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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THE JUICY FRUITS – JENNY IN A BAD MOOD [JENNY WA GOKIGEN NANAME] (1980)

lyrics by YUJI OKIYAMA
music by HARUO CHIKADA

Famously covered by Perfume on multiple occasions during live shows and as a B-side to the “Sweet Donuts” single, this track is a pretty fine example of early-80s new wave-y J-Pop. The band had a number of other hits during the period, but this is generally considered to be one of their biggest. They’re a bit kitschy and not really respected by music historians as far as I can tell, but I’ve always been a fan.

Translations and explanations are under the cut:

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GUERNICA – CAFE DE PSYCHO (1982)

lyrics by FOX | music by KOJI UENO

Before Guernica got all orchestra-y, their first album provided a nice balance between synth and 30s-style orchestral music. This song is one of the more markedly synthetic ones in the entire Guernica catalog, and one of the standouts from the album.

I’m not quite sure who FOX is. I ran some google searches and apparently he’s got writing credits on a few Togawa tracks and has a tenuous connection to HALMENS, a band in which Togawa was a member, but there’s no Wikipedia page for him or anything. Suppose it’s just a mystery lost to time at this point.

Worth noting that the title of the song is written with the now (and then) outdated katakana ヰ instead of イ, rendering it Cafe de Sawiko in purest Romanization.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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