‘All you boys way over there, and all you boys way down the back……I wanna be where the boys are !’. These very words were uttered by a tough-rock n roll teenager named Joan Jett – on the Runaways 1977 album ‘Live In Japan’. I have worshipped the Runaways for nearly three decades and I knew that record like a faithful old friend.
Joanie’s rallying cry was in fact the intro to the track ‘I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are’, and on this surprisingly warm Spring day in Tokyo, this boy just wants to be where The Runaways played !
As a resident of Japan, seeking out this particular concert venue was always on my list of things to do. Alas, I was too late. Yet another icons concert venue bites the dust. But some background first.
The album was recorded at two separate locations in Tokyo: the Koesi-Nenkin Hall here in Shinjuku (also known as Welcity), and at the nearby Shibuya Kōkaidō (Shibuya Public Hall). As a kid, I used to gaze over my gatefold, vinyl copy of ‘Live In Japan’ in true wonder.
The screaming and excitement of those Tokyo teens was amazing, recorded on a tour which would turn out to be the high point of the band’s brief career. In my opinion, the album is a lasting document to the world’s greatest ever all-girl band, and captures that brief moment in time when Currie, Jett, Ford, Fox and West – held Japan under their rock n roll spell. Amazingly, this venue in Shinjuku stood for nearly fifty years, before closing on March 31, 2010. Besides the Runaways, many – in fact ‘most’ of the biggest names in the rock world walked onto that Shinjuku stage at some point: such as U2 back in 1983, Ian Gillan, Miles Davis, Judas Priest, Tangerine Dream, Bob Marley, Jethro Tull, Van Halen in 78, Ratt, Elton John, New Order, Nazereth and Queensryche to name but a few. I wonder if Cherie knew that
Bowie brought Ziggy to this same venue in 1973 – four year prior to her gracing that very same stage. Japan’s favourite HM sons – Loudness, recorded live product here as well. Japan has a rich rock n roll history. Venues such as the Budokan are known all around the world; but there are many others. The Sun Plaza in Nagano, Nagoya’s Rainbow Hall, and Sapporo’s Makomanai Ice Arena to name a couple.
So I recently made an effort to re-visit this rather unattractive buidling which held so many rock n roll memories, only to find it had been demolished. As I walked around the adjoining streets, I tried to imagine it was 1977 and the Runaways were in town…..the queues were long and teenage kids wore denim jeams, band buttons and tee-shirts. No such words as ‘iPads’ or ‘wi-fi’ were in the vocabularies of these kids. The only two words they cared about on those warm, June summer days back in 1977, were ‘rock n roll’ and the ‘Runaways’ – a pinch of rock and a dose of roll: you bet !
As I climbed a bridge to take a photograph, a lady looked at me curiously and in my best japanese I said ‘The Queens of Noise’ played here ! and indeed, they did !