Ask any vintage rock fan to name a tune about Japan and it’s likely that Purple’s ‘Woman From Tokyo’ will be the first song they mention. It’s a fair answer. There have been many songs penned over the years with Japan in mind – even as far back as 1928 when the tune ‘Nagasaki’ was a popular Tin Pan Alley hit. But the Rockbrat has been wondering – what are some of the better known rock songs ? I’m not talking about that well worn-out Vapors tune (which I ain’t even gonna name), or even recently recorded rubbish like ‘Bullet Train to Osaka’ by the Smashing Pumpkins. I’m talking about loud, 70’s and 80’s rock and metal bands ! Here’s my list in no particular order:
– Deep Purple: ‘Woman From Tokyo’
Lifted from the ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ album, this timeless song still sounds ballsy and just plain rocks ! It peaked at number 4 in the UK. Recorded in mid 1972 the track is obviously written about the band’s experience of touring Japan. Gillan’s distinctive wailing on lyrics like “Fly into the rising sun, Faces, smiling everyone, Yeah, she is a whole new tradition, I feel it in my heart – My woman from Tokyo etc !!! Great !! If you a youngster reading this, and have not heard this pure chunk of rock history – go find it and educate yourself.
– Queen: ‘Teo Torriatte’
Another obvious candidate taken from Queen’s great ‘A Day at the Races’ LP. Freddy even sings two verses in Japanese ! It was released as a single in Japan and climbed to number 49. In 2008, the song was covered by popular Japanese singer Kokia. Queen were so far ahead other outfits with this kind of creative feat – taking their musical efforts to new heights. By the way – the translation means ‘Let Us Cling Together’.
– Bon Jovi: Tokyo Road’
This is recorded before the band had conquered the planet. It’s quite a likeable piece of pop rock. Included on the 1985 album ‘7800 Farenheit’, the beginning of the song features a female vocalist – whom I presume is Japanese – singing the traditional Japanese folk song ‘Sakura Sakura’ – which is a well-known Japanese tune about cherry blossom trees in Spring.
– Krokus: ‘Tokyo Nights’
Lifted from the classic ‘Metal Rendezvous’ album, this could be my personal choice cut. The guitar into has that typical ‘traditional Japan’ sound and is an all-out ballsy classic. Not sure if the lyrics would pass the political correctness test of modern-day scrutiny – but vocalist Marc Storace sings his ass off about his encounter with a Geisha girl: “Last night when I was laying in my bed, Had a dream of a flag in white & red, ” Swiss cross turned into the japan dot, A yellow girl appeared and made me hot”. I’ve never heard the rising red sun referred to as a ‘dot’, but it does rhyme with ‘hot’. Lyrics aside, this songs freakin well rocks. Turn it up loud mutha and enjoy the trip. Actually the whole album which this song is on – 1980’s ‘Metal Rendezvous’ is a top-to-bottom all-killer-no-filler classic ! Enough cliché’s for ya ! Go grab this album – 30 years old !! Sheesh – great to see Switzerland’s finest ever export still going strong and turning the amps up !
– The Bombers: ‘Flash In Japan’
I’ve already penned enough info on Sydney’s Bombers – featuring Quo’s Lancaster and Coughlin – and Angel John Brewster. This song ‘Flash In Japan’ was penned (circa 1990) with the dreadful Nagasaki/Hiroshima bombings in mind – a reminder to never repeat man’s horrid history. Song wise – it’s great. Slow tempo, great drumming, top-notch vox from Tyrone Coates – and with an important message as the song’s theme.
Two other notable’s which spring to mind are by Australia’s Cold Chisel. ‘Rising Sun’ from the ‘East album – written by Barnesy about his girlfriend leaving him to live with her parents in Tokyo (her step-father was an Australian Diplomat). The other track was ‘Yakuza Girls’ which I think was released also on the ‘East’ album (Japan pressing only)