Posts Tagged ‘Princess Princess’

Kanako rock 'n' roll - 7th Ave. Yokohama. Photo (c) C. GRAY

Kanako rock ‘n’ roll – 7th Ave. Yokohama. Photo (c) C. GRAY

I have long been a fan of Kanako Nakayama – who is every bit as rock ‘n’ roll as Joan Jett. She is the real deal, and for the better part of almost twenty years has fronted her own band, the amazing VooDoo Hawaiians, a band whom I big fan of. In the 1980s, Kanako Nakayama was guitar player with all girl band Princess Princess, one of the biggest bands in Japan of that decade.

 

Before I rabbit on about VooDoo Hawaiians, let me provide some background /context. Princess Princess formed in 1983, and in the late 1980s / early 90s were one of, if not the biggest, pop rock band in Japan. Their seventh single, ‘Diamonds’, went to No. 1 in 1989 and was the first CD single to become a million seller in Japan. With the single, Princess Princess joined the ranks of Japan’s top musical artists. More number one singles and albums followed – with all their albums released from 89 to 93 rising to Number one on the Japanese (Orion) charts. The band split by 96, yet reformed in late 2012 to perform several fundraising concerts for the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This included concerts at the Sendai Sun Plaza Hall, Budokan in Tokyo and Tokyo Dome. Big venues – which gives you an idea of the stature of Princess Princess and the high regard in which they are held.

2020After the breakup of Princess Princess, Kanako Nakayama released two great solo albums ‘Howling’ and ‘Nakayama no Ippatsu’. Both albums are worthy of your attention and tracking down. She also broadened her appeal to a wider audience when she collaborated with Redd Kross on a cover of KISS’ ‘Hard Luck Woman’, a tune recorded for the 1998 Japanese Tribute album ‘Kiss Tribute in Japan.’ In 1999, Kanako formed the hard rock group VooDoo Hawaiians, a band who first came onto my radar in 2001. Kevin K played a show at Club 251 in Shimokitizaza in 2001 – and VooDoo Hawaiians were also on the bill, along with Blacklist (Gaku Tori), and Sheena Ayukawa (RIP) of Sheena & the Roketts.

Over the years, Voodoo Hawaiians have contributed songs to a range of compilation/ tribute albums (including one for Hanoi Rocks) and released half a dozen albums all worthy of your attention. “Pretty And Brutal” in 2000, “Rock ‘n Roll Animal” in 2001, “Drive, She Said” in 2002, “4our” in 2006, “Love And Roll” in 2014 and 2015’s “Are You Comin To the Parade ”? She has also performed with the group Tokyo Rocks and on a number of tribute albums in the late 1990s into the 2000s. She did a pretty cool version of ‘Hoochy Coochy Brown Eye Rose’ some years back’ and this, like a lot of their other material is available on You Tube for you to dig into and explore.

I saw Voodoo Hawaiians at 7th Avenue in Yokohama just before Christmas last year, and it was a kick arse gig. 7th Avenue is a small, but authentic rock club and has been one of the best rock venues in Yokohama for many many years.  Mr Rockbrat and I first saw Kevin K here in December 1998 – so it was a little strange to be back at the same venue 18 years after I first set foot in there.   Voodoo Hawaiians are incessantly on the road throughout Japan,  and have played some shows in the US some years back.

I encourage you to check out their web site at Voodoo Hawaiians and to pick up some of their excellent albums. Kanako Nakayama also has a web site you can explore. All cool. Recommended by Cowboy Col.

 

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Pink Sapphire circa 2014

Pink Sapphire circa 2014

Japan had many good hard rock bands in the mid/late 80s and into the early 90s, but very few great ones. That remark is not intended as an affront to the dozens of notable heavy rock/metal bands that Japan produced in the mid to late 80s (including EZO, Dead End, Terra Rosa, Blizzard, Rajas, Show-ya, Steffanie, Saber Tiger, Bow Wow, Princess Princess, Ann Lewis, Mari Hamada and Ziggy to name a few). Time has shown though, that whilst these bands enjoyed success in their homeland, with the exception of Loudness, few enjoyed international success of any significance. All terrific bands, yet the style plied tended to be a little derivative of everything else coming out of Hollywood, NY or London. Imitative bands were not particular to Japan however, as pretty much every country (Australia included) had their own bands who carbon copied the LA style. There was one Japanese band though who stood out from the pack. Pink Sapphire. These girls emerged in the late 80’s and released a handful of album and singles before winding up in 95. They played hard rock that was polished – with an emphasis on pop (harmonies and strong melody lines) kind of like Cheap Trick. They released a few albums on Japan’s Hummingbird Records and all are excellent. They emerged with 1990’s ‘PS I Love You’ and followed it the following year with two kick ass albums, ‘From Me To You’ and the hard rocking ‘Happy Together’. 1992 saw the release of ‘Today and Tomorrow’ before the final album 1993’s ‘Birthday’. A best of album, ‘Best For You’ was released in 1995 – and then they were gone. Great rock ‘n’ roll endures – and in Pink Sapphires case, the music still sounds as fresh and relevant today as it did 20 odd years ago. I’ve always been a sucker for a good pop tune built in a hard rock frame – and Pink Sapphire excelled at this. I think many people tended to make the mistake of painting them with the “cutesy all girl band” brush. Yes, they were attractive ( a quality that has helped to sell records since rock ‘n’ roll began), but more significantly, in musical terms they were a very accomplished outfit who were WAY underrated. For girls who were all 20 or 21 – they were making music that belied their youth – rock ‘n’ roll that was indeed, world class and as good, if not better than anything coming out of LA at the time (if that’s the benchmark). Strong melodies, catchy and infectious pop with a hard edge. Vocalist Aya had a deep, appealing, mezzo voice that gave their songs a rich, distinctive quality. Guitarist Takako played with a lot of feel and emotion – not lead guitar 101, though she could shred with the best of ‘em. Her guitar parts are memorable and melodic. Bass player (and founding member) Miki has always been rock solid on bass, and with Harumi hitting hard and keeping time on the drums – musically they were super tight, a sum of all the parts. The songs were obviously well crafted, as they still sound great today. Over the past few years, whenever I have been in Japan, I have trawled through record stores and have managed to pick up most of the bands catalogue (except for a couple of CD singles). I even have the two official VHS videos they released, and their bio book that came out many years back, ‘Stand Up’. In my humble opinion, Pink Sapphire are one of the BEST bands to come out of Japan – ever, and to this day remain my favourite Japanese band, and somewhat of an indulgence of mine (tolerated by my wife – who herself is partial to belting out a Pink Sapphire tune at karaoke 🙂 In recent years – interest in the band has increased, so much so that in 2012, a new best of CD called ‘Golden Best’ was released (You can buy that from Amazon).With renewed interest, and after years of waiting, Pink Sapphire reunited for a one off reunion show on the 26th of April, 2014 at Shibuya. For several years, information on the band and the various solo members was scant – yet with the recent reformation they now have an official blog and some other merchandise for sale. There’s plenty of photos of the recent reunion too. As I mentioned, very few Japanese bands of the 80s/90s were world class. Pink Sapphire being one of the exceptions. Time will tell whether the one off reunion will result in something more permanent – one can only hope so. Before Pᴉnk – there was Pink Sapphire – and it’s great to see them back!