|Yuzo Kayama was a movie idol and rival to premier ‘eleki’ guitarist Takeshi Terauchi. Eleki was an instrumental genre influenced first and foremost by the Ventures.
The songs I’m featuring below are some of the best instrumentals from what I believe is Kayama’s first LP. ‘Black Sand Beach’ is maybe his greatest work, while ‘Los Angeles no Nisei Matsuri’ certainly his toughest. ‘Violet Sky’ is like Davie Allen channeling Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. My copy is a scratchy Peruvian pressing! As I’ve pointed out before, stereo sound was standard for major Japanese labels by the mid-60s, if not before.
Kayama cut a number of vocal tunes that were among his biggest hits. They’re definitely not as cool as the instrumentals, but for fans of Japanese pop from this time, they have their charm, and some good guitar work as well.
As the musical style was changing to vocal combos in the wake of the Beatles, a new term was needed to replace eleki without using the the difficult-to-pronounce phrase (for the Japanese) ‘rock ‘n roll’. Julian Cope’s Japrocksampler recounts how Kayama, who had his own TV talk show, was interviewing drummer and band leader Jackey Yoshikawa (best known among rock fans for “Psychedelic Man” with the Blue Comets):
Yuzo Kayama – right there on live TV – demanded of his guest how could any of them possibly become true to their chosen art form if they couldn’t even manage to pronounce ‘lock’n'lorr’! … the media-savvy Kayama was surprised when Yoshikawa admitted his difficulty. But instead of merely sweating and looking foolish, Jackey turned the tables … and challenged his TV host to come up with something more appropriate. Raising his eyes heavenwards and blowing out several lungfuls of hot air, Kayama fell silent briefly before asking: ‘Why don’t we call the music “The Group Sounds”?’
If this is true, then he named a whole genre of music while it was still underway – a rare feat.
Kayama’s musical legacy is well preserved on video, with a dozen or more great performances available with a quick search, including some that were never released on record (check out this later psychedelic clip, for example).
For those wanting more info, Toronto J-Film Pow Wow has a good write-up on his career.
Yet another surprising find from the KRLA Beat archive! August 13, 1966.