A look into the albums that made 1975 an important year for Japanese Music
One of my favorite songs by Toshiki Kadomatsu comes from his 1986 Album TOUCH & GO, simply named "1975". At first I didn't think much of the lyrics, it was a song about Toshiki reminiscing of yesteryear, but the most interesting part of the song comes in when to random women pop in the middle of the music and start listing off a bunch of Bands in Musicians In English! Among the bands I was able to recognize was Sugar Babe, Tin Pan Alley, Sadistic Mika Band, and a few more. I found myself asking; “What was so special about 1975?” Well come to find out there were several key albums that came out that year that would reshape the landscape of Japanese music, as well as give birth to what we know as “City Pop”, and Kayokyoku as a whole.
Chu Kosaka - Horo (25 January 1975)
It's commonly noted that the album SONGS by Sugar Babe, was the 1st true City Pop record, however former folk rock artist Chu Kosaka would change the music game 3 months in advance with his 4th album HORO. What makes Chu Kosaka’s pioneering 1975 album so special is that it’s said to be the forerunner of modern Japanese R&B (和製R&B). Co-produced, arranged, and written in part by his old bandmate, Harry Hosono (they were both part of the band Apryl Fool), HORO features an all star cast of musicians backing Kosaka’s soulful vocals, including studio band Tin Pan Alley, and City Pop legends Tatsuro Yamashita, Minako Yoshida, and Taeko Ohnuki.
Sugar Babe - Songs (25 April 1975)
Where it all started, for the given definition of "it all". With the combined forces of legends Tatsuro Yamashita, Taeko Ohnuki, Ginji Ito and Eiichi Ohtaki, the band Sugar Babe, would go on to create a whole new genre of music with their first & only album. SONGS was the first album of its kind, Sugar Babe's leader, Yamashita, had a grand love for American Pop sensibilities, and seeing that no other band in Japan was embracing Western pop styles, went out of his way to combine the sensibilities of American pop & soul music of the ’70s with relatable Japanese lyrics. It steered completely away from the norm of popular music at the time, which in japan included アイドル Aidoru (Idol music), hard rock, or folk music (the early 70s was the height of the folk boom). Sugar Babe was perhaps the first Japanese band to use the Major 7th Chord, which made the music extremely different than the jpop of that time period, which were mostly still holding on to the principles of the yonanuki scale. Despite how revolutionary the album was, the band disbanded in 1976, however SONGS would go on to be known as a classic masterpiece that pushed the envelope to bring something novel into Japanese popular music.
Harry Hosono & Tin Pan Alley - Tropical Dandy (June 25, 1975)
When we think of City Pop, one of the motifs that pop in our minds is “Tropical Summer Vacation” , with songs like “Summer Suspicion” by Omega Tribe, however, possibly the earliest examples of Japanese music incorporating exotic island sounds and vacation motifs comes from one of the major architects of modern Japanese pop music, Haruomi “Harry” Hosono. In his 2nd solo album, Harry transitions from the Little Feat inspired Blues Rock, into Van Dyke Parks-inspired tropical funk styles, and opened the door for future artists to combine more exotic flourishes into their music.
Yumi Arai - Cobalt Hour (20 June, 1975)
Yumi Arai has been a musical darling in Japan since her Debut in 1972, and was considered the forerunner of the “New Music” movement , one of her most notable albums being COBALT HOUR, which blended the essence of contemporary American and European pop music, with echoes of American sixties pop, and integrated them with japanese music. The chorus backing Yuming includes Sugar Babe vocalists Tatsuro Yamashita（山下達郎）, Taeko Ohnuki（大貫妙子, and then jazz singing legend Minako Yoshida（吉田美奈子).
I'll highlight a few more albums in the future, what albums do you guys think were important albums in 1975?