed Mizutani and the band a place in garage rock legend. In the summer of 1967, Out Cast played a very psychedelic show with The Tigers at Tokyo’s Nichigeki, and scored their first hit ‘Enpitsu Ga Ippon (A Pencil)’ that same summer. Two further minor hits guaranteed the release of their LP KIMI NO BOKU MO TOMODACHI NI NARO (‘Let’s You And Me Become Friends’), which was full of Mizutani’s signature mayhem. However, Mizutani and singer Kenji Todoroki were growing tired of the Ground Sounds format and found the suffocating restrictions of Watanabe Productions impossible to deal with. The two quit the band to form the more artistically satisfying Adams, causing Watanabe Productions to sack everyone else except bass player Ryoji Ono, in an Electric Prunes-style rock pogrom. The new line up continued briefly with new vocalist Osamu Okamoto, guitarist Katsumi Tani, organist Yoshiharu Sugano and drummer Yukio Asakura; but The Out Cast’s days were over.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Hiromitu Suzuki - vocals
Masaru Hoshi - lead guitar, vocals
Tarou Miyuki - guitar
Kaoru Murakami - bass
Mikiharu Suzuki - drums

One of the best of all the Group Sounds acts, Tokyo’s The Mops actually came close to the Animals/Then-inspired garage sound of The Shadows Of Knight and The Blues Magoos, even injecting something weird and special of their own through vocalist Hiromitu Suzuki’s truly pained delivery and occasionally deranged lyrics. Indeed, even Western bands rarely managed lyrics as raw as ‘Please kill me’ as Suzuki beseeched on their fuzz epic 6/8 ‘Blind Bird’. It’s clear from their get up and instrumental styling that The Mops wanted to reach The Misunderstood’s braying stratospheric delivery and the mushied-3 a.m.-in-a-city-under-smog production that The Gonn achieved on ‘The Blackout Of Gretely’, but the record company and their own inexperience denied them those options. Inconsistent throughout their career, The Mops nevertheless hit real major peaks, even towards the end when they found their way into so-called New Rock via Grand Funk’s epic proto-metal version of ‘Outside Looking In’ by The Animals, one full year after The Mops covered the same song.
The Mops began as yet another Ventures-styled instrumental group in the early spring of 1966. With most of the musicians still being of high school age, they rehearsed far more than they gigged, and drummer Mikiharu Suzuki resented his older brother Hiromitu’s constant admonishments that he was not doing enough schoolwork. However, when Mikiharu invited his older sibling to a Mops rehearsal to show that he was not just wasting time, Hiromitu was so inspired by their collective racket that he joined the group as lead vocalist. Although the musicians themselves were mainly influenced by The Yardbirds and The Stones, the new singer’s obsessions with Eric Burdon and Steve Winwood soon re-shaped their sound, as The Mops played more and more shows at jazz kissas around Saitama and the Tokyo area. Moreover, when they played Tokyo’s Go-Go-Kissa club in early 1967, The Mops were approached by a management team who agreed to look after their interests, but only on condition that they become a psychedelic band. Influenced by Steve Winwood’s recent move to the psychedelically-styled Traffic, the quintet agreed; signed to Victor Records and debuted in November 1967, billed as ‘First Psychedelic Band In Japan!’ However, by the time their first single ‘Asamade Matenai’ had charted at the lower end of the Japanese Top 40, other bands had caught up with their psychedelic stylings, pushing The Mops to all kinds of ruses in order to substantiate their claim as Japan’s premier psychedelicians – and in drug free Japan, this was not an easy task. Huge lighting rigs began to appear at Mops shows, and flangeing, wah-wah pedals and fuzz boxes saturated their live sounds, while the band themselves grew their hair even longer, adopted granny glasses, and played blind-folded in order to disorientate themselves and stimulate natural psychedelic effects.
On their 1968 debut LP PSYCHEDELIC SOUND IN JAPAN, The Mops covered Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody To Love’ and ‘White Rabbit’ with a righteous abandon, injecting a 13th Floor Elevators Texan yawp into the former and using the quasi-Eastern nature of the latter to their advantage with wonderful Chinese strings and another fabulous vocal from Hiromitu Suzuki. However, The Mops’ version of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ was just funny and had none of the junked out Philippino Catholicism that D’Swooners cleverly smeared all over their own Jose Feliciano version. To say the instrumental passage was enthusiastic is probably better than saying everyone just hammers along dutifully until the interesting vocal bit rescues them. The Mops’ obsession with The Animals peaked on their pointless version of ‘San Francisco Nights’, during which the band bored everyone for the duration of the 45 seconds explaining why they’d chosen to record the song (big deal, get over it), but the band did do ‘Outside Looking In’ justice. Their own songs were hot when they were being weird, but crap when they wrote ‘real’ songs. The ‘help-me-I’m-going-under-for-the-last-time’ nature of ‘Atsukunarenai (I Can’t Get Hot)’ is truly psychedelic and works better as the B-side of their single ‘Omae No Subeteo’ rather than buried at the end of side one’s seven song avalanche on PSYCHEDELIC SOUND IN JAPAN.
When bassist Kaori Murakami quit for a place in university in Spring ’69, rhythm guitarist Tarou Miyuki swapped to bass, the lack of two guitars considerably opening up the sound and making for a spaciousness, allowing Masaru Hoshi’s excellent leads to cut right through. But the Group Sounds era was already coming to a close and, after three singles and the aforementioned LP, the band was dropped from the Victor Records roster. A as the prevailing trend for Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath began to kick in with a vengeance, many Group Sounds split during this time, but The Mops weathered the storm well. After hearing Grand Funk Railroad’s masterful ‘heavy’ adaptation of ‘Outside Looking In’ by their beloved Animals, The Mops re-styled themselves ‘New Rock’. If they’d gone all the way, it would have been fantastic, however, as was the way of most bands of this period, The Mops still remained true to their GS roots by accommodating too great a range of styles on LPs, sandwiching dutiful ‘contemporary’ sounds (ballads, comedy, you name it) between the slabs of moronic genius. From beginning to end, Hiromitu Suzuki remained fixated with The Animals’ Eric Burdon and Steve Winwood in all his Spencer Davis/Traffic/Blind Faith incarnations. Indeed, even as late as 1970, Suzuki continued to hop from Little Stevie vocal stylings to those of Eric Burdon often within the space of the same verse. However, the band thereafter actually gained a new artistic momentum from the new sounds they encountered and, signing to the Toshiba/Liberty label, continued until 1974, recording and releasing five more patchy covering-all-bases LPs and thirteen singles.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The Love

Yuji Takamiya – vocals
Koichi Fujita – lead guitar
Hiroshiu Kihata – organ
Hideo Arai – bass
Tadao Shimada - drums

The Love was formed in 1968 by Out Cast’s rhythm guitaist Koichi Fujita, after two of that band’s founding members Kimio Mizutani and Kenji Todoroki quit to form their commercially disastrous symphonic rock band Adams. The Love also failed to make much impact, releasing only one flop single entitled ‘Icarus No Hoshi (Star Of Icarus)’ b/w ‘Once Again’. Like the singles that Out Cast released, the powerful b-side written by leader Fujita far exceeded the honey sweet tin pan alley staff written main track, ‘Once Again’’s false fade out aiding the song and turning it into something of a psychedelic folk legend. In truth, however, even this is fairly standard fare, and wouldn’t pass muster on even the later volumes of PEBBLES. Koichi Fujita later became a very successful producer with Omega Tribe.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yuzo Kayama – guitar
Osamu Kitajima - guitar
Yuzo Watanabe – bass
Ei Kitajima – drums

This clean cut quartet was formed by the movie actor, singer and sometime TV presenter Yuzo Kayama, most famous for inventing the term ‘Group Sounds’ while live on his own TV chat show in 1964. Born in 1937 and already well known for his dashing good looks, Kayama enjoyed entirely new levels of female popularity when, inspired by the 1965 Japanese tour from America’s The Ventures, the actor polished up his dormant guitar skills and turned into a full-on surf guitar God! Kayama’s management team signed the band to Toshiba Records, who added a caveat in the contract that Yuzo must be seen to sing a small percentage of ballads to widen The Launchers’ appeal. This he did and then some, delivering his words in an ostentatiously off-the-cuff Dean Martin-type baritone that still sends shivers down the spines of many a middle-aged Japanese woman. Songs such as ‘Boomerang Baby’ and ‘Mafuya No Kaerimichi’ were huge hits for The Launchers, but Kayama’s ultimate accolades came via The Ventures themselves, who were so impressed by his guitar clamour that they recorded their own versions of two Launchers songs ‘Black Sand Beach’ and ‘Yozora No Hoshi’. At the finale of a joint Ventures/Launchers tour of Japan, the Americans ceremoniously presented Kayama with one of their own signature-model Mosrite guitars. Kayama returned to acting once the beat boom had died down, and the debut album FREE ASSOCIATION was released without him in December ’68, featuring instead the talent of second guitarist Osamu Kitajima, who was Kayama’s young cousin. In September 1969, Kitajima’s Launchers released a concept album about an imaginary country entitled OASY OKOKU (‘Oasy Kingdom’). However, the days of the GS sound was already on the wane, and The Launchers split soon after. In 1971, Kitajima split for England, where he concocted the Justin Heathcliff LP, naming it so as to conjure up a quintessential Englishness. In 1972, Kitajima returned to Japan where he teamed up with former Dynamites guitarist Fujio Yamagauchi, who was enjoying a brief sabbatical from his drug buddies in Murahatchibu. Together, the two guitarists recorded one LP FUJIO & OSAMU. Yuzo Kayama returned to rock’n’roll many years later, re-recording several of his old songs in 1994.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Kuni Kawachi– piano, organ, lyrics, arrangements
Tome Kitagawa – vocals, conga
Pepe Yoshihiro – bass
Chito Kawachi – drums, lyrics, arrangements, vocals

The history of Happenings Four is an important one, despite their musical contributions to the Group Sounds scene being mainly disappointing and trite. For they were one of the few bands with the guts to try to break the GS mould and bring something new on board. They began in 1964 as a quintet named Sunrise, and were led by brothers Kuni and Chito Kawachi, on organ and percussion respectively. Playing a Latin based rock, Sunrise was completed by bassist Pepe Yoshihiro, percussionist Pedoro Umemura and guitarist Hiroshi Satomi. In 1966, Miki Curtis discovered them and took them to Tokyo, where they signed to the mighty management team Asuka Puro. Vocalist and conga player Tome Kitegawa joined at this time, and they were booked into night clubs and cabaret to develop their act. In 1967, when guitarist Hiroshi left to form Hiroshi Satomi & Ichibanboshi (‘The First Star’), the Kawachi brothers decided to sack percussionist Umemura and changed their name to Happenings Four. Signing to the Watanabe Pro management team, they gained immediate interest because of their novel guitarless line-up. Their debut single was okay, but gained press attention because of its incredible sleeve design, by legendary pop artist Tadanori Yokoo.
In 1968, the second single ‘Kimi No Hitomi O Mitsumete (Looking Into Your Eyes)’ fared better, as did a third ‘Alligator Boogaloo’. Inspired by Miki Curtis’ tendency to ham it up, Happening Four successfully played up to the Japanese cliché with hair in top knots, and kimonos, releasing their debut LP THE MAGICAL HAPPENINGS TOUR in a gorgeous fold out jacket, depicting the members on an 10,000 yen note. In early 1969, Kuna Kawachi offered up his own version of the sounds coming from Britain’s The Nice and Soft Machine with the second album CLASSICAL ELEGANCE : BAROQUE’N’ROLL. This LP contained heavy versions of Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel songs in a sleeve of imaginary bucolic bliss, in which a pink clad and moustachioed Jason King-styled shepherd groover rests upon the roots of ye olde oak tree as his flock of sheep graze quietly in the Bach-ground. Later in ’69, Kawauchi enlisted Nobuhiko Shinohara on keyboards and vocals to boost the prog credentials of the oputfit, who now altered their name to Happenings Four +1. The band split in 1972, whereupon Kawachi recorded commercials, and contributed to the Love Live Life +1 project, as well as recording his classic LP KIRIKYOGEN with members of Flower Travellin’ band.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007