THE JUICY FRUITS – LOVE IS A BENCH SEAT [KOI WA BENCH SEAT] (1980)

lyrics by HARUO CHIKADA | music by YUJI OKIYAMA

The first in a three-part saga detailing a woman’s frustration with the fact that the guy she’s seeing doesn’t have a bench seat in his car. If you need a reminder of what that is: you know how most modern cars have two separate seats in the front? A bench seat is like in old cars, when there’s just a large seat with no divider that sits two. More than a lot of other Juicy Fruits songs, “Love is a Bench Seat” has a sort of harder edge to it in terms of the guitar and rhythm section – this edge is counteracted by the spoken-word bits, but it’s still an interesting mix.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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JUN TOGAWA AND YAPOOS – AN ARMY OF BUGS [KONCHUGUN] (1984)

lyrics by KENZO SAEKI | music by KOJI UENO

Originally taken from Halmens’ self-titled, Togawa and co., not yet Yapoos as a cohesive unit, covered this song live during the early 80s. It’s not quite as good as the original, but Togawa’s screeching, squealing vocals do the song a real justice, I think. Also it’s right up her alley what with the bug metaphors.

Worth noting she can’t hit the notes the lead singer does on the Halmens version, though.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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FURUIDO – JOHNNY THE DRUNKARD [NONDAKURE JOHNNY] (1975)

lyrics and music by REICHI NAKAIDO

Furuido (Old water-well) were a blues-folk duo formed in 1971, disbanding in 1979. They saw moderate commercial success in their heyday, and a few of their songs have gone on to become classics in their own right. The ‘mastermind’ of the group, Nakaido Reichi, is also famous for his association with rock band RC Succession, which were major forces in 80s rock in Japan. They covered this song as well, but it doesn’t have quite the appeal the original does. Perhaps, though, the group is most famous in the West for providing the OP to the anime Akagi. Which is pretty good, if you like mahjong, and even if you don’t.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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YAPOOS – SHEER LOVERS (2003)

lyrics by JUN TOGAWA | music by TODA SEIJI

The first track of Yapoos’ final (to this point) release, CD-Y is a relatively marked departure from Yapoos’ previous work. It coincides with a darker period in Togawa’s own life, marked by another suicide attempt. It’s a good song both in and out of its context, however, and it features classic Togawa metaphors about color. In fact, you could say that’s pretty much all it is.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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THE CANDIES – YOUNGER BOY [TOSHISHITA NO OTOKO NO KO] (1975)

lyrics by KAZUYA SENKE | music by YUSUKE BOGUCHI

The Candies are recognized as one of the earliest modern ‘idol’ groups, and this song is relatively typical of the kind of music they produced. The group enjoyed huge success throughout the 70s until they decided to disband at their peak, with the reason given that “they wanted to go back to being normal girls.” I first head of the group on a Japanese 70s hits CD I got a whim at a Book Off, and the CD proved to be the soundtrack to a summer spent driving through rural Aomori prefecture visiting abandoned buildings and spooky mountains.

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FLIPPER’S GUITAR – CAMERA! CAMERA! CAMERA! (1990)

lyrics and music by KENJI OZAWA & KEIGO OYAMADA

Flipper’s Guitar are one of the pioneers of the Shibuya-kei genre, a sort of jazzy, breezy kind of pop music that became popular in Japan and the 90s, eventually influencing the early work of bands like CAPSULE, among others. Their work is influenced by 60s pop and jangly british bands of the 80s, including the Style Council and Haircut 100, whom they named a song after. This song comes on the cusp of their first major style change, when they dropped three members and started moving towards slightly more experimental, techno-influenced sounds, eventually being reworked on their second album, Camera Talk.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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THE BLUE HEARTS – BLUE SKY [AOZORA] (1989)

lyrics and music by MASATOSHI MASHIMA

The Blue Hearts are famous within J-Rock history, mainly for being one of the most popular and influential punk bands in Japanese music history. Not that you could tell this from this song, which is more…country-influenced? Music, while good, doesn’t tend to be the main focus of praise for this song, as it is generally considered to be a protest song against apartheid in South Africa. It tends to get overshadowed by the rest of the Blue Hearts’ catalog, which includes bona fide classics such as “LINDA LINDA” and “TRAIN TRAIN.”

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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