Two of my heroes just had major birthdays this past weekend. And even though both birthdays will be in the past when this post gets up and read, it’s still worth discussing, especially from my own perspective.
The first birthday commemoration was this past Sunday, when Nozomi Tsuji – 4th generation Morning Musume member, founding member of MiniMoni, ½ of the much-missed duo W, and an official Morning MILF now – turned 25. The second was the 70th birthday of one Sir James Paul McCartney. (Do I really have to remind anybody that he was a Beatle?).
And as far as my love of music, the creation of this blog and its sister blogs and predecessor, and my writing and recently revived musical careers, I owe them both an uncountable amount.
The first albums – as opposed to singles – that I remember asking my parents for were Beatles albums, specifically Sgt. Pepper and Yellow Submarine. This would be around 1973. The Beatles themselves had long since disbanded, but there was a lot of Beatles-spawned solo material all over the airwaves at the time – chief amongst them being the singles from McCartney’s fifth post-Beatles album and third under the Wings banner, Band on the Run. Not that the other ex-Beatles were in the background: John Lennon was getting attention around this time both with his solo work and doing a couple of guest appearances on a few his pal Elton John’s records, and George Harrison was cranking out some pretty good stuff around the same time period as well. Ringo Starr, the Beatle most people though wouldn’t have much of a career, had an excellent solo album, Ringo, which featured the other three Beatles pretty much all over the damn disc – although not all four of them in the same room (the closest we ever came to a Beatles reunion when all four were still alive was Ringo’s opening track, “I’m the Greatest”, which had just John, George, and Ringo.). Paul made two big marks on Ringo’s album: playing “mouth sax” (OK, a kazoo) on “You’re Sixteen” and pretty much everything but the drums on one other track, “Six O’Clock”.
At the time, though, Paul was the ex-Beatle getting most of my attention. I had several of his solo and Wings albums by the time I was in junior high school (Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, Back to the Egg, McCartney II, and Tug of War are all particular favorites of mine besides BotR), and most of them show the usual wear and tear records of the time tended to show when played almost incessantly. Band on the Run we only ever owned on 8-track, which was already a played out format by the time the seventies were coming to an end (for awhile I also had a cousin’s vinyl copy borrowed, but was unable to make that borrowing permanent). I wouldn’t own a copy again until I bought a 24K gold audiophile CD of the album sometime in the early 90’s, and of course, after Macca left Capitol-EMI (then under the control of a bunch of bankers who had no clue how to market music at all – that’s why Citibank ended up owning them and then selling them to Universal!) with his master tapes under his arm and his middle finger behind his back, I’d upgrade again, a couple of years ago, to the 2CD/DVD archive edition released by Concord’s Hear Music imprint. And he’s still going even though he doesn’t need the fucking money (his divorce from Heather Mills be damned) – Memory Almost Full was one of his best albums in years, and he’s been quite the prolific bugger lately with both a “standards” album of sorts (Kisses on the Bottom) being dropped earlier this year and a proper rock solo album being worked on at the time of Bottom’s release.
In a way, there are similar things I can say about Nozomi Tsuji. She was still a member of Morning Musume and MiniMoni when I started to get into Hello! Project in general (never mind just J-Pop in particular); W was just an idea that already had a three-song EP and a full-length album ready to drop when I first bought Best! Morning Musume 1 and 2 and MiniMoni Songs 2 early in 2004. But that much of an introductory dose of the world of MoMusu & H!P, I think, definitely had the deal sealed when I heard the W EP and album. There were those tight duo vocals her and Aibon had – harmonies that are the tightest one could get without being blood relations (i.e. the Everly Brothers and more recently, the Kirkwood Brothers of the mightly Meat Puppets) – plus the history lesson of Showa-era kayokyoku that Duo U&U presented. That pretty much was it for me. I was an H!P fan for life – and still am to this day.
Of course, Nono’s musical career has been in slowdown/hiatus mode lately – becoming a MILF before she could even turn 20 is one reason why, of course. But her career was on pause beforehand anyway because of the debacle W became after Ai Kago was first suspended from performing, then fired outright a year later – and thus putting W’s third album into territory once occupied solely by the Beach Boys’s original version of SMiLE. (I still think to this day that a lot of the songs intended for W3: Faithful ended up on the first and only GAM album.) I can sit here and bitch about all the music we’ve been denied from her since then, but I won’t. What music she did get to record between 2000 and 2007 was influential enough on me. It’s all part of my DNA just like Paul McCartney’s work in and out of the Beatles was.
Of course, both of them have had their influence on my writing as well – Nono and the rest of MiniMoni inspired my still-in-progress Here Is The Wonderland novel, while Morning Musume in general is part of my usual writing soundtrack (never mind just my life soundtrack), save for when I’m writing musical commentaries like this. The Beatles crop up there as well, of course – those of you that have already read Resonant Blue (if you’re not one of them, you can be) will note a few Beatles references in the course of the story.
Some will dare ask, “How could someone that is a typical pop singer that doesn’t involve herself in her own records beyond showing up at the studio and singing what was asked of her be just as important to someone like one of the Beatles?” I don’t see it that way and I never have. Music is an even playing field where I am concerned – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Morning Musume, The Beatles, Public Image Ltd., Hank 3, Mike Watt, Beethoven, John Coltrane, or anyone else you could randomly pick out of my collection. It all touched my life, it’s all a part of my DNA. The fact that I can commemorate and celebrate the back-to-back birthdays of two wholly different musicians from two disparate generations (never mind two disparate continents!) is simply a demonstration of that level playing field.
Happy Birthday, Nono and Macca. Same time, next year?