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Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada – vocals
Katsumi ‘Toppo’ Takahashi AKA Katsumi Kato – lead guitar, vocals
Taro Morimoto - guitar
Osami ‘Sally’ Kishibe - bass
Minoru Hitomi - drums

In 1965, the hottest band playing the coffee shops around Kyoto’s ancient centre was a wild bunch that called themselves Sally & The Playboys. They were led by bass player Osami Kishibe, a madman who went by the name of ‘Sally’ in order to stir up trouble in the sleepy ancient city. But despite playing all of the most rebel rousing hits of the day, Sally & The Playboys were totally upstaged one night by their support band The Thunders, whose heart throb vocalist Kenji Sawada caused major swooning in the predominantly female audience. However, Sally & The Playboys were big enough local legends to tempt Sawada away from The Thunders, and the new ensemble – with former Playboys drummer Minoru Hitomi, and guitarists Taro Morimoto and Katsumi Takahashi - came together re-named The Funnies. Success eluded them for close to a year, however, before they discovered and booked by the promoter at Osaka’s big jazz kissa NANBA ICHIBAN. These 1966 Osaka shows impressed two art scene hipsters, the pop singer Akiko Wada and the ‘50s singer/actor Yuya Utchida, who each wished to help their careers. However, the street savvy Utchida won the day by placing the band with the powerful Tokyo management consultants Watanabe Productions, run by longtime industry mogul Shoji Watanabe. But Utchida planned to oust singer Kenji Sawada and take The Funnies for his backing band, an idea that had no appeal to Koichi Sugiyama, the Watanabe Production songwriter who had been put in charge of The Funnies’ repertoire. Sugiyama was a Rolling Stones devotee who saw Yuya Utchida as a ‘has been’ from a bygone era, and considered that The Funnies were almost good enough as they were. He ditched Utchida, renamed them The Tigers and suggested that the band members follow their leader’s lead by adopting female stage names. None of the band concurred except the effusive singer Keiji Sawada, who delightedly became ‘Julie’ after his beloved favourite singer Julie Andrews. Reluctantly, lead guitarist Katsumi Takahashi agreed to become known as Toppo, as it at least sounded asexual, as did drummer Minotu Hitomi, who took the name Pea. Rhythm guitarist Taro Morimoto, however, thought the whole idea sucked, and thenceforth became known professionally as Taro. Koichi Sugiyama’s first song written for The Tigers was a clichéd love song entitled Boku No Mary (My Mary)’, and it failed to chart in the Spring of 1967. Sugiyama wrote a hugely gimmicky summer single entitled ‘Seaside Bound’, and the song was massive throughout the summer of ’67. But the Watanabe Production management team demanded a new image for the next 7” single, and Koichi Sugiyama concocted a simultaneous song’n’image promotional thrust that had The Tigers done up as medieval princes singing the sickeningly bland barfothon ‘Mona Lisa No Hohoemi (Mona’s Lisa’s Smile)’. Then there were the problems discussed in Book One (Chapter Three: The Group Sounds Story). But the problems facing the group had only temporarily been sorted out, and the light Group Sounds was being challenged by the heavy organ doom balladry of Vanilla Fudge’s ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ and Procul Harum’s ‘A White Shade of Pale’. Superficially, TV ads for chocolates and sell-out shows at Tokyo’s Budokan suggested everything was cosy, but The Tigers sensed the paranoia running through their management company and changed course both musically and visually. And when they returned looking and sounding like The Bee Gees, The Tigers’ seemingly watertight career started to go right down the tubes. First, they were criticized for artwork that aped a Buffalo Springfield LP, then attacked for not having learned to write their own material, soon after this receiving shocklingly bad reviews for their HUMAN RENAISSANCE LP, which was deemed uncool, unrock, and just too showbiz. When guitarist Toppo quit the band in March 1969 to join the cast of HAIR, Watanabe Pro pretended he’d been kidnapped and caused a manhunt to begin. When they apologized, the press blamed the band for starting the rumours. Both band and management were so phased by this turn of events that they acted bizarrely, replacing the AWOL Toppo with Sally’s wandering hippy brother Shiro, who was in the United States writing LP reviews for Japanese magazine ‘Music Life’. But Shiro brought only anarchy to The Tigers, and often put down his bass during live performances in order to dance and shake the tambourine. Shiro influenced the others away from their leisure suits and into hippy gear. During the summer of 1969, The Tigers filmed their second movie HI LONDON around the Carnaby Street area of London, and recorded even more Bee Gees songs, this time with Maurice And Barry at the mixing desk. But the Group Sounds rug had been pulled from under them, and The Tigers were history. And on their final recordings, a double live LP entitled JIYU TO AKOGARE TO YUJO (FREEDOM, HOPE & FRIENDSHIP), they capitulated by adopting the heavy sounds of the day, including a version of Grand Funk Railroad’s beautiful soul sludge ballad. With their career sliding inexorably downhill, lead guitarist jumped ship and sensibly accepted an offer to play the role of ‘Claud’ in the hip musical HAIR. Leaders Sally and Julie split the band thereafter in favour of the short-lived supergroup Pyg, a cynical exercise in pretty boy versions of all the most famous heavy songs by the-credible artists such as Deep Purple, Mountain and Sir Elton John. Thereafter Julie Sawada and Sally Kishibe both became successful actors, the former also sustaining a singing career right up to the present day. In 1981, they re-united briefly, but disbanded again in 1983.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Takashi Kubo – lead vocals
Yoichi Suzuki – lead guitar
Hitoshi Nishi - rhythm guitar
Kenji Misaki – organ
Hisao Horiuchi - bass
Mitsuo Nagai - drums

Led by the cute faced drummer Mitsuo Nagai, The Youngers were a actually factory band put together for Philips Records, the six band members having come from all over the country to audition. The Youngers were another band that combined wanton spangly guitar intros with disappointing songs. Maybe they tried hard to spice up the material their A&R man at Philips Records was hefting their way. At their best, The Youngers sounded like Paul Revere & The Raiders plays The Shadows Of Knight’s ‘Someone Like Me’ with late Electric Prunes guitar solos. But even their enthusiasm was dampened by their producer’s use of pizzicato strings, American Breed lounge harmonies and piccolo solos. The Youngers’ first single ‘My Love, My Love’ stole its opening from The Kinks’ ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’, whilst the B-side was the anonymous ‘Hanashitakunai (Don’t Wanna Let You Go)’. The second single ‘Koi O Oshiete (Teach Me About Love)’ b/w ‘Nogiku No Yona Anoko (That Girl Who Looks Like A Wild Daisy)’ was not much better.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Yoshihito Machida – vocals
Kennichi Uwachi – vocals
Yasuo Yamamoto – lead guitar
Eisuke Takahashi – lead guitar
Shigeki Tsukaya - bass
Shigero Otake – drums

Although the bizarrely named Zoo Nee Voo were marketed by Columbia Records as yet another GS outfit, this outwardly-typical sextet were a feisty bunch who made a point, somewhat cantankerously, of insisting in interviews that they were an R&B band. Beginning life as the even more ridiculously-titled Dzoom Boom, the band was the brainchild of lead guitarist Yasuo Yamamoto, who spotted twin vocalists Yoshihito Machida and Kennichi Uwachi singing together in the folk outfit Castle & Gates, in 1966. Signing to Columbia, they made their release debut in October 1968, not with a single but with an LP, which took the English title WORLD OF ZOO NEE VOO. Their debut single later that month, entitled
‘Suifu no Nageki (Sailor’s Lament)’ failed to chart. Zoo Need Voo’s second single was the bizarre ‘Namida no Orugan (The Tearful Organ), but there was little radio interest until the flipside was discovered by a Tokyo DJ. Columbia then withdrew the single, re-releasing it with the more desirable B-side ‘Shiroi Sangosho (White Lagoon)’ as the featured song. This gave the band a number 18 hit, but no more were forthcoming. Thereafter, Zoo Nee Voo moved to Canyon Records, but had no success there either. Singer Machida went solo and drummer Shigero Otake was replaced by Yoichi Arai, but nothing more was heard of Zoo Nee Voo.
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
See Japrocksampler Book Two, Chapter Seven
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
Released in answer to Ikuzo Orita’s superb ‘Polydor Super Session’ series of LPs, this riposte/rip-off, written by Buddhist poet/songwriter Naoki Tachikawa and organised by Teichiku Records’ A&R director Hideki Sakamoto, challenged every one of Orita’s projects and beat most of them cold simply by working though Orita’s own blueprint line by line. People even deployed the arsenal of Orita’s own guitar star ex-Outcast hired gun Kimio Mizutani, whose subtle licks inform the entire work. Mizutani shines brightest on side one’s 12-minute drone chant ‘Shomyo Part One’, but the bluesy bell tone of ‘Shomyo Part Two’ is pure and exquisite cosmic monotony, as is that employed on ‘Flower Strewing’, which elevates the track right out of authentic religious bore into a Funkadelic Deadmarch. On the five-minute wa-funk of ‘Gatha’, the apparently egoless Mizutani conjures up a typical Hideki Ishema-style axe scrawl giving the track a sound just like Kuni Kawauchi’s KIRIKYOGEN. By the middle of side two, the tension has broken and the record starts to sound like Tim Leary’s 7UP collaboration with Ash Ra Tempel, as orgasmic Gille Lettmann/Rosi Muller-style female shrieks overwhelm ‘Prayer’. Director Sakamoto kept it all spacey and minimal, then adding plenty more LUMPY GRAVY-period Frank Zappa and mucho David Axelrod (whence came many of the original concepts) to the stew. As if to prove People’s pragmatism, ‘Epilogue’ concludes with 2-minutes of jamming over Axelrod’s immaculate ‘Holy Thursday’ from SONGS OF INNOCENCE. People’s success is their tenacity in holding on both to the drone and, therefore, to the metaphor, which permeates the entire recording and lays serious meditative usefulness on to the listener. This LP is featured at number 16 in Japrocksampler's Top 50, and its status as a so-called 'Super Session' is given further historical context in Book Two, Chapter Five (pages 133-136).
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007
See Japrocksampler Book Two, Chapter 10

Discography:

SHO-O-SUTETE SUTEYO, MACHI E DEYO (‘High Teen Symphony’) (Tenjo Sajiki 1970)
THROW AWAY THE BOOKS, WE’RE GOING INTO THE STREETS (Victor 1971)
JASUMON (‘Heresy’) (Victor 1972)
KOKKYOU JUNREIKA (Victor 1973)
BARAMON (‘Gay Revolution’) (Victor 1973)
DENEN NI SHISU (‘Death in the Country’) (Sony 1974)
CACHE CACHE PASTORAL E.P. (Carrere 1974)
TENJO SAJIKI AHOUSEN (Columbia 1977)
SHIN TOKU MARU (‘Poison Body Circle’) (Victor 1978)
NUHIKUN (‘Directions to Servants’) (Cassette-only 1979)
SEALBREAKING SONGS (Ain’t Group Sounds, rec. 1980)
KUSA MEIKYU (‘Grass labyrinth’) (1983)
THE LEMMINGS (Cassette-only, 1984; Banyu Inryoku 2000)
SARABA HAKOBUNE (‘Farewell To to The the Ark’) (SMS 1984)
KING LEAR (Cassette-only 1991)
OKAMI SHONEN aka PILGRIMAGE OF BLOOD (P-Vine Compilation compilation 2002)
Posted by Julian Cope, Sep 01, 2007