Welcome to the second episode of our new series ! ! ! This week we look at the letter B and we will be looking at the blacklist operated by agencies and record companies, some great punk, one of Japan’s most popular indie outfits and some Eurobeat disco music. So we think there will be something to interest everyone . . .well almost everyone ! ! !
Do be do be do”, no , not Frank Sinatra, that’s what Sakura said to me, and so I did. From me this week are some crusty old punk tracks while Sakura provides and interesting tale of industry shenanigans and some class J-pop.
We hope you enjoy them.
She Says – B is for Black List
In the 1980 and 1990 decades the talent agencies and record companies were extremely powerful and they did not always exercise this power ethically. The young artists were often manipulated and were disciplined in bizarre ways for all minor transgressions. Being made to work on the reception desk of an agency was a typical punishment for girl singers who committed such crimes as being seen smoking a cigarette for example, and having a boyfriend could result in you being exiled to your home town to reflect on your crime. But the worse aspect of the industry in this era was the blacklist that record companies and used as the ultimate punishment. This system meant that if you had a dispute with your agency and left or were fired, no other agency or record company would sign you. Your career was effectively ended. Fortunately as far as the record companies are concerned, this system is broken now and I will talk about the agencies who still sadly abuse thier power occasionally again when we reach J. The powerful force that collided head on with the record companies and finally defeated them was a tiny and cute 20 year old girl called Ami Suzuki.
Ami Suzuki was a big selling pop singer with a 3.5 of million record sales to her credit when she became involved in a dispute with her record company about them under reporting her sales and so cheating her of royalties. She refused to be intimidated by them and sued. Her record company eventually admitted the fraud and they reached a secret out of court settlement with her and she terminated the contract. However suddenly this multi million selling pop artist could find no record company or agency to make a record deal with her. She had been blacklisted ! ! ! However they picked the wrong girl to have a fight with ! ! ! Ami started her own indie record label and released two tracks. However the distribution companies refused to handle them. Ami remembered that she had received CDs in books when she was learning English, so she two wrote short books and put the CDs in the books as a “free give away” and sold them via bookshops. They sold 150,000 copies in the first two weeks ! ! !
AVEX saw that there was money to made and by now the government had threatened investigation into the industry and there was a lot of bad publicity so AVEX broke the blacklist and offered Ami a contract. Ami Suzuki went on to have a good career with her new record company having a series of big hits in a eurobeat electronic style. She is now a very successful movie and TV actor and has promotion deals with lots of different companies from banks to burgers and soft drinks and even the Guam Tourist Office ! ! ! So I will leave the last word to Ami Suzuki and one of her addictive eurobeat dance tracks
Ami Suzuki – Eventful
What an interesting tale ! Ami gets my “thumbs up” more for her feisty attitude than her music but I am happy to support her stance. You go , girl !
He Says – B is for Booted Cocks
Ah ! Celtic ! That explains a lot. Much as I like the band I was a bit baffled by the presence of keyboards in a “Oi” setting. Now it becomes clear and I can see where they are coming from. This is a stirring little number with a great “wave your lighters” chorus.
Booted Cocks – For Oneself
She Says The Booted Cocks are are great band and I love them ! ! ! They say they are influenced by celtic music and you think I can hear that influence. They tour regularly and have a very enthusiastic following and are great live act. I actually saw them maybe two yeas ago at an event in Shibuya and it was a great concert. You can not help but shout Oi ! ! ! along with the fans when you see them live ! ! ! They really are great fun ! ! !
She Says – B is for Bump Of Chicken
I love Bump of Chicken for so many reasons ! ! ! First of all they have a lovely story and secondly because they hold so many memories for me and thirdly of course the music is great ! ! ! They all became friends in kindergarten and were friends all through their education. They formed the band in high school and had their first performance at the school culture festival. So it really is like the story of a teen TV drama ! ! ! But actually I think it somehow adds to the music as they all understand each other so well and there is none of the ego competition you often see in successful bands.
Bump Of Chicken became professionals in 1996 two years after their high school debut and since then have had a great career making 10 wonderful albums of original tracks. Last year they released two “best of ” compilations coving their entire career so far. The next album of new songs is scheduled to be released in March this year, so like many fans I am really impatient for that ! ! ! In addition to their albums they have had 22 top ten singles including 7 number ones, so they have had great commercial success as well as great critical acclaim. The track I want to share with you is Sailing Day and it was a hit single from 2003 and is maybe my favorite track of theirs as it has so many memories for me.
Bump of Chicken – Sailing Day
What a great name for a band ! Which part of the chicken is the “bump”, I wonder ? I’ve heard a lot of their stuff, they are a classy act for sure and this is, indeed, one of their strongest numbers. Why not sit back and enjoy a little chicken bumping ? You know you want to.
He Says – B is for Bellybutton
Can’t really tell you anything about this lot, other than that they made a couple of great little “squeaky punk” albums and then seem to have disappeared. This is one of my favourites of theirs, tinny, squeaky and short ( no, Sakura, I’m not talking about you, put down the knife !).
Bellybutton – White Man
I really do not know anything at all about this band, so it was a nice surprise for me to hear this track. They have a really nice pop punk sound that makes you want to dance. They have toured the USA and Europe, but I can not really find much information about them and the link to their website from the record company does not work so maybe they are not active anymore. But it is a great track and I hope I can find more about them and hear more of their tracks ! ! !
Lean Japanese The Fun and Easy Way With P Sensei’s Word Of The Week ! ! !
P Sensei Says: This Week – Baka ( ばか ) ! ! !
My word of the week this week is “Baka”. One of my favourite Japanese words. It means “stupid”. For some reason I relate to it. Baka baka baka baka ….use it wisely !
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We hope you have enjoyed the post and enjoyed some of the tracks. I think there was quite a variety this week so I hope you found something to enjoy. Next week will be . . . . C ! ! !
Well, that was fun ( and informative) , we hope you enjoyed the “B’s”. I certainly did. I can’t wait to see what letter comes up next ! Oh ! Sakura’s given the game away ! I’d never have guessed.