Saturday, July 5, 2008

Japrocksampler


Japrocksampler: How the post-war Japanese blew their minds on rock n' roll

Julian Cope

Bloomsbury Press

ISBN 978-0-7475-8945-7


Books about music are especially problematical when the music in question is not known. Such is the case with this book. How many people know the music of Speed, glue, & shinki, or Flower Travellin' Band? Cope's book on the genesis of Japanese Rock music is fascinating nonetheless and offers insights into post-war japan.

Like his earlier book, Krautrocksampler, the former front man for The Teardrop Explodes explores how Japanese rock music was no mere copying of American & English rock, but was subject to a whole variety of cultural, commercial, and political influences.

Particularly fascinating to me was the influence of avant garde musicians such as John Cage and Karl Heinz Stockhausen, and in this regard, Yoko Ono's first husband makes many appearances. The pervasive influence of Jazz on other forms of post-war japanese music is also surprising. Politically, Japan's reaction to the Beatles, Japan's drug policies, the closing of the musical Hair, and the band connected to the terrorist group Red Army, all provide insights that help build a more coherent picture of the "scene" in Japan.

Cope's writing style I found sometimes too "hip" and frenetic, and the earlier part of the book is more interesting than the latter as there is a lot of repetition, but this an exteremely well-researched book, and gives a lot of information that previously wasn't available in English.

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