100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums

In the September 2007 issue of Rolling Stone Japan, contributing editor and Beikoku Ongaku founder Kawasaki Daisuke offered something brand new for Japan: a list of the 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time. While these master rankings are part and parcel for RS in the United States, Japanese magazines have intentionally avoided compiling such a useful service for those hoping to bone up on local rock history. Kawasaki explains why:

The Japanese music magazine industry resembles what existed in America before the rise of Rolling Stone. That’s to say, record companies — the main advertisers — see their wishes strongly reflected on every page, and because of this, magazines’ main job is to praise new releases. Is that why we’ve never seen one of these lists? It’s a strange situation, almost like the entire industry is infected with the idea that they should not rank releases because it would “make the record companies angry.” But even with Japanese mystery novels, for example, those chosen by critics in the “Best Ranking” become very popular, and rankings are used as a buyer’s guide. Japanese rock music is an even bigger market than mystery novels, so isn’t it strange that there are no trustworthy “Best Ranking Lists”? We must change this ridiculous situation into something more normal.

Besides rare exceptions, Japanese music magazines very rarely give critical or numerical reviews to new music. When Rockin’ On Japan sells the cover story to the highest bidder, there’s no way they can then give that featured record one-and-a-half stars. Within Rolling Stone Japan‘s somewhat foreign format, however, editors had wiggle room for an attempt at numerical review — at least in a retrospective manner.

Although no list like this can be perfectly objective nor complete, RSJ were mainly aiming to start a discussion towards a canonization of Japanese recorded music. (With no backlogs of critical review in old magazines to reference, the only way to construct a list like this is basically from “scratch.”) The article does not hide its goal: “With this story, we hope to stir things up. [この特集にて、そうした状況に一石を投じたい。]”

This month, RSJ began to achieve its goal when rival magazine Snoozer felt compelled to offer up their own list of “150 Greatest Albums of Japanese Rock’n’Roll” in the December issue. (The story is oddly titled 「ロック暗黒大陸ニッポン」: “Japan – the Dark Continent of Rock.”) The editors make it sound like they were forced to make their own ranking list in order to battle the suspicious choices over at RSJ: “We have long grown tired of seeing charts that have (Happy End’s) Kazemachi Roman at the top.” Although Snoozer gave the #1 spot to RC Succession’s 『楽しい夕に』(an album not on the RS list), there is generally lots of overlap between the two lists. This, my friends, is how a canon is born!

So for your enjoyment, here is Rolling Stone Japan‘s list of the 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time. In order to give voice to the Snoozer effort, every album on both charts is followed with the Snoozer ranking position in parentheses. Artists who appear in Snoozer although with different album selections will be marked with a dagger (†), the Snoozer ranking position, and the alternate album choice.

1. Happy End 『風街ろまん』(Kazemachi Roman) / 1971 (#32)

2. RC SUCCESSION『ラプソディ』(Rhapsody) / 1980 (#52)
3. The Blue Hearts『ザ・ブルーハーツ』(The Blue Hearts) / 1987 (#20)
4. YMO『Solid State Survivor』/ 1979
   † (#142, 『BGM』)
5. Yazawa Eikichi『ゴールドラッシュ』(Gold Rush) / 1978
6. Shoukichi Kina & Champloose『喜納昌吉&チャンプルーズ』(Shoukichi Kina & Champloose) / 1977
7. Ohtaki Eiichi『ア・ロング・バケーション』 (A Long Vacation) / 1981
   † (#115, 『大瀧詠一』)
8. Fishmans『空中キャンプ』( Kuuchuu Camp) / 1996 (#3)
9. Sadistic Mika Band『黒船』(Kurofune) / 1974 (#104)
10. Cornelius『ファンタズマ』(Fantasma) / 1997 (#9)

11. Sano Motoharu『SOMEDAY』/ 1982
   † (#16, 『VISITORS』)
12. Arai Yumi『ひこうき雲』(Hikouki Kumo) / 1973 (#25)
13. The Jacks『ジャックスの世界』(Jacks no Sekai) / 1968 (#61)
14. Yamashita Tatsuro『SPACY』/ 1977 (#39)
15. X『BLUE BLOOD』/ 1989
16. Anarchy『アナーキー』(Anarchy) / 1980
17. Carol『燃えつきる~ラスト・ライヴ』(Moetsukiru -Last Live) / 1975
18. Togawa Jun『玉姫様』(Tamahime-sama) / 1983 (#50)
19. The Plastics『Welcome Plastics』/ 1980 (#72)
20. Murahachibu『ライブ』(Live) / 1973 (#4)

21. Friction『軋轢』(Atsureki) / 1980 (#12)
22. Ankoku Tairiku Jagatara『南蛮渡来』(Nanban Torai) / 1982 (#11)
23. BOW WOW『WARNING FROM STARDUST』/ 1982
24. Gedou『外道』(Gedou) / 1974
25. Boredoms『Chocolate Synthesizer』/ 1994
   † (#6, 『SUPER ARE』)
26. Yano Akiko『ジャパニーズ・ガール』(Japanese Girl) / 1976
   † (#130, 『ごはんができたよ』)
27. The Stalin『STOP JAP』/ 1982
   † (#68, 『TRASH』)
28. The Roosters『Good Dreams』/ 1984
29. Mute Beat『FLOWER』/ 1987
30. Endou Kenji『満足できるかな』(Manzoku Dekiru Kana) / 1971 (#106)

31. Yuukadan『生聞59分』(Seibun 59 Mins) / 1977
32. Southern All Stars『人気者で行こう』(Ninkimono de ikou) / 1984
   † (#99, 『TINY BUBBLES』)
33. INU『メシ喰うな』(Meshi kuu na) / 1981 (#21)
34. Dir en grey『Withering to Death』/ 2005
35. Flipper’s Guitar『CAMERA TALK』/ 1990 (#131)
36. Char『PSYCHE』/ 1988
37. Shonen Knife『LET’S KNIFE』/ 1992 (#74)
38. Yonin Bayashi『一触即発』(Isshoku Sokuhatsu) / 1974
39. Carmen Maki&OZ『カルメン・マキ&OZ』(Carmen Maki&OZ) / 1975
40. Loudness『DISILLUSION~撃剣霊化~』(Disillusion ~ Gekiken Reika) / 1984

41. RC SUCCESSION『カバーズ』(Covers) / 1988 (#124)
42. Zelda『ゼルダ』(Zelda) / 1982
   † (#96, 『CARNAVAL』)
43. Rebecca『IV~Maybe Tomorrow』/ 1985
44. Sheena & Rockets『真空パック』(Shinkuu Back) / 1979
45. Godaigo『CMソング・グラフィティ・ゴダイゴ・スーパー・ヒッツ』(CM Song Graffiti Godaigo Super Hits) / 1978
46. Tama『ひるね』(Hirune) / 1991
   † (#148, 『さんだる』)
47. Merzbow『緊縛の為の音楽』(Music for Bondage Performance) / 1991
48. Kahimi Karie『MY FIRST KARIE』/ 1995
49. Fushitsusha『1st』/ 1989 
   † (#79, 『不失者』)
50. Elephant Kashimashi『エレファント カシマシ II』(Elephant Kashimashi II) / 1988
   † (#33,『浮世の夢』)

51. Guitar Wolf『狼惑星』(Ookami Wakusei) / 1997 (#126)
52. P-MODEL『IN A MODEL ROOM』/ 1979 (#125)
53. Itou Seikou『MESS/AGE』/ 1989 (#129)
54. Buffalo Daughter『Captain Vapor Athletes』/ 1996
55. Aburadako『あぶらだこ』(Aburadako) / 1985
   † (#70, 『あぶらだこ(1986)』)
56. Zunou Keisatsu『頭脳警察1』(Zunou Keisatsu 1) / 1972
   † (#100, 『頭脳警察セカンド』)
57. Murasaki『』(Murasaki) / 1976
58. Ippudou『LUNATIC MENU』/ 1982
59. Tei Towa『Future Listening!』/ 1994
60. Rankin Taxi『ワイルドで行くぞ』(Wild de iku zo) / 1991

61. Ken Ishii『JELLY TONES』/ 1995
   † (#71, 『ガーデン・オン・ザ・パーム』)
62. Creation『ピュア・エレクトリック・ソウル』(Pure Electric Soul) / 1977
63. Violent Onsen Geisha『NATION OF RHYTHM SLAVES』/ 1996
   † (#83, 『OTIS』)
64. Pizzicato Five『HAPPY END OF THE WORLD』/ 1997
   † (#91, 『女性上位時代』)
65. Moon Riders『青空百景』(Aozora Hyakkei) / 1982
   † (#144, 『カメラ=万年筆』)
66. S.O.B.『WHAT’S THE TRUTH?』/ 1990
   † (#140, 『LEAVE ME ALONE + DON’T BE SWINDLE』)
67. The Fantastic Plastic Machine『The Fantastic Plastic Machine』/ 1997
68. Takagi Kan『グラス・ルーツ』(Grass Roots) / 1992
69. Ozawa Kenji『LIFE』/ 1994 (#53)
70. Rosa Luxemburg『ぷりぷり』(Puripuri) / 1986 (#8)

71. Flower Traveling Band『Satori』/ 1971 (#76)
72. Denki Groove『A (エース)』/ 1997 (#101)
73. Salon Music『La Paloma Show』/ 1984
74. Scha Dara Parr『5TH Wheel 2 the coach』/ 1995 (#86)
75. BOOWY『JUST A HERO』/ 1986
76. Puffy 『JET CD』/ 1998
77. Izumiya Shigeru『’80のバラッド』(’80 no Ballad) / 1978
   † (#90,『黄金狂時代』)
78. Rino Latina II 『Carnival of Rino』/ 2001
79. Blankey Jet City『BANG!』/ 1991
   † (#80, 『C.B.Jim』)
80. Fujiwara Hiroshi『Nothing Much Better to Do』/ 1994

81. Sandii & the Sunsets『IMMIGRANTS』/ 1982
82. Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra『TOKYO SKA PARADISE』/ 1989
83. Mr. Children『Atomic Heart』/ 1994
84. The Street Sliders『SLIDER JOINT』/ 1983
85. Sunny Day Service『東京』(Tokyo) / 1996
   † (#40, 『サニーデイ・サービス』)
86. Supercar『HIGHVISION』/ 2002
   † (#30, 『JUMP UP』)
87. Thee Michelle Gun Elephant『High Time』/ 1996
   † (#19, 『ギヤ・ブルーズ』)
88. Newest Model『PRETTY RADIATION』/ 1988
   † (#77,『クロスブリード・パーク』)
89. Shiina Ringo『勝訴ストリップ』(Shouso Strip) / 2000 (#116)
90. Rip Slyme『FIVE』/ 2001

91. Hi-Standard『ANGRY FIST』/ 1997
   † (#128, 『メイキング・ザ・ロード』)
92. Number Girl『シブヤROCKTRANSFORMED状態』(Shibuya Rock Transformed Joutai) / 1999
   † (#37, 『SAPPUKEI』)
93. Okuda Tamio『股旅』(Matatabi) / 1998 (#143)
94. Spitz『スピッツ』(Spitz) / 1991 (#105)
95. V.A. 『GO-GO KING RECORDERS ORIGINAL RECORDINGS vol.1』/ 2006
96. Quruli『TEAM ROCK』/ 2001 (#49)
97. Theatre Brook『TALISMAN』/ 1996
98. Maximum the Hormone『ぶっ生き返す』(Bu-Ikikaesu) / 2007
99. Utada Hikaru『First Love』/ 1999
100. Kaji Hideki『TEA』/ 1998

W. David MARX
November 9, 2007

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

66 Responses

  1. Anonymous Says:

    EXACTLY! just as B’z_the_greatest and boo says, RSJ is totally a let down on this one. Where the hell is GLAY, B’z and L’arc!?!

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  4. hyde is best Says:

    What the hell is up with that ranking?? L’Arc-en-ciel is the greatest japanese ROCK band ever assembled. I don’t know who put this together but either put it down or do it right.

  5. Bill Says:

    Aren’t Fantasma and KZK shite?

  6. Jim Says:

    I THINK MORRISSEY SHOULD HAVE WON

  7. Tyler Says:

    to “B’z_the_greatest,” Ayumi Hamasaki has no place on a list like this… ever

  8. Matt Says:

    Y’all are such haters. Let’s just do a quick review of musicians who have rocked so hard that they made headlines with their destroyed hearing.

    B’z? No!
    L’Arc-en-ciel? No!
    Hamasaki Ayumi! Yes!

    It follows therefore that H.A. is the most hardcore Japanese rock musician of all time.

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  10. outlaw snagger Says:

    WTF wheres laruku? b’z? and freakin glay?!
    Dir en Grey’s whithering to death? why the hell is that there if they were gonna put one of its albums at least make it a great one like vulgar.and Maximun The Hormone?! is up there instead of l’arc en ciel which has made more of an influence then both those which i mentioned above?! THIS LIST IS F**CKED UP!!

  11. Mark KNOWLES Says:

    Glay sucks balls. That is why they aren’t on the list.

  12. Mark KNOWLES Says:

    N O B O R I S N O L I F E !

  13. Ringomaster Says:

    Glay are interesting; their post-BOOWY aesthetic chides me merrily and keeps me grinning for days.

    I must say that the inclusion of Cornelius has let my spirits down. He has always striked me as an opportunist, a fucking loser exploiting earnest cultures with his postmodern aesthetic. Yeah, man. Shibuya-kei is dead.

    The Stalin brought an incredible melange of prole ethos and rock energy into my life, Moonriders captivate jime – quintessential pop with an eccentric and literate twist – and doubtless inspired Mr Children. DOUBTLESS. I will defend the barricades of my point here until DEATH comes!

    The stupid choices made in this list are clearly the result of the editors knowing fuck all what they’re on about. Bunch of poser Japanese twats clearly know less about Japan than me, otherwise Imawano would be #2.

    #1 would be Shiina Ringo and Tokyo Jihen. Yes, both of them. She is a goddess, a veritable queen. For some real fucking insight check my blog.

    Oh and all visual kei is shite. You peasants.

  14. xenia Says:

    I’m surprised Luna Sea and L’arc~en~Ciel are not there. They’re way more popular than Dir en grey in Japan. Of course, I’m happy to see Dir en grey there because I freaking love them and they’re awesome!

  15. ruda Says:

    I thought one would see some: Les Rallizes Denudes, Mono, Boris, Acid Mothers Temple. I understand its a ”rock” list but these bands (LRD) have shaped a lot of the sound coming out today.

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