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Chibo - vocals
Shinki Chen - guitar
George Yanagi - bass
Shinichi Nogi – drums

Powerhouse was a heavy blues combo led by the highly rated guitarist Shinki Chen. Originally named Midnight Express Blues Band, the newly named Powerhouse were persuaded to perform a version of The Beatles' 'Back in the USSR' as their debut single. Despite its inappropriate nature, The Beatles' 'Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da' was next foisted upon them by their record company. Powerhouse chose to record the song as a heavy blues, and their debut LP NEW STYLE OF BLUES - HERE COMES POWERHOUSE was released in April 1969. The band was, however, too heavy for the imploding Group Sounds scene but not original enough to write their own material. Thereafter Shinki went solo then formed Speed Glue and Shinki.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada – vocals
Takayuki Inoue – guitar
Osami ‘Sally’ Kishibe - bass
Katsuo Ohno – keyboards, steel guitar
Hiroshi Oguchi – drums

Pyg was formed in 1971, as a super group, by former Tigers vocalist Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada. Made up of Sawada and former Tigers drummer Hiroshi Oguchi, plus ex-members of Group Sounds bands The Spiders and The Tempters, Pyg was a highly commercial early ‘70s ‘pretty boy’ rock quintet. Fronted by this extravagantly preening and effeminate former Tigers frontman (sometimes described by the Japanese press as the Japanese David Bowie), and supported by the uber-heavyweight Tanabe management agency, Pyg released very commercial singles and albums to a predominantly female audience, reinforced with contemporary ‘heavy’ cover versions. Inane rock fodder at its worst, and – even at their best - barely slapping together passable renditions of the heavy hits of the day, Pyg LPs should not be touched even with a bargepole. Imagine early Deep Purple’s version of ‘Hush’ performed with a Blackpool Illuminations organ accompaniment and weak-as-shit lead vocalist, and you’re getting somewhere close. Recorded at Tokyo Colosseum on August 16th 1971, and fleshed out with a triple gatefold sleeve and free poster, Pyg’s live double-LP FREE WITH PYG was nevertheless nothing more than a teenage scream-o-thon, containing bland ‘play-by-numbers’ band compositions buoyed up by thumping Smokie-meets-Arrows versions of Randy Newman’s ‘Cowboy’, Screaming Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’, Sly’s ‘I Wanna Take You Higher’, and The Rolling Stones’ arrangement of Woody Payne’s ‘Love In Vain’, plus the Stones’ own ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Capturing the mood of the time, they also managed Elton John’s ‘Bitch’ and ‘Country Comfort’ plus The Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’. You just don’t need this shit.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Like the mythical Norns who tended the tree of Yggdrasil in The Norse Myths, The Peanuts are an almost supernatural entity in Japanese pop culture, and sit at the roots of it all. For these identical twin sisters – born Hideyo and Tsukiko Ito, on April Fool’s Day 1941 - achieved such sustained international success, both on the charts, in movies and on TV, that they have a cultural status all their own. Leaving their home in the Aichi prefecture in the mid-50s, to work as The Ito Sisters in the huge industrial city of Nagoya, the twins were discovered by Japan’s foremost music impresario Sho Watanabe, founder of the Watanabe Pro management company that was later to have such impact on the Group Sounds scene. In 1958, Watanabe re-named the sisters Emi and Yumi, and brought them to Tokyo to co-present THE HIT PARADE TV show with former Elvis wannabe Miki Curtis. In the Tokyo media world, the Ito sisters were embraced and nicknamed The Peanuts because of their diminutive size; and manager Sho Watanabe noted that as Emi Ito had a mole next to her left eye, so sister Yumi should draw one in the same place to reinforce their sense of similarity. In 1959, the twins made their first recording as The Peanuts, and had instant hits with ‘Kawaii Hana (Cute Flower)’ and ‘Jyonetsu Hana (Passion Flower)’. Their own TV series SHABONDAMA HOLIDAY (‘soap bubble holiday’) followed, named for their detergent company sponsors; and they gained massive fame throughout the Far East in 1961, when they sang the theme tune to Ishira Honda’s classic monster movie MOTHRA, concerning a monster moth worshipped as a Goddess by the island people over whom she presides. The Peanuts, while still co-hosting the TV series, then had another massive hit with ‘Koi No Balansu (Vacation Of Love)’ in 1963, and were befriended by the German singer Caterina Valente, who performed their latest song when she appeared on their programme. When The Peanuts reciprocated by covering several of Valente’s songs, their versions became successful in Germany, which led to performances on variety shows across Europe and even in America, where they appeared on both Ed Sullivan’s and Danny Kaye’s TV shows. In 1964, The Peanuts topped the charts with the theme song for the new blockbuster movie MOTHRA VERSUS GODZILLA, and furthered their mythical cause by appearing in the movie as two tiny shobijn, beautiful underworld characters just twelve inches tall, who had a telepathic connection to the mighty Mothra. More hits followed in the year ahead with ‘Koi No Fuga (Love Fugue)’, ‘Sayonara Wa Totsuzen (Goodbye Was Too Sudden)’, and the 1965 theme song of the third Mothra movie GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. In the meantime, The Peanuts continued to present their long-running TV series, on which Emi met her future husband singer Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada of Group Sounds superstars The Tigers. However, The Peanuts’ TV show was finally cancelled in 1972, and, after the inevitable round of geino kai (celebrity appearances), The Peanuts officially retired from show business with a farewell appearance on Nihon TV, on May 25th 1975.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Oz Days was a legendary three-day festival in support of Tokyo's Oz Club, which was being forced to close down. All artists who had previously played at the Oz Club were asked to support the festival, which included performances by Acid Seven Group, Taj Mahal Travellers, Les Rallizes Denudes and Miyako-ochi, and which gained mythical status via a bootleg LP that was widely distributed throughout the West. Being such a mover and shaker in the Japanese scene, Acid Seven was billed under his own name, leading to the popular Western misconception that he was a band rather than an individual.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yoko Ono's story, as relevant to Japrock fans, is told throughout Japrocksampler (see especially Book One, Chapter Two).
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Shinki Chen – guitar, bass pedals
Shigeki Watanabe – keyboards
Hiroshi Oguchi – drums

After the break up of Speed Glue & Shinki, Shinki Chen formed Orange with keyboard player Shigeki Watanabe of Wild Wand and former Tigers drummer Hiroshi Oguchi, who had just left Julie Sawada’s terrible post-Tigers supergroup Pyg. The Orange trio performed at the 1972 MOJO WEST festival and would have, according to producer and Atlantic label boss Ikuzo Orita, released their own record on Atlantic only if Speed Glue & Shinki’s second album had sold enough copies (‘We didn’t do anything after the second recording because it didn’t sell.’). However, as Masayoshi Kabe went missing during the recording of Speed Glue & Shinki’s mighty double-LP, the Orange ensemble was hauled in to fill out the record with their own song ‘Chuppy’, a flute-driven Shigeki Watanabe original, which was quite frankly by far the worst song on that all time monster of a rock’n’roll album. From this evidence, perhaps it is best that Orange never left the starting gate.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Ikuzo Orita is one of the key figures in the Japrocksampler story (see Book Two).
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Matsuo Ono is an experimental electronic composer best known for his mid-'60s musical soundtracks for the cartoon "Astro-boy". His assistant throughout these recordings was the legendary composer and founder of Taj Mahal Travellers, Takahisa Kosugi.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Hiroshi Nar began his career as bassist/singer for the organ-driven psychedelically styled quartet Datetenryo. Soon after he joined Mizutani's legendary Les Rallizes Denudes, but suffered several nervous breakdowns during which time he was homeless. He is said to have entered the 1980s owning just a guitar, a tape deck, a futon and an Amon Duul 2 cassette. After years of this itinerant lifestyle, Nar returned to the music scene with his quarted The Niplets, and has also enjoyed some underground success with the reissue of several of his 1970s recordings on the 3-inch CD series made by Goodbye and Hello studios.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007