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Sin Okamoto - vocals
Hisayuki Okitu - lead guitar
Koichi Miyazaki - rhythm guitar
Yasuji Sato - organ
Mikio Morida – bass
Yukio Miya – drums

Led by drummer and founding member Yukio Miya, The Jaguars were one of the most famous of all the Group Sounds bands, taking their lead

Also of immense importance to the fashioning of the early Group Sounds scene was the six-piece known as The Jaguars, led by drummer Yukio Miya. The Jaguars, or ‘jaggerz’ as the Japanese referred to them, straddled the void between pure pop music and garage rock, turning out versions of The Blues Magoos’ arrangement of ‘Tobacco Road’ and Mitch Ryder’s ‘See See Rider’, but taking their shorter-haired image from those overly smiley British muckers Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Indeed, The Jaguars recorded their own version of that band’s 45 ‘Zabadak’ and scored another Top 20 hit with Dave Dee’s cod-Spaghetti Western epic ‘Legend of Xanadu’, transplanted into a Greek context with balalaikas and the whole band done out as Greek peasant fashion victims.

More credibly, The Jaguars covered The Blues Magoos’ thunderous version of J.D. Loudermilk’s ‘Tobacco Road’, as well as Mitch Ryder’s soul epic ‘See See Rider’. Some evidence of the band’s popularity is shown by their appearance, in 1968, as stars of their own movie. This HELP-influenced comedy romp was entitled JAGUARS TEKIZEN JYOURIKU (HEY YOU, GO!), and made The Jaguars even bigger stars. Footage of Buddhist monks passing through immigration were superimposed over shots of The Jaguars playing to fans high atop a balcony; lead guitarist Hisayuki Okitu was filmed playing guitar surrounded by young women sucking ice lollies; psychedelic prism FX clouded the screen as a Dr Evil-type character made people disappear, and the many direct lifts from the HELP movie only reinforced the cultural position of The Jaguars. However, with the rising confidence of the other group members, leader Yukio Miya felt his position of power slipping, and promptly left for a career with the originally titled New Jaguars. The decision was ultimately disastrous for all. Miya was replaced on drums by Takeshi Hamano, but neither of the two factions were ever so successful again as The Jaguars had once been. The original members attempted a change of musical direction, even replacing members, while Miya’s New Jaguars failed to chart and split up in 1970. The original faction struggled on until their dissolution in 1971.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Tadashi Kosaka – vocals
Eiji Kikuchi – lead guitar
Hiro Yanagida – organ, rhythm guitar
Yoshiichi Sugiyama – bass
Yasuichi Yoshimura - drums

The short-lived and poppy Floral was formed as a factory-style ‘boy band’, in 1968, by university students between 18-22, who had all auditioned for Japan’s Monkees Fan Club, who were searching for a Japanese equivalent. The Floral released no LPs, but made one 7” single entitled MUSICOLOR RECORD containing the songs ‘Namida Wa Hanabira (Tears Are Flower Petals)’ b/w ‘Suiheisen No Bara (Roses On The Horizon)’. The lyricist for the A-side was Akira Uno, who went on to become a famous illustrator. The Floral split when the serious-minded Hiro Yanagida left to form the more heavyweight and more successful Apryl Fool.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Tokimune ‘Dave’ Hirao – vocals
Eddie Ban – guitar
Kenneth Ito - guitar
Masayoshi ‘Louis Louis’ Kabe – bass
Mamoru Manu - drums

As the most anachronistic, muddle-headed, obstinate and capricious of all the first wave of Group Sounds acts, Yokohama City’s Golden Cups most deserve a thorough explanation and excavation in this book. For no band save perhaps The Undertones was ever comprised of such true rock fans that they accidentally scuppered their career through the sheer joy of playing whatsoever was passing through members stereo systems at any given time. From their bizarre but brilliant take on American garage music (‘Hey Joe’) through their horrendous blues workout period (they recorded half of The Butterfield Blues Band’s EAST WEST LP for Chrissakes), via their dreadful record company-pleasing staff writer composed hits ("Nagai Kami no Shoujo" ("A Girl With Long Hair") and "Aisuru Kimini (My Love Only For You)’) to the sheer loserdom of their twilight live LPs (‘Joy To The World’, ‘Nantucket Sleighride’, ‘I Shall Be Released’), The Golden Cups always made important career moves based on members’ current obsessions. This is probably because the band members were raised in the international port of Yokohama City, Japan’s equivalent of Hamburg and Liverpool, and famous across insular Japan for its high percentage of foreign nationals. And just as Liverpudlians of the early ‘60s benefited so much from their casual dockside trading with American ships that they were nicknamed ‘Cunard Yanks’ by the rest of Britain, so the teenagers of Yokohama scored records, clothes and even musical instruments down at the docks that never made it into popular Japanese culture. From the off, all of the members of The Golden Cups were way ahead of the pack as Yokohama’s nearby US Army base at Honmoku pumped out rock’n’roll on its Far East Network radio transmitters. The Cups were founded by Dave Hirao, who’d sung lead vocal in Yokohama’s The Sphinx back in ’64, traveling to the USA the following year to experience the sounds of rock’n’roll first hand. On returning home, Dave discovered that local guitarist Eddie Ban had done precisely the same, returning from his own American jaunt with a prized fuzz box. The two hooked up with Hawaiian guitarist Kenneth Ito, whose immaculate credentials included ownership of the first Fender Telecaster in Japan, and fluency in English. Initially taking the name Group & I, the three discovered the tall gangly glue-sniffing Franco-Japanese Masayoshi Kabe in a local record shop bunking off from the local international school, where he played lead guitar in the band Take Five. Local boy Mamoru Manu completed the band on drums. The band’s earliest set was made up entirely of wild covers and included The Byrds/Love/Leaves’ version of ‘Hey Joe’, James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, Them’s ‘One More Time’ plus standard work outs on ‘I Got My Mojo Workin’’, winning them the coveted position as house band at the infamous Golden Cup Discotheque, near the Honmoku US Army base whence so much of their radio influences had issued from. Playing to GI’s every night tightened up the band considerably, and they changed their name to The Golden Cups at the behest of the discotheque manager. With incredible timing, the newly-named band was asked to appear on the brand new early morning TV show Young 720, which aired every morning on NHK-TV, at 7.20 am. The appearance propelled them into the midst of the burgeoning Group Sounds scene and a deal with Capitol Records. With their righteous rock backgrounds and long experience, the Cups found themselves playing arduous schedules, Dave Hirao recalling later: "We were very busy. One day we did ten 45 minute shows in a row, and then got to the studio around midnight to record." In June 1967, Capitol released the Cups’ disappointing and twee debut single ‘Itoshi No Jizabel’ with its remarkable garage romp B-side "Hiwa Mata Noboru’, following up with the incredible ‘Giniro No Glass (Love Is My Life)’. However, Capitol imposed strict rules on the band’s recording and forced them to use staff songwriters for their singles, causing a schizophrenic attitude to develop in the band. Playing at jazz kissas such as Tokyo’s La Seine, the boys would go for total burn up, but compromise totally at concert halls, playing the dull overly arranged ballads, even accompanied by an orchestra. Consequently, the Cups’ debut LP THE GOLDEN CUPS ALBUM was equally schizophrenic, ranging from fuzzed out garage punk (‘Giniro No Glas’, ‘Hey Joe’) via competent soul and blues re-treads (‘I Got My Mojo Workin’’, ‘I Feel Good’) to truly East take on the ‘Hey Joe’ bassline is, however, still something to experience for its muscular and masterful fuck-offness.
One month later, the band had their biggest career hit with the super lame ‘Nagai Kami No Shoujo (Girl With Long Hair)’, which reached number 14 due to its accompanying cheesy ‘Girl With Long Hair’ contest. The B-side was, however, another high watermark and ‘This Bad Girl’ contained more of Kabe’s sensational bass runs and shows how Eddie Ban’s guitar was naturally chromatic and raga before that concept had really kicked off in the West.
However, Kenneth Ito was forced to return to Hawaii that summer and on his return was denied a visa. He was replaced not by another guitarist, but by 16-year-old fat boy Mickey Yoshino, who arrived in time to contribute substantial amounts to THE GOLDEN CUPS ALBUM VOLUME 2. Again a schizophrenic stalemate, this record featured diabolical hits singles (‘Woman Woman’, ‘My Love Only For You’, ‘Gimme Little Sign’) as well as wild garage goodies such as ‘Happenings At 3 O’Clock A.M.’ However, when the band themselves showed poor judgement with yet more soul standards, it was becoming clear that a whole coherent Golden Cups LP was unlikely ever to happen. It was, therefore, no surprise when The Cups’ took advantage of the floundering Group Sounds scene to record a live LP chock full of Butterfield Blues Band covers, indeed BLUES MESSAGE – ironically pressed on red vinyl - contained versions of ‘Walkin’ Blues’, ‘I Gotta Mind To Give Up Livin’’ and ‘Get Out Of My life’, as well as more unnecessary soul standards. When Eddie Ban left the band in April ’69 to form his own band with D’Swooners drummer Eddie Fortuno and organist Hiro Yanagida of The Floral, Louis Louis Kabe took over on lead guitar. Later LPs included SUPER LIVE SESSION, its title a homage to Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s albums of the same names, the music within mirroring the Cups’ current obsession with the extended jamming of Western so-called super groups. However, line-ups now changed regularly and haphazardly, as Eddie Ban returned temporarily then left again, as did guitarist Kenneth Ito, whilst Ai Takano from The Carnabeats came in on drums. The RECITAL LP featured orchestral versions of their hits, whilst the band themselves were currently obsessed with The Band, The Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull! Indeed, the abominable 1971 live LP LIVE ALBUM WITH THE GOLDEN CUPS even featured Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy To The World’! Each release sounded more and more like a cruise ship entertainment than a heavyweight outfit, and it was something of a mercy killing when, on New Year’s Eve 1972, the Okinawa discotheque in which they were playing burned to the ground, taking all of The Cups’ possessions and equipment with it. Ironically for a band that so hated its own hits, the band had chosen to play the cheesy ‘Nagai Kami No Shoujo (Girl With Long Hair)’ that night, but none of the drunken GI’s present had even heard the song before. However, despite this having been a long saga of often painfully unartistic achievement, The Golden Cups deserved to have their story told for the long term changes they exerted on Japanese rock’n’roll.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Takeshi Maki – lead vocals, organ
Satoshi Sakakibara – lead guitar
Hideyuki Koseki – rhythm guitar
Noboru Hayakawa – bass
Yasuo Sakai – drums

With their overly embroidered red collarless suits and fundamentalist motto ‘Return to the Beatles’ Early Days’, it would be easy to imagine The Edwards as having been a gang-like entity here to change rock’n’roll. Unfortunately, these Capitol recording artists were actually one schizophrenic quintet, their singles split between Spaghetti Western trumpet-led sub-Osmonds Latin melancholy and wildly rampant teen angst Shadows Of Knight-style fuzz guitar struts. Led by drummer Yasuo Sakai, they featured three band members from Tokyo, and two from neighbouring Yokohama City, the line-up being completed when Sakai asked Exciters’ vocalist Takeshi Maki to join them. Joining Terry Terauchi’s new Group Sounds stable, the band recorded their first single ‘Cry Cry Cry’ b/w ‘Koi No Nikki (The Diary Of Love)’ for Capitol Records, but it was nothing at all special, and the band was dropped. Their second and final single ‘Niji No Sunahama (Rainbow Beach)’ b/w ‘Koi No Owari Ni (At The End Of Love)’ was made for the smaller Toshiba offshoot Express Records, after which the band split. Rhythm guitarist Hideyuki Koseki thereafter changed his name to Goro Oishi and joined Takeshi Teraucki’s Bunnys, but nothing more was heard from the rest.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Cris Solano – vocals, bass
Charlie Cajilig – guitar
Ernie Espiritu - organ
Ronnie Parina - trumpets
Eddie Fortuno – drums

Known in some quarters as The Swooners, this full-on Philipino quintet first formed in 1963, playing old time rock’n’roll and doo wop to Manila audiences who demanded as much entertainment from them as their counterparts on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn demanded of the Merseybeat groups. Biding their time until 1965, D’Swooners then made for Hong Kong, where they had a big hit for the Diamond Records label with their waltz-driven key-changing weepy ‘50s styled ‘Sonata Of Love’ – billed as D’Swooners Featuring Cris Solano - and opened prestigious shows for both The Kinks and Manfred Mann. The Japanese singer, guitar slinger and heartthrob actor Yuzo Kayama was at the Manfred Mann concert with his wife, and used his contacts to get the band on Japanese TV. On their arrival in Tokyo, in 1967, to perform on the pop TV show R&B PARADISE, the meek Japanese audiences considered D’Swooners’ shows extremely wild. And when the band decided to stay on in Japan, they could not at first get a record deal. Worse still, drummer Eddie Fortuno was hanging out with fellow Philipino Joey Smith of Speed Glue & Shinki when he was done for possession of cannabis and thrown in jail. However, the band eventually signed to the Philips label, whereupon their first single for the label, their wonderfully rowdy clatterthon version of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Mickey’s Monkey’ was released on the same day as their first LP R&B GOLDEN HITS, the B-side being their old hit ‘Sonata Of Love’. Both records were big hits, as was their syrupy follow up 45 ‘Wonderful World Of Love’. Far better and of real interest to readers of this book is ‘Please Please, Trina’, with its rowdy, sexy organ riffing stomp, lead vocal is the style of Blue Cheer’s Dickie Peterson, and an insistent ‘You Really Got Me’ rhythm. Excellent. D’Swooners made use of wah-wah guitar and a real fire engine siren for their disturbingly damaged proto-Jose Feliciano version of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, the song rendered even more mysterious by the strange vocal inflections and Hispanic pronunciations of singer Cris Solano. Even more mysterious to the Japanese was their uncanny accuracy when performing Jimi Hendrix songs, for the guitarist’s style remained something of an unlockable mystery to many of the musicians. D’Swooners capitalized on this with their version of ‘Stone Free’, but also performed a Sam The Sham-style version of The Doors’ ’Hello, I Love You’, plus berserk versions of older songs such as James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s World’, Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and Sam & Dave’s hoary ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’, sung in a humorous baritone manner. Soon after their second album PORTRAIT OF D’SWOONERS was released, they replaced organist Ernie Espiritu with Japanese musician Jun Batilaran, while trumpeter Butch Tigno took Ronnie Parina’s place. However, D’Swooners’s days were numbered and they split up shortly afterwards without recording anything with the new line up. Eddie Fortuno went on to play drums with Foodbrain, whenever Hiro Tsunoda was out of town with his jazz quintet!
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Hiroshi Segawa – lead guitar
Fujio Yamaguchi – guitar, vocals
Keizo Oki – rhythm guitar
Hiroshi Yoshida – bass
Mitsuo Nomura - drums

Led by lead guitarist Hiroshi Segawa, The Dynamites was a late Group Sounds outfit that began life as The Monsters until their record company Victor forced the name change. As The Monsters, they played raging R&B and dressed just like the high school gang which had spawned them. However, Victor Records forced a whole series of trite single releases on the band, and they were soon outfitted like Little Lord Fontleroys. Their first single was the horrible ‘Tonneru Tengoku (Tunnel Paradise)’ b/w ‘Koi Wa Takusan (I’ve Had Enough Of Love)’, which was quickly followed by ‘Manatsu No Yoru No Dopbutsuen (On Midsummer’s Night)’ b/w ‘Kegawa Ni Natta Shimauma (The Zebra Who Became Fur)’. Despite wearing velvet jackets and cravats or even bellhops’ uniforms in promo pictures, The Dynamites were entirely different on stage, performing Blue Cheer’s arrangement of ‘Summertime Blues’, as well as early Deep Purple hits ‘Kentucky Woman’ and ‘Hush’. However, their third and final 45 for Victor ‘Koi Wa Kesshuon (Love Is Question)’ b/w ‘Sekaiju Ni Hohoemi O (Smile At The Whole World)’ was no better than the first two. They released a decent though poorly-recorded live LP just before they split, entitled LIVE AT THE GO-GOACB 1969, after which time, guitarist Fujio Yamaguchi utterly rebelled by forming outsider rockers Murahatchibu..
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Coming on like a more credible Cliff Richard or a more career-minded Screaming Lord Sutch, the half-Japanese/half-British singer Miki Curtis managed to navigate a successful path through the turbulent ever-changing waters of the Japanese rock’n’roll scene, from its inception in 1958 to its hazy conclusion in the late ‘70s. Curtis began his career as a snaggle-toothed Elvis impersonator in 1958, but oozed such charisma and charm that he was immediately employed by NHK-TV to host their weekly pop show THE HIT PARADE. Getting his teeth fixed, slicking back his hair into a less extreme quiff and donning horn-rimmed glasses, Curtis spent the next few years in this role, using the show as an occasional outlet for his own singing. He thereafter formed Miki Curtis & Samurais to keep abreast of the then-current Group Sounds trend, growing his hair and playing up to the ‘saki and noodles curcuit’ as one Pathe Newsman called it. Was he Mickey, Miki of Mikey? Who knows but Curtis himself; he certainly spelled the name ever way possible in order to keep up with prevailing trends. And possessed with a musical approach that veered from Acker Bilk seashore jazz to soul stompathons, Curtis’ Samurais scored a run of major charts hits including ‘Taiyo No Pataya’, ‘Fires On The Plain’, ‘Wild Life’, ‘Bounce Ko Gals’ and ‘Nothing But Loving’. Ever the career minded pragmatist, Curtis took The Samurais to Europe, where the band played to their Japanese strengths by adopting kimonos. The six piece band also recorded and released records in Germany for Metronome Records, picking up a couple of British musicians – guitarist Joe Dunnett and organist John Redfern - along the way. In London, the band released the single ‘Good Morning Starshie’ b/w ‘Temple of Gold’ for United Artists, and in Italy ‘Shu Shu’ b/w ‘Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer’. Renaming the band Samurai in 1970, to fit in with Japan’s prevailing New Rock fashions, Curtis released two interesting LPs SAMURAI and KAPPA with this line-up, the two LPs being conflated into one – entitled GREEN TEA – for its 1970 British release on Philips. On returning to Japan, bass player Tetsu Yamauchi quit to record his own solo LP for Columbia, and later joined Free. Miki Curtis thereafter tempered his prog rock fixations with the somewhat poppier LP MIMI, which he made for Vertigo Records in 1972. Collaborating on the album with Hosono Haruomi of the country-tinged Happy End and Vodka Collins/Arrows future star Alan Merrill, who would go in to write Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock’n’roll’, MIMI was a blatant sop to the singer/songwriter trends then consuming Japan. Within the sumptuous Sphinx’n’Pyramid badged gatefold of MIMI, Curtis is shown in his two most extreme incarnations, first as early ‘60s be-suited and be-spectacled nerd, and second as be-jewelled longhair shaman. However, this was Curtis’ artistic swansong. By 1977, Miki had given up any pretences of being contemporary and returned to his rock’n’roll roots, his ROCK’N’ROLL HURRICANE LP containing such hackneyed classics as ‘Great Balls of Fire’. ‘Be Bop A Lula’, ‘Ready Teddy’, ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ with Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ throw in for good measure.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Isao Idemitsu – vocals
Yoshiro Matsumoto – lead guitar
Yasuo Hayashi – rhythm guitar
Kaoru Kuramitsu - organ
Hiroaki Shimada – bass
Masao Doshida - drums

In 1967, Crown Records was desperate to create a new kind of GS band, and gave this sextet a choice of either sporting partly shaved heads a la The Monks, or kilts somewhere between a Scots style and those worn by Greece’s evzone military guard. Fearful of the first option, The Cougars opted for red kilts, open-toed lace up Saxon footwear and mid-blue mandarin-collared jackets. The outfits went down so well with fans that when the band stepped out of their guise for one show, there were howls of protest. Musically, The Cougars sounded like a typical American fuzzy garage band on their debut single for Crown Records, the superb trucking A-Side ‘Aphrodite’ propelled along by a ‘There’s a Ghost In My House’ rhythm, and a wonderful spindly guitar solo, while the weirder archaic sounding B-side ‘Teku Teku Tengoku’ sounded as though it had been based on Cab Calloway’s 1920’s hit ‘Minnie The Moocher’. Contiguous with this release was another single not considered GS at the time. Entitled ‘Akogare (Yearning)’ b/w ‘Kokro No Koibito (Lover Of My Heart)’, the disc was aimed at the younger pop market. In 1968, The Cougars released two further GS-styled singles, ‘Sukinanda (I Like You)’ b/w ‘J&A’, and ‘Aoi Taiyo (Blue Sun)’ b/w ‘Kawaii Akuma (Cute Devil)’. However, The Cougars were ultimately unsuccessful, but bass player Hiroaki Shimada became massively popular as the leader of comedy band The Busy Four, in which he mimicked Western musicians of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Tasunaki Mihara – guitar, vocals
Tadao Inoue – sax, vocals
Hiroyoshi Oda – organ, koto
Kenji Takahashi – bass
Jackey Yoshikawa – drums

Led by drummer Jackey Yoshikawa, The Blue Comets are even today still one of Japan’s national treasures, and continue to perform occasionally on national family TV spectaculars. They began in the early 1960s as an all-purpose eleki instrumental group with occasional lead vocals, adapting their act to whatever the current pop trends threw at them. Backing Akira Fuse on his ‘Let’s Do the Swim’, transcribing timeless standards into eleki style for their Christmas LP or recording versions of The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ for their own BEST HITS ’66, the smiling faces of flautist/sax player Tadao Inoue and guitarist Tasunaki Mihara remain something of a fixture on Japan’s NHK-TV
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007