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The Ventures and Japan


17 Jan 2004
I'd like to know if there are any Ventures fan out here (especially those from Japan)!

One thing to note: The Ventures were one of the top instrumental bands in America, until the British Invasion came about. Once bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came to America, the Ventures were litertally alienated. So, they went to Japan, and they became widely popular, even to these day. Japan calls them, "The Beloved Invaders." (Ironically, there is a surf band in Colorado with the same name, as a tribute to the Ventures.) Many of the Ventures' songs in Japan are widely known among the baby boomers, and maybe even some Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers.

Here are a couple of good websites on the Ventures:

Sandcastle V.I. - The Fabulous Ventures

😄 :D 👏 👍
It's funny how some Western bands are really big in Japan, even more so than in their home countries, yet some very popular bands are hardly known in the Land of the Rising Sun. I remember about 10 years ago talking about "U2" with a class of 19 and 20 year old college students. Only 2 of them had even heard of the band, but everyone knew "Bon Jovi" and "Gun 'n Roses".
I actually started check out The Ventures after researching the Group Sounds Era in Japanese music and finding this connection... definitely some good surf-rock instrumental stuff!

The sad thing is it seems like I'm getting as much of an education about music in the USA and the rest of the world through my interest in Japanese music and culture... the GS groups taught me about The Ventures. I wasn't very aware of Gilbert O'Sullivan's work until I heard "Alone Again (Naturally)" and "Get Down" as theme songs in an episode of Maison Ikkoku. I started checking into the music of French singer Edith Piaf after hearing her work in the Japanese drama series "With Love".

And there's still so much more to explore... back to work, then.

Interesting memoirs...

On the Ventures' Official website (see first post), I saw some memoirs of a Ventures fan, Fiona Taylor, and her journey across Japan. Here's some snippets of the articles, as well as the links.

When I started this narrative, I realized there was so much to relate that it would be too much for one article. Before I get to the details of the summer of 1972, I would like to go back even further, and paint a picture of my early experiences in Japan.

On that August day thirty years ago, I was already an "old Japan hand" - it was my sixth extended visit, and I had traveled all over the country, north and south, east and west - to almost every prefecture with the exception of Hokkaido. It is actually 35 years ago now since my first trip to Japan in September 1967, with a dance group based in Monte Carlo. My travels with them and other dance groups had taken me to most of southern Europe (France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece), parts of the Middle East (Beirut and Teheran), North Africa (Tripoli, Libya), and even Montreal, Canada, during Expo 67. We were all very excited about our first visit to the Orient: there were fifteen of us in the group, and it was indeed an adventure for us!

Fiona as a showgirl in 1967
Part I

For most of July 1972, I was traveling in Southern Japan with four French people: we all worked for the same booking agency, which had put us together as a package show. We usually performed 3 or 4 days in the same venue, and then moved on. As far as I can remember, we started off in Kagoshima - about as far South as you can go on the island of Kyushu - then made our way north via Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Kokura, then across to the main island of Honshu to work in Hiroshima and Okayama. At that time, there were a number of very large nightclubs known as the Getsusekai chain, most of which were built somewhat like an arena or theatre-in-the-round: all had a full orchestra plus other bands, and literally hundreds of hostesses. The last stop on our itinerary in Okayama was at an affiliated club called the Fantasia. I knew it well, as I had worked there on several previous occasions. Okayama is a fairly large city but, thirty years ago, it boasted very little in the way of Western restaurants, etc. I do remember, however, that we took refuge from the summer heat by going to an air-conditioned movie theatre, where we saw a double bill in English - "Klute" and "A Clockwork Orange"!

Early color photo of the Ventures in Japan

The late [but great] drummer, Mel Taylor, in 1975 disco garb.

Part II

When I left my saga, I was continuing to work in the Far East, and The Ventures had returned to the U.S. My travels took me to Indonesia (Djarkarta, Surabaya and also Medan in Sumatra), Malaysia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johore Bahru), East Malaysia (Borneo), Singapore and back to Japan in the fall - late August or early September, I think. Mel and I wrote letters (no e-mail back then, and phone service from places like Indonesia was not only very expensive but very difficult - I remember occasions when I would be sitting in the phone room of the Kartika Plaza Hotel in Djarkarta at about 3 in the morning, waiting for the operator to get an overseas line so I could call my family in the U.K.)

Mel and Fiona Taylor, and rhythm guitarist Don Wilson

Part III
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