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How I Met Don, Walt & Katy

As long as I can remember, I have always been a music fan.

There used to be two record stores in Ashikaga when I was a kid. Hamada and Kogure Records. Hamada was the larger of the two and they had a little bit of everything while Kogure was more of a store for the real music aficionados with selections that were heavy on jazz and rock (they also sold musical instruments) and that made Kogure somewhat intimidating for a kid to walk into.

Living in a Small Town, Nowhere, my exposure to music was very limited, mostly from the music variety shows on TV. What you heard on those shows were Kayoukyoku, Idol-Pop and Enka. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy those types of music, I just wanted to be like those older (mostly college aged) people found in Kogure Records who were listening to Rock/Jazz/New Music* and playing guitars and looking cool.

*New Music was how they used to describe the type of western-influenced pop music performed by Japanese singer songwriters of the 70s and the 80s.

So, after checking out all the current Japanese pop music records in Hamada, I would venture out to Kogure Records. It is really silly looking back but I always felt self-conscious waking in. I wanted to look/act like I belonged in there. So, I would bypass the Japanese pop section (they did have those, too) and head to the Western Music/Jazz Section. Of course I had no idea what I was looking for. Sure, I might have heard of the names of some of the artists (Dylan, Zeppelin, Hendrix...) but I didn't know what they were about. Anyway, I would browse through all the records in that section as if I was looking for something. I would pick a record (usually based on its cover) and buy it. Sometimes, depending on the record I picked, the man behind the counter would give me a look when I brought it over to pay for it. I am sure it wasn't everyday that he saw a pre-teen buying a Janis Joplin or a John Coltrane record. I would be doing my best "Yeah, I listen to Janis/'Trane. So?" lol Anyway, I met a lot of great music that way.

And that is exactly how I discovered Steely Dan.

The record was Katy Lied. On the cover was a close-up picture of a katydid. Of course, I didn't "get" the play of words then. The picture, and the name of the band grabbed me.

The music was like nothing I had ever listened to. I just loved it. Then again, here I am talking about it after so many years... so it is possible it was that the young me was partly in love with the image of myself listening to Steely Dan, a band that none of my friends from school knew about, as well as the music itself. Whatever the reason might have been, I listened to that record a lot. There is a song on that album that I especially liked called Bad Sneakers.

The record came with a lyric sheet. I would try to follow the words as I listened. I think by listening to this song, I fell in love with the sound of the English language.

The chorus goes,

"Bad sneakers and a Pina Colada
My friend
Stompin' on the avenue
By Radio City with a
Transistor and a large
Sum of money to spend
"

The words flowed so effortlessly riding the melody perfectly. The syncopated way the words and the lines get carried over to the next. I could think of many ways to describe the beauty of it now but back then, all I knew was it just sounded GOOD.

Although I had no idea what this song was about (come to think of it, I still don't. lol), I was able to sing that part after a while, and what a great feeling it was singing along to that song... The song is twisted yet sentimental, and catchy as hell. The lyric combined with the beautiful melody, it doesn't really tell a story but rather creates a "mood" and conveys a feeling ("Aja" is another perfect example of that). It remains one of my favorite Steely Dan songs to this day.

Soon after that, though, the 80s pop scene exploded. All these colorful, bubbly pop music was coming in from everywhere. From USA, UK, Europe... then, something called MTV happened. It was not a cable station here in Japan but just a show that came on late at night that aired some videos/shows taken from the original MTV. For all of you trivia fans out there, the very first video to air on Japanese MTV was Quiet Riot's "Party All Night". I was there, sitting in front of the TV, witnessing the dawn of the music video era in Japan!!! Like everyone else, I was neck deep in it. I joined the Purple revolution led by Prince, danced and sang and got up and did my thang with Madonna, and even might have Su-su-su-ssudioed with Phil Collins..... It wasn't until I moved to US that I started REALLY listening to Steely Dan with a renewed appreciation.

If there was a "Name That Steely Dan Tune" contest today, I know I'd do VERY well. I know all the songs, every guitar/sax/piano/drum solos/riffs intimately. Hell, you could even throw in Donald Fagen's solo stuff in there, too! I even learned how to play the piano so I could play along to the piano solo in Fagen's version of Ruby Baby....

By the way, the time has changed and now, Kogure Records is no longer in business while Hamada is still surviving by targetting young girls, focusing their stock on J-Pop/Visual-Kei. It has become the kind of store a geezer like me wouldn't feel too comfortable walking in.

I am SO re-organizing my Steely Dan tunes on i-tunes on my computer tonight as I do every few months!

Comments

Although Steely Dan wasn't the very first in my falling in love with Western rock/pop/jazz, I was shocked and overwhelmed by the band's style of music. For me, the first song was Aja. (I'm a s****r for beautiful ballads.)
I swear there was a promotional video of Aja, featuring the model on the album cover the late (😭) Sayoko Yamaguchi, the Japanese supermodel at that time, but can't find it anywhere on the Web. :box:
Boy, was she beautiful when she sat right in front of me on a Toyoko Line train the entire ride from Sakuragicho to Shibuya. And no one seemed to notice her... Later, she said in a TV interview that she commuted to work on a train even after she gained international status.
 
I would LOVE to see the video. That song is in a class of its own. When Steve Gadd's drums finally kick in after the slow and moody build-up, it gives me a bigger kick on my senses than any heavy metal/hard rock tune ever could. The horns on that entire album was beautiful, no? Deacon Blues... Home At Last... Peg.... There is a documentary film available on DVD about the making of that album. I am thinking about getting it.
I just cannot imagine Sayoko Yamaguchi riding a train with the common folks...lol It's just that she seemed so...other-worldly. She must have really stood out.
 
Wow Ashikaga-kun...it seems like that music had a profound effect on you :) Unfortunately I cant really say the same for myself listening to english pop growing up in the nineties. By that time I think there were all those manufactured boy bands, girl groups. In my high school days the Spice Girls were at the top of the charts...lol.

A lot of my friends in high school were into Alternative/heavy metal...that never really appealed to me. I dont know I just didnt see the appeal of listening to a guy growling into a microphone for 3-5 mins. But when I first heard the Pillows and The Brilliant Green I was just...WOW I want to listen more.

I dont listen to a lot of english music these days but I do enjoy some Australian bands like Powderfinger, Something for Kate and I also like the Foo Fighters.

About Sayoko...I did some internet research...and her eyes...just wow...like in this ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aEG...ot.com/forums/f95/sayoko-yamaguchi-59298.html

I just felt like she was peering into my soul.
 
Ahhhhhh~~~Spice Girls..... I was fond of Sporty. I thought they were a lot of fun and their songs were great in their own ways. I am known to belt out "2 Become One" when I am in "the mood". GURLPOWAHHHH!!!!!

I think I have told you before but I have a soft spot for Divinyls as far as Australian bands go. I used to like the first album by Gang Gajang, too. Also, I saw The Eurogliders live in Tokyo back when I was in school. Is the Vines Australian, too? I liked that song, Get Free.

The Alternative movement was fun. The Pixies, Guided By Voices, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Syd Straw, The Flaming Lips... the Alternative scene in the 90s was something I really enjoyed.
 
hahaha You know...I thought Sporty Spice was the only one that could remotely sing...and I was right.

Yeah the Davinyls here still have a fanbase with the lot of the Australians that grew up in the 80's.

The Vines are Australian too. I have not heard much from them other than Bittersweet Symphony (which of course as you know they got sued for). Get Free I think was the AFL (Australian Football League) main theme at some point. They released a new album recently....I forgot the name.

When I think of "Alternative" I thought of many of those Death metal European bands like Rammstein which my best friend had an unusual obsession with. I dont know I find music genre lines very blurry.
 
Bittersweet Symphony was The Verve!! Come ON! You gotta get your alterna-bands straight! pffft
 

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Ashikaga
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