Book update: 60s rock

One of the worst things in the world of blogging is blog posts apologising for the recent lack of blog posts: those short notes saying, “I’m still here, don’t leave me, I promise I’ll write more once these unspecified events pass over,” that always seem more like attempts by the writer to convince themselves than anything else.

In any case, this is one of those posts. After a productive May, posting has dropped off rather, firstly due to a series of live events I was organising, plus the release of the Quit Your Band! zine in July. The other thing that’s preying on my time is that I’ve started writing a book.

I’ve been nervous about mentioning it on here for fear of jinxing it, but the good people at Awai Books have been very encouraging and seem genuinely enthusiastic about the project, plus I’ve started making some meaningful progress with writing now, so it seems as good a time as any to mention it.

The content is primarily based around the same kind of stuff I write on here and in my Japan Times column, although I’m doing some additional research and trying to set up interviews with a few musicians and local specialists to fill in the gaps. A number of much more professional and respectable people than I have already written books in English on Japanese music so it’s going to be difficult to make my own offering stand out, but hopefully readers will find something of interest in it.

It won’t be ready for a long time yet (next year perhaps, and probably not early), but since the process of writing it is causing me to listen to all kinds of things, I’ll be posting updates with notes and comments on some of the bands I’ve been researching or writing about so the place doesn’t look too dead, and I’ll continue to try to post new stuff whenever it comes up.The Tempters: Tell Me More

I was looking at the 60s most recently, and thinking about Group Sounds. For those who don’t know, Group Sounds (“GS”) was the term applied to bands that sprung up in Japan in the wake of The Beatles’ legendary 1966 gig at the Nippon Budokan. The Tigers, The Tempters, The Spiders and The Mops were among the best known. There’s a lot of nice stuff, but for me, the only one that really stands out (and that really stands up to modern scrutiny) was The Golden Cups.The Golden Cups: This Bad Girl

The rough edged garage fuzz their recordings have really makes a lot of their contemporaries (I’m looking at you, Kenji Sawada) look like the weedy sellouts they were (check out the proto-Sonic Youth freakout in The Golden Cups’ version of Hey Joe). One thing I thought was interesting though, was how despite the way the progression of 60s rock’n’roll is usually presented as a shift from “eleki” (surf-style instrumental music influenced by The Ventures) to GS, there was a fair amount of overlap, and some of the leading practitioners of eleki, like Takeshi Terauchi, produced fascinating and brutal work, what I guess you’d call surfadelic music, in the late 60s.Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys: Tsugaru Eleki Bushi

I suppose the distinction I’d make though, is that I don’t think eleki and GS should really count as “Japanese rock”. The form is too deeply rooted in foreign forms and relies too much on cover versions, or else artists just allowed themselves to be coopted into mainstream Japanese pop. For me, The Jacks are where a distinctive Japanese rock music really starts. Their most famous song, Marianne, is an amazing achievement. Like if American rock’n’roll had gone straight from the Everly Brothers to The Velvet Underground, it really must have scared the shit out of people in 1968.The Jacks: Marianne

Anyway, I’m not really writing it in any kind of systematic order, so my next update might be on something completely unrelated and who knows when it’ll be, but this is my plan for now. Keep ’em peeled.


Filed under Blogs, Classic Pop

8 responses to “Book update: 60s rock

  1. miffy

    Nice but I am a numbers man
    Are you going to look for sales number for these old albums? It be nice as a historical reference (and also for that Wikipedia quotations!)

    And since everything is so Tokyo centric, will there be non Tokyo bands? Or how these ideas spread throughout Japan in those analogue days

    • Where it’s relevant to the point I’m making, I guess I’ll try to find figures. Not sure it is for this 60s stuff which is really just background — all the historical stuff is really just background, and deals with the more difficult-to-pin-down issue of influence than sales trends, which becomes more of an issue when I start talking about the 90s/2000s.

      There’s lots of interesting stuff that can be said about local scenes and I’ll probably touch on it. I think it’s interesting that in the fading days of Shibuya-kei none of Quruli, Supercar or Number Girl were from Tokyo for example.

      • miffy

        Oh? A history of bands / musical trends / indie scene in Japan?
        If it is that, please sneak in a-k-b-pocalypse somewhere.

      • It sort of follows my ten years or so writing about and being involved in music here. The idea is to give some impression of what alternative music is now and then spin off into discussions about why it’s like that, what the external and historical factors are that make it like that. There will be a chapter on idol music though.

        You’re the second or third person to bring up the term “AKBpocalypse” this past week I’m happy to have amused you all.

  2. Nate

    Awesome! Definitely looking forward to reading the book.

    G.S was always something I tried to get into and picked up the occasional artist via a catchy song or something but it never really grabbed a hold of me. But those two songs of The Golden Cups are pretty awesome, especially that Hey Joe cover. After quickly reading over their Wikipedia page though, it’s kind of sad that the record label forced them to record bland pop ballads for their singles and major concerts. And sure enough, on the G.S. compilation i got a while back, they have (what I think are) their two biggest singles, and they’re incredibly boring and sterile.

    Was this practice common with G.S bands?

  3. perfumeophile

    everything here is great….and the golden cups are a revelation…sure wish i had heard them back in 1967

  4. Chris

    Loving the Takeshi Terauchi track. Good luck on writing that book, I always love reading about Japanese music and it’s always difficult for me to find something that deals with music I actually like.

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