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The Mops - Image
The Mops In drug free Japan, The Mops were dedicated to creating an alternative psychedelic experience for their audiences by methods of disorientation and stealth.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The Spiders - Image
The Spiders The Spiders were regarded as the Godfathers of the Group Sounds Scene, having successfully crossed over from the Eleki Scene, where they started in 1961.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys Terry Terauchi and The Bunnys invigorated the music of The Ventures with Terauchi’s own uniquely Japanese rage and raga.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
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.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Takeshi Terauchi - lead guitar
Hiroshi Kurosawa – guitar, harmonica, vocals
Yoshiyuki Suzuki – guitar, vocals
Tatsuya Ogino – organ, vibraphone
Hajime Ono - bass
Tadashi Inoue – drums, shakuhachi

First with his band The Bunnys and later with The Blue Jeans, guitarist Takeshi ‘Terry’ Terauchi covered many popular genres, from garage, fratrock and surf guitar instrumentals, through sentimental ballads, via his own inimitable take on the popular classics. Born in January 1939, in the small town of Tsuchiura, in the rural prefecture of Ibaraki, north of Tokyo, Terauchi started his career in the 1950s, playing rhythm guitar in the Country & Western group Jimmy Tokita & The Mountain Playboys, but swapped to the hip new ‘eleki’ style in 1962, with the formation of The Bluejeans. With Terauchi now playing a Ventures-style Mosrite guitar, the band’s 1964 LP KOREZO SURFING (‘This Is Surfing’) was a huge hit, enabling Terauchi and his wild whammy-bar stylings to support both The Ventures and The Astronauts on their Japanese tours. However, the coming of The British Invasion saw Teraucki jump ship to the vocal sounds, and he formed The Bunnys in early 1966. His self-referential songs included the December single ‘Terry’s Theme’ and the LP LET’S GO TERRY, which featured wild performances including their legendary mind death riffothon ‘Test Driver’. Then came Terauchi’s commercial masterstroke, an eleki version of traditional Japanese songs for the LP SEICHO TERA UCHI BUSHI, which included the hit single ‘Kanjincho/Genroku Hanami Odiri". Sales came in from people young and old alike, and over 100, 000 copies sold made the LP the all-time best-selling Group Sounds album. With their street credibility less important now than sustaining a high level of commercial success, Terauchi unleashed the pitiable album LET’S GO CLASSICS, featuring eleki versions of popular classics. In 1968, Terauchi quit his own band, leaving them to record an instrumental version of the then popular HAIR soundtrack(!). And, as the Group Sounds wavered, 1970 saw the guitarist dressing as a WW2 Japanese commander and singing Japanese war songs in an ironic style on the LP ELEKI IPPON GUNKA DE SHOBU TOTSUGEKI. However, Terauchi had by now squeezed the last remaining drops of patience from his fans, and thereafter was forced to call it a day.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
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