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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
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