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Old 01 July 2013, 08:10 AM
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Icon106 Bittersweet at No. 1: How a Japanese Song Topped the Charts in 1963

http://www.npr.org/2013/06/28/196618...charts-in-1963
Quote:
Ian Condry, who teaches Japanese culture at MIT, says "Sukiyaki" transcended language because it hit an emotional nerve. The song spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in June 1963 and was already a huge hit in Japan before its American debut. But what most listeners in the U.S. probably didn't realize was how it symbolized Japan's return to the world stage.

Brian
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Old 01 July 2013, 08:24 AM
Kermor Kermor is offline
 
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It's one of those songs that's made even sadder by the tragic death of its singer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Airlines_Flight_123
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Old 01 July 2013, 02:11 PM
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Interesting that the article didn't mention the strange name - "Sukiyaki" (a hot dish) was slapped on for the hell of it because it was a Japanese word familiar to English-speaking audiences.
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Old 01 July 2013, 02:40 PM
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Whatever the name (I remember even as a little kid wondering why it was named after the only Japanese food I'd ever heard of) I loved that song. We listened to it over and over and wore the record out. I remember trying to sing along and failing miserably. It just had such a beautiful and wistful melody and the artist had such a lovely voice. I didn't know about his death. What a tragic waste for all the victims.
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Old 01 July 2013, 02:47 PM
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Also, you'd think whoever does these write-ups would know how to use Google to get the names right. (Or, failing that, at least be consistent in your misspellings!)
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Old 01 July 2013, 06:20 PM
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The links to the "covers" are interesting. Wish the article had pointed out that, you know, none of them are in Japanese and they're all about losing your romantic partner.
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Old 01 July 2013, 06:54 PM
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Japan

In the UK Sukiyaki was first a hit for Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen, before Kyo Sakamoto's version was released, both made the top 10.
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Old 01 July 2013, 07:05 PM
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Japan

Fascinating! I did not know that. Kyu Sakamoto's bio on iTunes says the following:
Quote:
On a business trip to Japan, Louis Benjamin, president of U.K. label Pye Records, Ltd, heard Sakamoto's "Ue O Muite Aruko" (I Look up When I Walk). Renaming it after his favorite Japanese cuisine, sukiyaki, Benjamin had a Pye jazz artist record the tune, a Top Ten U.K. hit.
Do you know if that's correct? I had heard that it was Columbia Records that made the name change.

Brian
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Old 01 July 2013, 09:47 PM
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Maybe since their jazz version is an instrumental it didn't matter what it was called.
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Old 01 July 2013, 10:40 PM
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Icon106

I hand't thought of that. And it makes total sense since too. I wonder if any sopesters with music history knowledge would know.

By the way, has this anniversary been covered by the Japanese press? I don't doubt the 50th anniversary in Japan had a lot of coverage but I'm curious this one did too. One thing the NPR article reminded me of was this New York Times article from July 2011.

Brian
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Old 01 July 2013, 11:22 PM
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I'm almost 100% sure that the story is accurate - that the song was first a hit in the west as an instrumental jazz number. That the new name would be retained for the English language covers is understandable, given that audiences of the time would have been familiar with the tune under that name, but it's still a bit insulting in a casually racist sort of way to the original songwriters and artist.
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Old 01 July 2013, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Maybe since their jazz version is an instrumental it didn't matter what it was called.
Nah. Even if it was an instrumental, it still needed a title that radio announcers could pronounce and record buyers could remember.
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Old 01 July 2013, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianB View Post
I don't doubt the 50th anniversary in Japan had a lot of coverage but I'm curious this one did too.
It's in some of the papers, MSN (probably a translation) and Tokyo News.

It was a huge hit here for sure but I don't know if the 50th anniversary of the song itself was news.
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Old 02 July 2013, 02:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianB View Post

Do you know if that's correct? I had heard that it was Columbia Records that made the name change.
I heard that, too; but the source I heard it from was a book which I now know got a lot of things wrong.

One thing all sources seem to agree on is that whoever made the name change, it was simply a matter of needing a Japanese word or phrase that most English-speakers would understand.
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Old 02 July 2013, 03:16 AM
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It's certain that the name change came at least with the Kenny Ball version if not before. Some (including the Japanese wiki on the song - although I couldn't find their sources) credit the name change to Louis Benjamin (better known for giving The Honeycombs their name), who took the song back to Britain from Japan after getting permission there from Nippon Colombia Records. (He wasn't with Columbia but may have been working for Pye Records, Kenny Ball's label.)

ETA - Here's the story. I don't see any sources here either but it's the story as told by most Japanese sources:
http://www.nikkeiview.com/blog/2008/...ic-of-youtube/
(This doesn't even mention Nippon Columbia and says the song was recorded for Toshiba. In any case the Japanese version was first released under the food name by Capital, not Columbia. )

Last edited by ganzfeld; 02 July 2013 at 03:28 AM.
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