Five Japanese Albums from the 1970sCulture
Not a top-five list, and not meant to be definitive in any way, but here are five albums that hit Japan’s record stores—and its charts—in the 1970s. Listen and enjoy!
Kazemachi Roman, 1971, Happy End
Translating roughly as “Windy City Romance,” weather is a theme that runs through several of the tracks on Happy End’s folk rock classic, including “Kaze o atsumete” (Gather the Wind), which featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. The album was voted Japan’s best ever in a 2002 Rolling Stone poll.
Solid State Survivor, 1979, Yellow Magic Orchestra
Happy End bassist Hosono Haruomi went on to become a member of electronic trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, performing on this key album of the late seventies alongside Sakamoto Ryūichi. Its pioneering synth sounds gained a global audience and the song “Behind the Mask” was covered by artists including Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton.
Hikōkigumo, 1973, Arai Yumi
Released when she was just 19 years old, singer-songwriter Matsutōya Yumi’s folky debut (recorded under her maiden name) means literally an airplane's “vapor trails”; it made her a star and set the stage for decades of success. The melancholy-tinged title track recently appeared in Miyazaki Hayao’s Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises).
Eclipse, 1975, Takayanagi Masayuki and New Direction Unit
Although it has seldom brought its performers genuine fame or wealth even in their home country, one of the most influential Japanese genres is “noise.” Guitarist Takayanagi “Jojo” Masayuki started his career at 19, playing straight jazz and chanson in late-1950s Ginza coffee shops, but he soon began to experiment with the parameters of jazz and set the controls for the heart of the sun with his free jazz ensemble New Direction Unit. The ecstatic, atonal explosions of this 1975 live recording lay out much of the template for later eardrum vandals like Merzbow and Haino Keiji.