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Japanese Beatles

Posted Apr 08, 2008 at 06:08 PM by digdad
I love Japanese popular music. I listen to it on a daily basis. But you know one thing I’ve found out? Many of the Japanese artists I listen to have taken inspiration from the band that I discovered as a young teen and which attached themselves so indelibly to my psyche. Yes, I speak of the band that brought me to this forum in the first place, the Beatles. On more than one occasion I can remember being amazed when I’ve come across a reference to the Beatles by a Japanese artist who I had grown to like and had been listening to for a while. It seems to happen with a new artist every time. Maybe that’s one thing that draws me to these particular artists in the first place. Maybe it says more about the incredible reach of the Beatles throughout popular music worldwide. I imagine to a large extent, it is both of these.

Anyway, I recently started to track some overt references to the Beatles within the Japanese music I listen to. I say “overt” because there are some artists, the prime example being The Brilliant Green, who clearly have strong British Invasion influences, but for whom I have yet to come across a specific Beatles reference. Believe me, though, these references are sure to be there, and I will not be surprised at all when they surface.

My list of Beatles references in J-Pop so far fall into a few different categories. First, there are interviews in which musicians have recognized the Beatles as an influence in their music. Next, there are lyrical instances, that is, particular phrases made popular by the Beatles that are used within a song’s lyrics. Then there are musical references where musical phrases are directly used or in which particular instruments are used in a way very reminiscent of particular Beatles songs. Also included within this category are actual samples of Beatles songs. Finally, there is Beatles-related imagery that is used in CD artwork and promotional material.

I Want To Tell You

I’ve come across several Japanese artists who have acknowledged the Beatles as a major influence. Among these are Pizzicato Five and Puffy. In an interview, Kameda Seiji, prolific producer and bassist for Tokyo Jihen, has listed the Beatles as his “favorite people.” The Shibuya-kei musician and producer, Cornelius has claimed that his major influences have been the three B’s: Beatles, Beach Boys, and Beck. Although not an interview, Shiina Ringo’s cover album “Utaite Myoli” (which translates as Singer’s Pride or Singer’s Honor) has been acknowledged as a biography of her musical influences while growing up. Included among the jazz songs, standards, Japanese enka, and pop songs making up her selections are “Yer Blues” and “(Just Like) Starting Over.”

Well I Just Had To Laugh, I Saw The Photograph

There is Beatles imagery to be found on album covers, on CD labels, and on promotional posters. The US release of the album “Nice” by Puffy included the duo on the cover in a reverential parody of John and Yoko’s Bed In for Peace. Two singles by Shiina Ringo, Tsumi to Batsu and Gips, feature the Beatle’s Apple on the CD labels in red and blue respectively. Both whole and cut sides of the Apple logo are shown, and the CD even includes text in imitation of Alan Aldridge’s famous script around the rim. A promotional poster for a Tokyo show by Pizzicato Five shows lead singer Nomiya Maki surrounded by several classic albums resting on the floor. Central to the image is the “Help!” soundtrack.

Treasure These Few Words

I’ve come across some direct use of Beatles lyrics in some Japanese songs as well as references to the Beatles in spoken portions of songs. Two songs on their album “My Foot” by the Pillows honor Beatles song titles. “Love me do” is the first line of the chorus in the song “Mighty Lovers.” The song “Nonfiction” includes “Please please me” as the final words of the chorus, with a “yeah yeah yeah” thrown in for good measure later in the song. In the song “Tout Va Bien,” Pizzicato Five repeatedly sing “beep beep, beep beep, yeah” in reference to “Drive My Car.” Another of their songs, “If I Were A Groupie,” contains long spoken sections by an American and a Japanese groupie in an interview style. The American groupie begins by discussing how it all started with the Beatles. I’m not sure if the Japanese groupie is translating the same, or saying something different. Finally, in a fun spoken reference, the count-in to the song “Love Depth” by Puffy goes, “a 1, a 2, a Ringo Starr!”

Listen To The Music Playing In Your Head

Musical references include the incorporation of specific phrases, the use of particular instruments in a manner highly reminiscent of Beatles songs, and use of actual samples of Beatles songs. The song “Korega Watashi no Ikirumichi” by Puffy includes both a slightly modified version of the lead guitar riff from “Day Tripper” as well as a lead guitar phrase from “Please Please Me.” “Rain Song” by Pizzicato Five begins with the identical drum phrase used at the start of “Something.” If this short drum phrase sounds like it could be coincidental, consider that this group is known to use actual samples of Beatles songs, including the count-in to “Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise” once within the song “Party” and multiple times within the appropriately named “Birth of Cool” (John’s “byeee” being especially prominent in this song), and the drum start to “Birthday” within the song “Tout Va Bien.” Two songs from Pizzicato Five’s album “Bossa Nova 2001,” which was produced by Cornelius (he of the three B’s mentioned above), contain unusual instruments very reminiscent of Beatles songs. “Magic Carpet Ride” employs a clavioline in a style much like that in “Baby You’re A Rich Man.” The song “Peace Music” incorporates a piccolo trumpet sounding much like it was played in “Penny Lane.”

Yes I Will, I’ll Get You In The End

I continue to keep an eye out for Beatles references within the Japanese and other music I listen to. One avenue I have not yet explored much is within promotional videos. I know I’ve seen some references before but I can’t remember where right now. If anyone knows of other overt Beatles references, let me know. I’ll add them to my growing list.
Total Comments 2


jesgear's Avatar
Very interesting, dig ... and VERY well-written
Posted Apr 08, 2008 at 08:22 PM by jesgear jesgear is offline
Thanks, Jes.
Posted Apr 09, 2008 at 04:16 PM by digdad digdad is offline
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