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Keyboard player and prime mover Hiro Yanagida began his musical life in Ground Sounds outfit The Floral, before founding the considerably cooler Apryl Fool in 1968. However, Yanagida is best known for his contributions to the so-called ‘Super Session’ period of 1970-72, during which time he made a couple of flawed-but-interesting solo LPs and contributed to a whole slew of experimental Japanese albums, including Foodbrain’s A SOCIAL GATHERING project, Shinki Chen’s solo LP SHINKI CHEN & HIS FRIENDS, Masahiko Satoh’s marvellous AMALGAMATION album, and the stupendous and original free soul of LOVE WILL MAKE A BETTER YOU, by Love Live Life +1. The keyboardist also found time to contribute a couple of tunes to some Tokyo Kid Brothers plays, and MATIHEDEYOU SYOWOSUTEYO by J.A. Caesar. Nowadays, Yanagida’s debut solo LP MILK TIME suffers mightily in comparison to its obvious inspirational blueprint, Frank Zappa’s HOT RATS. But there are still some excellent excessive Jean Luc Ponty violin moments from guest Hiroki Tamaki, especially on the weighty title track. His second self-titled album was considerably less interesting, though, even containing a daft doowop sung by Joey Smith of Speed, Glue & Shinki. I know nothing of his work thereafter.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Teruyuki Takahashi – vocals, bass
Yoshio Hayakawa – guitar, vocals
Takasuke Kida – drums, percussion
Hiro Tsunoda – drums, percussion

Released on the highly respected URC record label (Underground Record Club), this was said to be some kind of psychedelic folk super group led by the songwriter Teruyuki Takahashi. Guesting on the record was Jacks singer Yoshio Hayakawa, as well as the ubiquitous Hiro Tsunoda, the Japanese Cozy Powell. This record was recently reissued on CD by Prime Records.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Taisuke Morishita – bass, vocals
Hiroshi Imaizumi – guitar
Yu Toda – drums

Led by underground mover and shaker Taisuke Morushita, Yellow is nowadays remembered only for its legendary 16-minutes one-chord burn-up ‘Watch Out!’ and proto-plod blues rumble ‘Brother’, both which appeared on the compilation UNDERGROUND TRACKS ‘70s on the Dead Flower label. Recorded in 1972 on lo-fi equipment, this field recording quality festival performance nevertheless shows the band to have been a Detroit proto-metal brain death of the finest kind. Morishita howls off-the-cuff Jagger/Iggyisms as guitarist Hiroshi Imaizumi tears off punk lick after lick like Leigh Stephens or an even more deformed Ronald Rank Asheton. From the limited evidence, this lot seem like a lost classic outfit.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yellow Magic Orchestra was formed in 1978, and was inspired by the music of Kraftwerk and David Bowie.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Hailed by art critics as ‘the standard bearer of anti-modernism’, Tadanori Tokoo’s extraordinary and insightful poster art of the 1960s and 1970s offers the Westerner a doorway into the Japanese postwar refusenik mindset. Nowadays chronicled by museums and art houses the world over, Tokoo’s multi-level symbolism often crowded cliché against cliché, here juxtaposing the eternal Mount Fuji of ancient Japan Within with the Shinkansen (bullet train) of postwar Japan Without, there offering up Marylin Monroe alongside religious icons thus befitting her role as that generation’s Sex Goddess). My personal favourite will always remain Yokoo’s superb monster movie poster-style take on JFK’s successor President Linden B. Johnson clutching a McDonnell Phantom jet fighter in one hand and the Mother Earth in the other. Unlike the flat barely two-dimensional pop art of Warhol, Yokoo’s posters were often dense and buried in meaning, not grabbing the eye at all, appearing especially dense to those were used to enjoying the type of modern art that demanded a hugely intense first reaction. In 1969, experimental composer Toshi Ichiyanagi dedicated an opera to Yokoo, calling it OPERA FROM THE WORKS OF TADANORI YOKOO. Clothed in some of Yokoo’s most famous and delicate artwork, the opera was released on The End Records as a beautiful double-LP, and came in the form of twin picture discs. Comprised mainly of electronic music, multiple chatter and spoken words, the whole of Side Three was a 20-minute freakout by Yuya Utchida’s pre-Flower Travellin’ Band Group Sounds act The Flowers. The track, entitled I’m Dead’, is a spooky drawn out thing like nothing recorded before nor after.It obviously generated a cult of its own, for the track was featured on the bootleg FROM PUSSIES TO DEAD IN 10,000 YEARS OF FREAKOUT. ‘I’m Dead’ took its name from one of Yokoo’s most famous works – a poster depicting a young man hanging himself, with the caption below reading: ‘Having reached a climax at the age of 29, I was dead’. Yokoo published several fine art books throughout the years, and those that I have been able to locate are published below. At his funeral, friends carried pumpkins and fruit instead of flowers and did not accept his death as an end.

Recommended:

YEARNING FOR MILLENNIUM (No Publisher/Ltd Ed. 1974)
UROTSUKI YATA (Shueisha Publishing 1975)
100 POSTERS BY TADANORI TOKOO (Images Graphiques 1978)
TADANORI YOKOO & HIS WORKS (Heibonsha Publishing 1996)
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Alan Merrill – vocals, guitar
Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu – guitar
Take Yokouchi – bass
Hiroshi Oguchi – drums

Although they were together barely three years, Vodka Collins was Japan’s biggest glam rock band of the ‘70s, and remain legends to this day on account of their songwriter having written Joan Jett’s anthem ‘I Love Rock’n’roll’, and their drummer and lead guitarist both having been superstars of the Group Sounds scene. Formed as a trio in 1971, initially as a side project around ex-Spiders lead guitarist Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu, the two other original members consisted of ex-Tempters drummer Hiroshi Oguchi and ex-Four Leaves guitarist Take Yokouchi. However, whilst searching for a much younger frontman, the trio discovered the talented Eurasian model, TV actor and singer/songwriter Alan Merrill, whose American mother Helen Merrill was a national treasure to the Japanese, being a singer/actress in the Doris Day tradition. Alan Merrill, who had made his first solo LP whilst still in his mid-teens, acted in the TV show Young 720 and sung with Group Sounds act The Lead, delivered the band a whole bunch of T. Rex-styled songs, all of which would make it on to the first Vodka Collins album TOKYO-NEW YORK. The band signed a big deal with Toshiba/EMI Records and the powerful Watanabe Entertainment agency, immediately scoring massive hits with their single ‘Billy Mars’, ‘Automatic Pilot’ and ‘Sands Of Time’. However, when Merrill’s success brought him no increase in paycheck, he quit on the eve of a huge show at Tokyo’s Budokan and fled to England, where he signed with Mickey Most’s RAK label. Thereafter, Merrill formed the teen phenomenon Arrows, scored a major ITV series and hit the British charts with ‘A Touch Too Much’ and ‘I Love Rock’n’roll’. It was at this time that Joan Jett, while on a British tour with The Runaways, saw the Arrows performance of Merrill’s song and decided she should record the anthem for herself.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The career of alto sax player and flautist Sadao Watanabe spans from the mid-50s right up to the present day, during which time his music regularly brought him into contact with musicians who are important to Japrocksampler, including trumpeters Terumasa Hino and Shunzo Ohno, keyboard player Masabumi Kikuchi, Foodbrain and Flied Egg drummer Hiro Tsunoda and guitarists Kiyoshi Sugimoto and Masayuki Takayanagi.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Akira Ishakawa – drums, field recordings, composer
Kimio Mizutani – guitar
Takeshi Muraoka Ken – tenor sax
Masaaki Teraoka - bass

In 1971, percussionist and researcher Akira Ishakawa traveled to Africa to study the music of the Masai people of Uganda. Ishakawa was dark skinned and had dreamed of making such a trip since he was a young boy, for he believed that there was something of the native African in him. In Uganda, Ishakawa felt even more drawn to the music than he had expected and discovered real spiritual release ‘from playing my drums in this unspoiled environment’, as he wrote in the LP sleevenotes. He noted how laid back everybody was compared to Japan, how loose attitudes were to cannabis, which he smoked at a cost of one penny per joint, and how attractive he found the women, who ‘had bad body odour, but whose services I could buy for just 3000 yen’(!). Ishakawa bought drums made of zebra skin, an African piano that ‘was no more than a wooden box with steel plates stuck upon it’, and tried to buy the home made instrument of a local shaman, who upset Ishakawa greatly when the old man began to cry at the thought of parting with the tool with which he made his livelihood. Deeply moved by all of this experience, Akira returned to Japan, where he conceived of the UGANDA project and set about creating a musical ensemble, which he named Count Buffaloes. He contacted his good friends sax player Takeshi Muraoka Ken and bass player Masaaki Teraoka, with whom he began ‘creating this music, even though I knew it would not be commercial. The most important thing was its poetic truth and that it was not influenced by American music’. At first, Ishikawa instructed his musicians exactly how to play, composing, arranging, directing, and singing musical parts to the others. However, by the midpoint of the UGANDA project, sax player Maraoka was so down with Ishakawa’s muse that he began to compose with Ishikawa to a level that satisfied the drummer. The four long pieces on the record were culled from sixteen in total, and the services of wah-wah guitar fiend Kimio Mizutani were enlisted to bring a modern electric savagery to several of the tracks. As was the way of the former Out Cast guitar slinger, Mizutani over reached himself several times during the proceedings, and the results were a total psychedelic wah fuzz wipe out. Despite the record label reading ‘jazz’, this record became an African head charge unlike anything before or after.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007