Tin Pan Alley

Haruomi Hosono (細野 晴臣) was wildly prolific in the mid-70s. He'd cultivated a name for himself and achieved a certain level of fame as the bassist in a psych-rock outfit called Apryl Fool (エイプリル・フール), which was formed in the late 60s, and, more notably, as a founder of Happy End (はっぴいえんど), a folk-rock band that, at least in the U.S., is perhaps best known for "Kaze wo Atsumete" (「風をあつめて」), which was included on the Lost in Translation OST. (Their third and final album was produced by Van Dyke Parks, which I think is a good indication of how big they were at the time of its writing and recording.) As a result, '73, '74, '75, '76—that whole area—was overflowing with singles and full-lengths, short-lived projects and ambitious ensemble undertakings.

After Happy End, he recorded a solo folk album before starting Tin Pan Alley, a group with a fixation on exotica, glam, Latin genres, show tunes, cabaret, and electronic instruments, gizmos, gadgets. Tin Pan was a conduit that allowed Hosono to both harness his multitude of talents and explore a greater, more eclectic spread of sounds and styles. Without this, his Yellow Magic Band would never have  formed and taped the the proto-YMO albums Paraiso and Cochin Moon; YMO itself would've never been conceived; and later projects, like the soft rock Balearic fusion of Pacific, recorded with ex-Happy End bandmate Shiegru Suzuki (鈴木 茂) and Sugar Babe frontman Tatsuro Yamashita (山下 達郎), wouldn't've been conceived. In short, were it not for the fuse that was Tin Pan, Hosono as we know him wouldn't've come to be. (Sidenote: The defining difference between Paraiso and the first YMO LPs is the drumming. I don't think Hosono could've pulled YMO off without Yukihiro Takahashi (高橋 幸宏), a man whose inarguably sharp, cutting sense of rhythm is a critical component to their hits, though one that's always overshadowed in favor of their infectious top-line hooks.)

I could go on at length here—Hosono is a fascinating, compelling, and intricately-connected figure within the Japanese music scene—but I want this post to focus mostly on Tin Pan Alley. I'll leave more stories for later. With that, some long-players.

First, Caramel Mama (『キャラメル・ママ』), the debut.

Second, Harry Hosono & Tin Pan Alley in Chinatown, a tender live album that includes an early rendition of "Firecracker" (「ファイアークラッカー」), one of YMO's biggest—and first—hits.

Third, a collaboration with Norio Maeda (前田 憲男) dubbed Soul Samba Holiday in Brazil. I am certain I'll talk about Maeda later—he's another figure of great interest, though from a different generation (he was born in 1934), and with his emphasis being placed on jazz—so let this be a teaser.