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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
This ensemble is said to have been wild and progressive folk with extreme vocals. It has been reissued on CD by Prime Direction.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Reck - guitar, vocals
Hiroshi Higo - bass
Chiko Hige - drums

This brutal Stooges-like power trio formed by ex-members of futen street ensemble Maru Sankaku Shikaku (Circle Triangle Square). Their sole album release SANBUN NO SAN appears at number 43 in Japrocksampler's Top 50. Thereafter, Reck moved to New York, where he joined the tail end career of Lydia Lunch's Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. Reck later returned to Tokyo and formed the New York-influenced Friction, a kind of catch-all Pistols/PIL/Robert Quine hogwash of all things refusenik. Although I hated (dismissed) the sole Friction studio LP at the time of release, time has been kind to the record and the band's Live album is actually a storming and successful representative of the No Wave scene.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Keyboardist and synthesizer manipulator Morishita Tokihiko made two albums of Polydor in 1972, neither of which I have heard. However, they are both held in high regard by many fans of the Japanese underground, and should be included here. Tokihiko later provided the expertise with which manga artist Mizuki Shigeru achieved his own album, and nowadays works on major picture film scores. He sometimes goes by the working name Geinoh Yamashirogumi.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
The Tokyo Kid Brothers story is told on pages 218-219 of Japrocksampler.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007