Easy to be Haado

Easy to be Haado

A proper Japanese version of the song “Sodomy” from the 1969 Tokyo staging of rock musical Hairヘアー』 would have greatly simplified the mischievous first-year language student’s mission to quickly and thoroughly learn copious profanity in his newfound tongue. But even with such a memorable lyrical assault on bourgeois sexual values stricken from the first fifteen minutes of the stage show, the Japanese Hair still invited angry crackdown from authorities. On February 26, 1970 — just one day before the final performance of the Tokyo run — local fuzz arrested several members of the cast for smoking “dope.” (Oh, they could have so eloquently acted out American hippies had they not been impaired by the effects of demon cannabis!) Needless to say, “Hashish” did not make the final playlist either.

As stated by Julian Cope in his authoritative guide to Japs and their rock, Hair played a critical role in the development of 1970s Japanese underground music. Listening to the 1971 cast recording, however, does not so easily communicate the musical’s gravity; in fact, it’s a bit of a drag. As one of the few people on earth equally obsessed with the nation of Japan and the 1968 Original Broadway Cast recording of Hair, I have to sadly report back in lexical description of body language: shrug.

(For those who’d like to form their own opinion, the album may or may not be available for download here and here. I wouldn’t know about such things.)

What went wrong? First and foremost, the female vocalists’ lack of talent defies all logical explanation — especially when compared to the charismatic and adept male leads Kahashi Katsumi (aka Toppo from The Tigers) and Minoru (Terada) Domberger. The compromise between original material and Japanese localization also seems fundamentally out of balance. The main producer Kawazoe and the two leads personally adapted the book and plot to fit a Japanese background — Berger becomes a “college dropout” rather than a high-school dropout, etc. — but then went ahead and employed a few African-American ringers to satisfy the musical presuppositions of American racial diversity (and carry everyone else’s load on the major chorus work.) Dropping the needle on the entry grooves, the last thing you expect is Off Broadway’s Chet Fortune launching “Aquarius” (mp3) in native English. Once the local backup singers pop in, however, it’s like you accidentally opened offTunes and can’t Force Quit. To add insult to injury, Verse Three involves Ms. Fortune singing the translated Japanese lyrics with lazy American vowels. This may be a long 49 minutes.

“Donna” (mp3), however, makes up for the previous harmonic and linguistic failures thanks to an extended call-and-response ooh-ooh-ooh-WAH! and serious pep. With openers “Sodomy” and “Hashish” redacted in order to protect public morals, the song list feels spare almost immediately. Despite having black ringer Isaac Clay at beck and call (who, no surprise, gets to sing the line “I’m black” on “I’m Black” [mp3]), the Japanese production regrettably removes all the (incredibly-good) “black” songs like “Colored Spade” and “Abie Baby.” And I guess the producers were not comfortable with large groups of Japanese women lusting after either White Boys or Black Boys (or mixed media), so we lose “Black Boys/White Boys.” The localizers don’t earn their lunch money until loyally translating the extended word jam in “Ain’t Got No Grass” (mp3) that ends with four words never again uttered in succession: 「ニッポン/スペイス/アストロ/キリスト」.

Other songs are not so fun. The catchy 60s chant:

What do we want? Freedom!
When do we want it? Now!

becomes the ludicrous tongue-twister:

われわれの求めている物は?自由!
それはいつ?今!

This clumsy translation is an apt metaphor for the entire effort: the Japanese version of Hair takes a musical that elegantly voiced the promise and despair of the American counter-cultural experience in the late 1960s and files down the corners to uncomfortably fit within the tight grid of a bento box. This, however, describes the pattern of Japanese “cool” for the decades that followed. Instead of identifying larger concepts of “youth fashion” or “counterculture” overseas and then championing location innovations within these spheres, both the Japanese media complex and the elitist upper middle-class trend-setters choose to celebrate their inclusion within a cross-cultural international “cool” through the superficial imitation/consumption of Western imports.

There was lots of real-life counter-cultural activity that did not fit into the categorical molds of the “Hair” song catalog. There was a violence in the streets! Rival factions of Marxists and Trotskyites and Revolutionary Marxists with Stars on Their Helmets and Revolutionary Marxists Without Stars on Their Helmets trying to kill each other with long wooden sticks. However, the lack of cultural self-confidence — combined with the (imperialist?) power of Western rock, fashion, and drugs — made Japanese middle-class kids ultimately prefer to play-act fantasy drop-out Vietnam draftees — ignoring the speed freaks, airplane-glue-huffers, and lower-class dandies littering the streets of Shinjuku. Or to offer a more critical reading, those with exclusive access to foreign culture (celebrities, the wealthy, the educated elite) chose to centralize “pop culture” around importation rather than extrapolation to maintain a power based on discrimination through cultural capital. (When less-privileged consumers bent the usage of Western conventions to fit their own social needs — i.e., the Yankii, the Kogyaru — the style council always disapproved for as long as possible.)

There was a constant need for imports in the late 1960s since anything with value originated from overseas, and a commercial structure consolidated to both satiate and guide demand. These structures of Japanese consumer culture, however, generally doom the initial ideology at the heart of any product, whether punk or hip hop or Surveiller et punir. For its one-sentence tagline of being the “Tribal Love Rock Musical,” Hair is an extremely ambivalent examination of the whole hippie affair. No song may have ever so pointedly critiqued liberal hypocrisy more than “Easy to Be Hard.” This ambivalence was generally gutted in the process of commercialized export/import. Yes, Hair riled the authorities (so did the much tamer Beatlemania only three years earlier), but the “radical” production was essentially a top-down affair. The lead actor was still a member of The Tigers — a massively popular proto-idol group (with male members nicknamed Julie, Sally, and “Pee.”) Hair opened at the Tōkyū Theatre in Shibuya — inside a department store! As much as the “drug bust” sealed the musical’s narrative as “rebellious,” the handful of joints seems quaint when compared to the heroin/cocaine pipeline that flowed through the Lennon/Ono and Jagger/Richards projects overseas at the same time.

So, the Japanese Hair is not as good as the American version? The Japanese didn’t “get” it? These simple conclusions do explain why the album does not have an audience today, but do not justify this previous exposition. Although generally lacking any inherent qualities as a cultural artifact, the staging of Hair still retains a historical significance for two reasons. One, it signals the inclusion of Japan within currents of international youth culture as an equal. Okay, Japan is still adopting overseas culture wholesale, but by the late 1960s, cultural elites are doing it in more-or-less real-time (and even getting high and arrested for getting high!) In 1969, however, the commercial complex was not “mature” enough to start pumping out mass youth culture that could be of any interest to non-Japanese (or even the elitist Japanese.) Hair shows exactly why Japanese cultural histories (the “Top 100 Japanese Rock Records,” for example) generally have to skip the 1960s — a period which still provide the values and norms of American and British youth culture.

Second, Hair demonstrates the most important function of imported counterculture in Japan — it was not a vessel of ideology but a nexus where future talent met and stars demonstrated the potential of “anti-social” culture to the commercial complex. The Japanese recording’s strongest point is the tightness of the band, directed by foreigner Daniel Hurd and featuring talented musicians such as Kosaka Chu (ex-Apryl Fool), Okada Paul (ex-Carnabeats), and drummer Ishikawa Sho. Executive Producer Kawazoe went on to produce Yellow Magic Orchestra among other acts. This pattern of being “in the know” about the latest foreign underground culture may have formed a discriminatory cultural capital, but brought together a small community whose lineage is responsible for most of Japan’s enduring pop cultural achievements.

Now that Japan has gained a pop culture confidence, there has been renewed interest in adding back products of local social dysfunctions to the cultural canon (i.e., the Yankiis). We foreigners tend to denigrate the trendy Japanese embodiment of pre-fab Western counterculture lifestyles, because obviously, we would like to discover something new rather than inferior versions of what we know. But Japanese cultural enthusiasts have always felt the exact same urges, and therefore, overwhelmingly preferred imports to local versions. This forced consumption/embodiment itself to be the central action: the “production” of derivative elements/artifacts based on these imports automatically created inferior “local” culture. Terayama Shuji’s 1970 production Throw Away the Books, Rally In The Streets/『書を捨てよ、町へでよう』is essentially “Hair for the Japanese ’60s” but you rarely hear anyone gushing about its importance. Hair may not be useful today for capturing the mood of thinner-huffing Fūtenzoku squatting out in Shinjuku’s parks, but the whole point was to simply be in “Be-In.”

W. David MARX
December 18, 2007

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

10 Responses

  1. Chuckles Says:

    This link […authoritative guide to Japs and their rock,…] is broken.

    Marxy, if you dont mind my asking; are there any blogs run by Japanese that you follow regularly?

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    I fixed the link.

    Ironically, I find 2-ch Itai News one of the only good news aggregators in Japanese. I check Uchida Tatsuru and Ikeda Nobuo’s blogs once in a while, and there’s a fashio n blog called “elastic” that’s pretty decent. We are going to start to do more links on a separate part of the site soon, so we will hopefully introduce more later.

  3. erisdiscordia Says:

    Y’know, I know about 4, 5 and a half Japanese words, I think, and…

    …isn’t “Itai” “Pain” or “it hurts” or something like that?

    e.

  4. Matt Says:

    And in songs like “Hare Krishna” you have Japanese youth culture seeking out the new in US youth culture which was itself seeking out the new in Asia (mostly the Indian subcontinent), right? Now that’s the long way around.

  5. Matt Says:

    Uh, “Be In (Hare Krishna)”. Well, you get the idea.

  6. Aceface Says:

    “This forced consumption/embodiment itself to be the central action: the “production” of derivative elements/artifacts based on these imports automatically created inferior “local” culture. Terayama Shuji’s 1970 production Throw Away the Books, Rally In The Streets/『書を捨てよ、町へでよう』is essentially “Hair for the Japanese 60s” but you rarely hear anyone gushing about its importance. ”

    Are you writing this by knowing Terayama WAS the original translator and theater director of Japanese “HAIR”?

    Rather looong quote from just came out this week,Yomota Inuhiko’s四方田犬彦”The Marano Literature of Japan日本のマラーノ文学”(人文書院刊).

    (QUOTE STARTS)
    1968年夏、ヴィエトナム反戦運動とヒッピー風俗が日本でも猖獗を極めていたころ、寺山修司は当時ニューヨークのブロードウェイで人気を博していた反戦ロックミュージカル「ヘアー」の翻訳と演出を、たまたま原作品が彼の「書を捨てよ、町へ出よう」の作り方にとてもよく似ていたという単純な理由から引き受ける。そのさい、アメリカと日本との政治状況の差異を考慮して、設定やせりふの自在な変更が条件のひとつとされた。

    寺山はこの設定を大きく変えて、まず主人公をアメリカ人になりたくてアメリカ人のふりをしている間に、本物の徴兵カードが到着してしまって慌てふためいている日本人青年にしてしまった。擬態と虚言という、寺山にとって本質的な主題を原作の上にみごとに重ね焼きしたといっていい。翻案された戯曲はメタシアトリカルな構造を持つにいたった。この企て自体がそもそも日本人俳優によって演じられるアメリカの物語として考えられたという当初の事情を見事に内側に含みこみ、さらに戦後日本文化史への辛らつなる批判となりえている。

    Terayama had also switched a black with a Zainichi korean in his Japanese translation of the song”colored spade”.
    It goes like this…

    おれはアサ公、朝鮮、ニンニク野郎、
    アリラン、豚、用なし、
    アイゴーアイゴー、コーリャン、
    チョセンチョセンとバカにするな。
    同じメシ食ってとこがちがうんだ。
    センちゃん、アサちゃん、小松川高の便所掃除
    寸又峡の狂人、大震災のたたりもの
    国境線の家なき子ちゃん
    拝啓 天皇陛下さま
    拝啓 天皇陛下さま
    糞!

    戦後、アメリカ文化を模倣してきた日本人が、アメリカ人のふりをする日本人という役柄の二重構造を演じ、その中で日本国内に存在する民族的矛盾対立を論じ合うという寺山の意図は採用されず、現在にいたるまで舞台にかけられていない。

    (QUOTE ENDS)

    Shouchiku,the promoter of the musical had eventually kicked Terayama out of the show and the musical”Hair”was played by the direct translation of the original play in December 1969.

  7. W. David MARX Says:

    Wow. That piece of information changes everything. The liner notes to the Japanese CD do not mention Terayama at all.

  8. W. David MARX Says:

    Let me quickly and roughtly translate what Aceface has so nicely typed out”

    START QUOTE

    In the summer of 1968, when protests against the Vietnam war and hippie culture were rampant in Japan, Terayama Shuji took on the translation and staging of the hit anti-war Broadway rock musical Hair for the simple reason that it greatly resembled the making of his own work Throw Away the Books, Rally In The Streets. He had one condition that he could freely change the setting and script, considering the differences in political situation between the U.S. and Japan.

    Terayama greatly changed the setting, first making the main character a Japanese youth who wanted to be American and imitate Americans so much that he goes into a panic when an actual draft card shows up for him. You could say that he very splendidly burned the themes of mimicry and falsehood, the real themes for Terayama, on top of the script. His adapted play ended up having a metacritical structure. This itself magnificently incorporated the initial circumstances of an American story acted out by Japanese actors, and also, would be a bitter criticism of post-war Japanese culture.

    END

    That translation of Colored Spade is pretty incredible.

    I would make the point that this episode fits really well into the essay’s narrative. They hire a Japanese legend of experimental theatre who decides to extrapolate the story into Japanese circumstances, therefore making the musical a criticism on Japanese internal racism and a meta-criticism on the act of pure importation of Western culture. As a result, he is sacked and the commercial complex removes any nuances of the play acting as a vehicle for self-criticism. Gone are any attempts to substitute Japanese racial problems, and instead, the play becomes safely “anti-American” in its depiction of unfairness to blacks and pursuit of the war (with an added bonus of showing those awful Americans with their awful drug problems). Then they cut out the black songs, the drug songs, and the homosexual songs since Japan has none of these things (maybe they do but you can’t talk about them). Some guys get busted for pot at the end, but really, the scrubbing happened at the commercial level – not the political, legal level. All the pot did was expose the hypocrisy, so it had to be shut down. It was fine when the whole point was to show these evil social maladies to be someone else’s problems.

  9. nate Says:

    wonderful wrap up by aceface. great stuff there. David—you should bring in someone to tell us all a few stories about Terayama.

  10. Aceface Says:

    “They hire a Japanese legend of experimental theatre who decides to extrapolate the story into Japanese circumstances, therefore making the musical a criticism on Japanese internal racism and a meta-criticism on the act of pure importation of Western culture. As a result, he is sacked and the commercial complex removes any nuances of the play acting as a vehicle for self-criticism. Gone are any attempts to substitute Japanese racial problems, and instead, the play becomes safely “anti-American” in its depiction of unfairness to blacks and pursuit of the war (with an added bonus of showing those awful Americans with their awful drug problems). ”

    What I think producers of Shouchiku had in their minds were Terayama had made “Hair” into something more than just a rock musical but a too complex metacritical Mumbo-Jumbo that could hardly attract any audiences.It all became too much of a Terayama play.

    I can’t blame Shouchiku for their awkward attitude toward Terayama that much because they’ve already made a movie of the same motif by Oshima Nagisa a year before called “Three Resurrected Drunkards帰ってきたヨッパライ”starring The Folk Crusaders.

    Here’s the synopsis

    3人の大学生・加藤公彦、北山修、はしだのりひこ(当時は漢字)が海水浴をしているところからこの映画は始まる。

     砂浜に置いた彼等の洋服がいつのまにか学生服と韓国軍の軍服にすり替えられてしまう。その村には朝鮮半島からの密入国者がひんぱんに上陸するため、地元のたばこ屋・殿山泰司や漁師・小松方正らは、見慣れない顔の彼等のことを警察へ通報する。

     銭湯へ逃げた三人はそこで謎の女・緑魔子から客の服を盗んで逃げるようアドバイスを受ける。まんまと着替えた彼等の後を怪しい二人の男が追って来た。一人は韓国軍兵士・佐藤慶でもうひとりはやはり韓国人の学生、つまり浜辺ですり替えらた洋服の元の持ち主なのだった。

     佐藤はベトナム戦争へ行くのを拒否し、学生は日本への留学を夢見て韓国を脱出した密入国者。北山とはしだに軍服と学生服を着せて身代わりにして殺し、その罪を加藤にかぶせて殺し、行方をくらまそうというのが佐藤の計画。拳銃を持って迫る佐藤の隙をついて逃げ出した三人は緑魔子の手引きでヒッチハイクに成功し村を脱出する。

     緑魔子の情夫・渡辺文雄とともに佐藤と学生が三人の後を追いかける。ついに汽車の便所に追い詰められた三人はトンネルを抜ける度に騒音にまぎれてドア越しに拳銃で撃たれ絶体絶命に、、、。

     フと気付くと三人はまだトラックの上にいた。ここからはベトナム戦争の戦地で頭を打抜かれる兵士の衝撃的な写真をイメージした夢とも現実ともつかない世界が交錯し始める。

     場面はいきなり冒頭の海水浴シーンに。もうあんな怖い思いはたくさんだと銭湯から別の道を行こうとする加藤とはしだの忠告を聞かず、緑魔子の後を追った北山のおかげで再び佐藤に殺されそうになる三人。だが、今度は事情が少し違う。

     三人は自分たちこそが本物の韓国人で、佐藤たちは韓国人を殺そうとする日本人なのだと叫び始める。佐藤と学生は身元を証明する術が無い。やはり韓国人だった渡辺文雄は密入国者の所持金を巻上げようと、佐藤らと三人を東京の親戚のところへ送り届ける役を引き受けてくれる。

     途中で佐藤と学生を射殺した北山の前から緑魔子が去る。死んだはずの佐藤と学生が実は生きていて、再び汽車の便所に追い詰められた三人。窓の外ではベトナム戦争のイメージがサイケなイラストで展開している。銃声とともに三人は真っ暗なトンネルに入ってしまった、、、。

    Although the movie is starred by the nation’s leading boy band at the time,the topic ranges from Vietnam War,Zainichi Korean and Japanese xenophobia.Shouchiku at least let dissident director like Oshima to film a frictional topic. So political conservatism of the company could be the secondary reasons.

    Anyway I’ve always found it amazing to see so many similarities between “Three Resurrected Drankards”and”Hair”.(“TRD”was released in March 30 of 1968,so it can’t be a mimicry.)