Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cool & Strange Music Vol. 5 - The Peanuts and More!

It's time for another episode of Cool & Strange Music. Last night I had the pleasure of playing on my FM radio show a very cool band from the USA named "The Wooly Bandits" and their version entitled "Cambodia Girl" and, while playing it, it dawned on all of us that we've heard the song before! We had! It was a cover of the 1968 smash hit by Pinky & the Killers called "Koi no Kisetsu" (The Season of Love).... Well, at least I think it is!

Wikipedia says about Pinky & the Killers:

Pinky and the Killers (Latin transcription: Pinky & Killers) is a Bossa Nova band fronted by singer  Yoko Kon and was active in Japan from 1968 to 1972. Later Yoko Kon became a solo artist. Pinky means "little finger" so, with the back band's name, "Killers" the nickname of the band was "Pinkira."

Pinky & the Killers also won the Best New Band of 1968 award that year.

Pinky & the Killers were a Japanese Bossa Nova band?! What? Yeah. Of course western music had a great influence on Japanese pop music. This next artist was a huge Japanese girls pop duo in the early 1960s. Their name was The Peanuts.

Get this, probably one the Peanuts' biggest hits was influence by Beethoven's Fur Elise. Check the Beethoven song out for a few seconds first, then listen to the Peanuts song:

Now, here's The Peanuts with "Jyonetsu no Hana" (Flower of Passion):

Here's another smash hit by The Peanuts. It's called "Koi no Fugue" (The Fugue of Love).

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the Peanuts:

The Peanuts (ザ・ピーナッツ Za Pīnattsu) is a Japanese vocal group consisting of twin sisters Emi Itō (伊藤エミ, Itō Emi) and Yumi Itō (伊藤ユミ, Itō Yumi). They were born in Tokoname Aichi, (Japan) on April 1, 1941, soon after their birth, the family moved to Nagoya.

In the first years they sang Japanese covers of standards, foreign hits, and Japanese folk songs, then they began singing originals, written by their producer, Hiroshi Miyagawa, and such songwriters as Koichi Sugiyama and Rei Nakanishi. Later they embarked on a brief acting career, notably in the 1961 film Mothra. The pair retired from performance in 1975.

They are remembered most for their versions of European songs and for a handful of Japanese pop songs, such as "Furimukanaide" ("Don't Turn Around"). Their performing style played heavily on their being nearly identical twins with voices only slightly apart in pitch (making a duet sound like a solo artist using reverb.

Emi Itō died on June 15, 2012, at the age of 71.

What? The Peanuts were those two scary girls in Mothra? I think that was the very first Japanese monster movie I ever watched in m life. I watched it with my mom and when those girls came out to sing to bring out Mothra, that scared the pants off of me (heck,  think I was only 5 or 6!)

The Peanuts "Song of Mothra"

Of course, many western artists really influenced the Japanese and, sometimes, it was quite mind blowing. America had "The World's Greatest Entertainer," Al Jolson, who, the the seminal film played "The Jazz singer" with his face made up like he was black, but that was in 1927. In Japan, they still had guys doing that sort of thing as late as 1984... When I first came to Japan and saw these Japanese guys with black makeup on their faces, I thought, "That's so racist!" But, I don't think these guys meant it that way at all. They meant it as a tribute to the great Doo Wop groups of the 50s (OK, if their sensibilities are a bit off kilter for a western audience).

Here's the Chanels with their smash hit "Runaway":

You Andrew Warhol fans might enjoy what Wikipedia says about the Chanels:

In 1975, Masayuki Suzuki, who likes doo-wop, Masashi Tashiro and Nobuyoshi Kuwano, joined together to form a band called Chanels. The band debuted in 1980 with their first single "Runaway" selling over a million copies and becoming a huge hit. In 1983, the band changed its name to Rats & Star due to complaints from the French fashion giant Chanel. Andy Warhol created the album cover for "Soul Vacation" and the name change seemed to make no difference in sales, as their first single as Rats & Star, "Me-Gumi no Hito," sold over 800,000 copies. Five of the members were married at Tokyo's Hie Shrine at the same time during 1985, generating a lot of publicity for the group. Rats & Star released a duet with Masayuki's older sister Kiyomi Suzuki called "Lonely Chaplain" in 1986, which also became a huge hit. Although leader Masayuki Suzuki launched a solo career and Rats & Star's activity thus essentially stopped. Afterward, Tashiro and Kuwano played an active part and were so popular not as musical artists, as TV performers. they formed Rats & Star again in the limitation of half a year and released the single "Yume de Aetara" in 1996, which was popular enough to encourage the group to go on a final nationwide tour. The same year, they made their first appearance on Kōhaku Uta Gassen to perform that song.

The group's name is a palindrome, reading the same both backwards and forwards. The name's true meaning, however, is that "rats" raised in the less affluent parts of town could, by singing doo-wop music, reverse their fortunes and collectively become a "star".

In 2006, Suzuki, Kuwano and Sato formed "Gosperats" with Japanese a cappella singing group Gospellers' member Tetsuya Murakami and Yuji Sakai.

Unique Andy Warhol screen prints of the album cover "Soul Vacation" have sold for upwards of $25,000 each.

Well, that's all for today. But before I go, let me leave you with a song that, while not Cool and Strange is definitely cool! I think this is one of the best pop songs I've heard this year.

And speaking of art! The next group's name is the Frankfurt Schoolgirls and the song is called "What Women Want."

Actually, my very favorite Frankfurt Schoolgirls song of all time is "Song Without Love" but for some reason, I can't embed this video. Do yourself a favor and click here to hear this GREAT song!

Well, that's it for today! You have a Cool and Strange day! See you next time!

1 comment:

Andrew Joseph said...

HI MIKE... Song Without Love is very, very good and touched me. Frankfurt School Girls, huh? Never heard of them... but they have a nice sound.

The Peanuts! How cool! I need to use that bit in my own blog one day... Mothra... I always loved their singing and always love to sing their song... I did it last week. I'm strange. But cool.