I'll Take the Green, please.

Reiko remembers 尾崎豊 Yutaka Ozaki:

"God, the things I wanted to do to him when I was 12!" She bites her glossed lip and smiles.

"I bet."

"He was terribly good looking," she moans. "I mean he was beautiful enough to convince you that he wasn't even real, you know those impossibly good-looking people. On the poster he was an idol but when he sang, he turned into an idol with a beating heart. Do you get what I mean?"


"Not really. Go on."

She is more than glad to. Yutaka Ozaki devastated Japan at the same time the New Kids were the right stuff and Johnny Kitagawa hit his stride. Kitagawa spearheaded the boy band scene in Japan. Asia's answer to Menudo, he's been marketing and packaging musical eye candy since the 60's. Nearly everything he touches turns into (a lawsuit) gold. Man loves his job. He finds clean young Ganymedes and trains them, as only the Japanese can, to be beautiful, flawless and forever under 21. Then he makes a killing. Johnny's Entertainment Media and its proteges are still in rotation, of course. There's a lot of want out there.

Yutaka Ozaki was a bounty. Impeccable looks, great voice, marketable teeth (rare!) But he was no Johnny Boy. For one thing, he didn't dance. For another he wrote his own songs.

If Joey Mycintyre had suddenly stopped "Please Don't Go Girl"-ing to sing about his depression. If Justin stopped bringing sexy back and started regretting getting that girl pregnant. If Britney started singing about moral degradation and lack of freedom, we might get a taste of what Ozaki was about. Nothing is sexier than a rebel, non?

Particularly in Japan. Particularly in the 80's.

That's ヤバい yabai; multi-faceted word meaning essentially "dangerous", "badass", "not good in a good way". Someone willing to do the unthinkable. Pierce their tongue. Speak out. Get notice beyond expectation.

"It drove me crazy!" Reiko laments. "He wrote songs about love, of course, but more about its consequence. How it made you doubt and examine your nature. He sang about loneliness as though he'd never had a friend. He wrote about anger and how good it was. He wrote about what it feels like to have no voice at all. He would get enraged when he sang, genuinely pissed off. I felt really close to him then. No one else ever sang about stuff like that! It was like he was speaking for us rather than to us sometimes. "

In 1992 Ozaki was found dead, half naked in a Tokyo alleyway at age 27.

In 2004, two tribute albums were released. BLUE & GREEN. BLUE consisted of contributions from major label breakers--Mr. Children, Utada Hikaru, Cocco, among others. I listened to this album once and liked it. The top sellers sang Ozaki's songs poised and melodic. A cleanly arranged thank you. Not bad.

The GREEN album was better.

The guys in green, ya know they doin' alright. The Indies and Unknowns. Chords allowed to go raw, to rage, swerve off kilter a bit. Take the contribution from 熊谷 和徳 Kumagai Kazunori, 米軍キャンプUS Armed Force Camp. It opens with a delirious plastic tub drum staccato trying frantically to escape. Or feet. It's what will play when credits roll. Kumagai speaks the lyrics like a requiem.

"Alone on the street with nowhere to go. Industry washed up and friends all gone out one by one like the ash on my cigarette. My soul made a tiny noise the night the heart within you died for the first time. You were so refined in the ways you never smiled. In a crowd of people, never saying a single thing. Tonight let's come together and lick our wounds. We'll fuck them all, mock the world and find love as a blanket to curl up in."

Reiko sighs.

"Maybe I'm just getting older but when I see Kamenashi Kazuya's eyes fill with tears and beg me not to leave in a video, I don't want to hold him because I know when the song is over, he'll be alright."

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