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Keichi Usui – vocals
Jiro Kitamura – guitar
Hiroshi Koshikawa - guitar
Tadao ‘Paul’ Okada - bass
Ai Takano – drums

The Carnabeats were one of the few Group Sounds bands to become known by western psychedelic fans, mainly because of their later association with Gary Leeds of The Walker Brothers; and for their covers of The Zombies’ songs, indeed the band became referred to in certain quarters as ‘The Japanese Zombies’. The band was formed in Yokohama, in 1967, by sixteen-year-old drummer Ai Takano, himself the son of a jazz sax player and already a veteran of the local club scene. 20-year-old guitarist Jiro Kitamura, whose band Swing West had just broken up, was drawn by Takano’s sweet vocal style and obsession with Keith Moon-style drumming, and the two joined forces. Initially calling themselves The Robin Hoods, the band travelled around in a Toyota van enscribed with a longbow-wielding figure, which was to remain painted on the van’s front doors even throughout their Carnabeat days. Next, they enlisted the aid of singer Keichi Usui and guitarist Hiroshi Koshikawa, both from the huge industrial city of Nagoya. Bassist Tadao Oka completed the band’s line-up just as they changed their name to the ‘Carnaby Street’-inspired Carnabeats. Early success followed with their version of The Zombies’ LP track ‘I Love You’, which became a massive hit when they gave it the Japanese name ‘Sukisa, Sukisa, Sukisa’, causing The Zombies’ original to get its own single release. The Carnabeats were all huge fans of The Who, The Kinks, and many American bands, and chose for their next single an obscure B-side of ‘Give Me Lovin’ by Canada’s The Great Scots. Again re-named for the Japanese market, ‘Koioshiyoyo Jenny’ was another big hit and featured on later international compilations entitled ‘Jenny’. The third single, entitled ‘Suteki Ni Sandy (I Love You, Sandy)’, was written by drummer Ai Takano, and featured their legion of female fans on massed backing vocals. They then returned to The Zombies’ catalogue for two fairly straight covers of the songs ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Time of the Season’, thereafter charting with their own gimmicky hit ‘Chu! Chu! Chu! (Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!)’. Although The Carnabeats were friendly with other Group Sounds acts, the band’s management insisted that they maintain a distance in public in order to appear cool and aloof, and Carnabeats drummer Ai Takano later described Jaguars singer Sin Okamoto visiting his house after dark to keep up the deceit. However, a professional friendship developed between the band and The Walker Brothers. Ai Takano later described drummer Gary Leeds, who appeared on the B-side of their super-groovy Strangeloves style hit ‘Cutie Morning Moon’, trying to sing and play the A-side song and failing miserably. Perhaps most strangely, this truly excellent single was produced and co-written by Scott ‘Tilt’ Walker himself. By 1969, however, after releasing just one LP, the days of The Carnabeats were over, and they split up; bass player Tadao Okada joining the cast of the musical HAIR, and drummer Ai Takano joining the newly-formed Eddie Ban Group, led by Golden Cups’ guitarist, and later joining the re-formed Golden Cups until their demise.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Zoon was formed in 1974 by ex-Murahatchibu guitarist Fujio Yamagauchi. He was joined on vocals by Tina, with bassist Takazawa and drummer Bishop. The group went nowhere and split in 1976, when Fujio formed resort.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Musica Poetica, a Japanese group led by Yumiko Tanno, director of the Tokyo Heinrich Shutz Choir.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Akira ‘Ken’ Narita – vocals
Masao Hayase - vocals
Hideki Ishima – lead guitar
Masayuki Hirai – rhythm guitar
Hiroshi Arakawa - bass
Yukio Awamura - drums

In 1964, future Flower Travellin’ Band guitarist Hideki Ishima arrived in Tokyo from his hometown Sapporo. He got together with guitarist Masayuiki Hirai, bassist Hiroshi Arakawa and drummer Yukio Awamura to form an eleki band which took the name The Outlaws. However, the clubs in which The Outlaws played also demanded that they employ a singer. Inspired by The Spiders’ twin lead vocalists, The Outlaws decided to recruit Akira Narita and Masao Hayase. Invited to support their heroes The Spiders, the band then changed their name to The Beavers just prior to making their stage debut. Their first single ‘Hatsukoi No Oka (The Hill Of The First Love)’ b/w ‘Hello, Coffee Girl’ was released in July 1967 was not a big hit, but was considered something special by fans of the Group Sounds scene. The second single ‘Kimimaki Sekai (The World Without You)’ fared better but still failed to chart, as did their third 45 ‘Itoshi No Santa Maria (Saint Maria, My Love)’. The band’s sole LP VIVA BEAVERS was released thereafter but, at the end of 1968, after the release of their fifth failed single ‘Nakanaide Nakamaide (Please Don’t Cry)’, Ishima recognised that the GS boom was faltering. Ishima split the band when he was invited to join The Flowers by Yuya Uchida.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Fumio Nunoya - vocals
Kazuo Takeda – guitar
Koh Eiryu – guitar
Kenji Wada - bass
Junosuke Suzuki - drums

Formed in 1968, in Tokyo, by childhood friends Koh Eiryu, Kazuo Takeda and Fumio Nunoya, The Bickies actually lasted only one year with this name, but their relative inactivity, famous TV appearances and lack of recorded output has made them something of a Group Sounds legend. During their one year of existence, however, they were hot property and The Bickies topped a ‘Battle of the Bands’ for five weeks, on TV’s pop show R&B PARADISE, before the mysterious Koh Eiryu quit. He would return briefly to help form Blues Creation, only to quit once more and disappear from the music scene. In 1975, however, Koh Eiryu recorded a solo LP ALARM CLOCK.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Joey Smith - vocals, drums
Michael Hanopol – keyboards, vocals
Wally Gonzalez – guitar
Rino - bass

Like the wild '60s band D’Swooners, Zero History was a Philipino quintet who played in-store performances in Japan’s shopping malls at the tail end of the ‘60s. Comprised of several of the musicians who would later become Juan De La Cruz, Zero History were discovered by guitarist Shinki Chen, whilst playing in either Akasaka’s Mugen department store or Yokohama’s Astro shopping mall. Shinki was particularly taken by the wild drumming of singer Joey Smith, whom he later contacted to form Speed, Glue & Shinki. It is unknown whether or not this band ever made studio recordings.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yuigonka is an obscure psychedelic band whose sole LP ENDLESS ENDLESS I have never heard. It was released on Philips Records in 1971.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Zen was a cult ensemble whose sole LP was released in 1971 in a fabulous arthouse sleeve by pop art legend Tadanori Yoko'o. The disc is said to have contained field recordings of Zen monks, rain, insects, and atmospherics, but is so obscure that I've yet to hear it.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
This experimental composer was born in 1929, in the hot springs city of Koriyama, in Fukushima prefecture. When Yuasa entered Tokyo’s highly prestigious Keio University, in 1948, it was as an undergraduate in the medical faculty that he intended to make his name. However, Keio was a forward-thinking cultural centre, and the oldest of all the Japanese higher learning instituations, having been founded, in 1858, by the modern rationalist Yukichi Fukuzawa. The spirit of ‘jitsugaku’, or rationalist thinking, that Fukuzawa had brought forth was a belief in total real life experience, and the attitudes of Yuasa’s lecturers at Keio inspired him to take his love of music seriously. Although no more than an enthusiastic amateur, Yuasa began to compose experimental piano pieces and, in 1951, joined the brand new Jikken-Koubou experimental workshop. Jikken-Koubou was still just months old, and had been founded by the musicologist Kuniharu Akiyama and his colleagues Syozo Kitadai, Hiroyoshi Suzuki along with the soon-to-become legendary Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Gaining confidence from these associations, Yuasa wrote ‘Two Pastorals’, a seven minute solo piano that pianist Ichiro Nodaira performed for him.(PIANO WORKS 2002). The following year, Nodaira performed another of Yuasa’s piano solos, the nine minutes long ‘Three Score Set’, but Yuasa was developing a fascination for tape music, and the inner journeys that such music would take him on. As he later wrote: “Tape music was [a] completely unknown field at the time. Even reversed playing of recorded sound, change of tape speed, filtering and feedback echo were totally new for the ear.” However, as Yuasa’s knowledge of technology was still rudimentary, his piano music continued to dominate his compositions throughout the 1950s, and, by 1955, Yuasa was well respected enough for his ‘Projection For Seven Players’ to be premiered, on July 12th, by a septet from the NHK Symphony Orchestra (this work would later be re-recorded for the Columbia LP JOJI YUASA PROJECTIONS by The Instrumental Ensemble of Contemporary Music).
More piano works followed, including the seven minutes long ‘Projection Topologic’ solo piano work, which was performed, in 1957, by the 19-year-old prodigy Yuji Takahashi (later released on the 1975 Columbia Records LP JOJI YUASA PROJECTIONS). However, it was Joji Yuasa’s vocal and tape experiments which set him apart from other experimental composers of the era, and his epic ‘Aoi No Ue’, recorded throughout 1961, was a dazzling and proto-psychedelic half hour of shamanic chanting. This huge and expansive work, which was based on a 15th century Noh play written by Ze-Ami, was a tale of jealousy and heartbreak between Prince Genji and his rejected lover Princess Rokujo. Yuasa took the original words of the text and had them sung in the style of Japanese Noh chant by three Noh actor brothers Hisao, Shizuo and Hideo Kanze. Throughout the performance, music concrete comprised of ‘birdsong, water drops, glasses, warped sound of vibraphone, some generated electronic sound and others’ was mixed into the performance by engineer Zyunoske Okuyama. Yuasa also learned belatedly that he had won the Jury's Special Prize of the 1961 Berlin Film Festival

Japanese experimental music began 1962 with something of a bang at the Sogetsu Kaikan Hall, with four performances by the experimental puppet theatre group Hitomi-za, who had chosen to have their performances orchestrated with the music of Group Ongaku, Naozumi Yamamoto, Joji Yuasa and the musicologist/cultural activist Kuniharu Akiyama. Unfortunately, the Group Ongaku own contribution to ‘Moment Grand-Guignolesques’ was never recorded, so we can only imagine the performances of Messrs. Kosugi, Tone and company. However, Kunihara Akiyama produced as mysterious a piece of music concrete as I’ve yet heard, while Yuasa’s brief work, also entitled ‘Moment Grand-Guignolesques, was an epic collage of ripped newspapers, crushed brown paper and dropped telephone books that sounds uncannily reminiscent of Psychic TV’s 1988 epic ‘Kondole’, still awaiting birth 17 years hence. Yuasa composed his experimental ‘Interpenetration for 2 Flutes’ flute duet between Masao Yoshida and Ryu Noguchi for 1963, and another epic solo voice piece followed in 1964, entitled ‘Kansoku’. Yuasa won the prestigious Prix Italia in 1966 and 1967, learning of the second award while in the NHK Electronic Music Studio composing and recording the 13-minute long electronic piece ‘Icon On The Source Of White Noise’ (which was released on the Columbia Records LP JOJI YUASA PROJECTIONS, in 1975). The Japanese Society Fellowship awarded him scholarship grants for 1968 and ’69, during which time he recorded the 20-minute vocal and electronic piece ‘Voices Coming’ at NHK’s Electronic Workshop, and the 15-minutes of ‘Music For Space projection’ which had been commissioned for Japan’s EXPO ’70. Thereafter, he was invited to lecture in Hawaii at their portentously named The Festival Of The Arts Of This Century, and premiered his ‘Projection For String Quartet’, also in 1970, realized a nine minute piece for three double basses entitled ‘Triplicity For Contrabass’. At the beginning of 1972, after many years abroad, the brilliant pianist Yuji Takahashi returned to Japan and invited Yuasa to form the composers’ group TranSonic along with himself, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Hiraki Hiyashi, Minao Shibata, Yoriaki Matsudaira and Toru Takemitsu. This septet was to wield considerable force in the experimental scene, and Takahashi celebrated Japanese return with a premier of Yuasa’s prosaically titled solo piano piece ‘On The Keyboard’.

In 1973, Yuasa’s epic ‘Chronoplastic For Orchestra’, premiered the previous August, won the composer both the 21st Otaka Prize and the Japan Arts festival’s Grand Prix. This 14-minute work had been commissioned by NHK and involved ninety-three members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, all of which was in sharp contrast to the following year’s quintet work ‘Territory’ with its strange configuration of marimba, flutes and clarinets. In 1975, The Koussevitzky Foundation commissioned another huge orchestral piece. The result was the 20-minute ‘Time For Orchestral Time 1’ involving ninety-four members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. But far more interesting to readers of this book is Yuasa’s epic and empty 1975 electronic work ‘My Blue Sky’, in which the composer eschewed the use of white noise in favour of ‘clicks, pulses and various kinds of beats’. Hereafter, Joji Yuasa’s story becomes only of passing interest as his music more and more moved into computers and the like. Throughout 1976, he was composer in residence at the University of California in San Diego, and thence to the Berlin Artist programme. Yuasa continued to reap composer awards throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, most moving surely being his 1996 award of the 45th Otaka Prize for his ‘Violin Concerto In Memory Of Toru Takemitsu’, Yuasa’s recently deceased colleague, friend, and fellow experimentalist.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Sai Yoshiko was 23 years olf when she made her debut LP, released in July 1976.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007