THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

MiniMoni

From MiniMoni To CuckoldMoni (Or Should That Be CougarMoni?)

I was rather shocked to hear of Mari Yaguchi publicly admitting last night to having an affair with another man earlier this year – an affair discovered when her husband walked in on her and her younger lover while en flagrante delicto. My initial thoughts weren’t much different than what essential brother Ray Mescallado posted at Idolminded last night, twinged with amusement over the Tomo News CG recreation of the incident. Then I remembered, with a chuckle, an instance where (I forget where it was originally posted) Mari Yaguchi had brushed off her participation in a TV scene involving some on-set (if not on-screen) male nudity by admitting something to the effect of, “Male nudity doesn’t bother me anymore – I’m kind of used to it by now.” That report came a few months after Marippe had been photographed by stalkerazzi in the company of actor Oguri Shun, an instance that led to her resigning from Morning Musume mere weeks before her first (and only) single as band leader was released.

From a Western perspective, the Gooch’s public admission and apology is a far cry from how such a story would have treated in American gossip rags like People, OK, LifeStyle, and so forth. In a world where the professional gossip mongers (the above-named magazines, plus websites of questionable journalistic integrity like TMZ and Perez Hilton) will deliver a multitude of conflicting stories on the latest goings on of, to give two recent examples, the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian relationship [Of all the people Kanye could be reproducing with… yecch!] or Teen Mom cast member Farrah Abraham’s transition from reality TV participant to porn actress, such media venues would have had a field day with Marippe’s cuckoldry (not to mention how both her soon-to-be ex-husband and her fuck buddy were both younger men, which would make her a J-Pop cougar at this point)! I’m sure Japan’s own tabloid press will have a field day with Marippe going from MiniMoni to HornyMoni, but given that country’s own culture I don’t think they do it with the level of disrespect certain aspects of the Western entertainment “press” lean on for pretty much every story they write.

Me, having passed the shock and alarm stages of the news already, am just going to forgive Mari for her indiscretions. This incident isn’t going to damage how much I like her as a singer and a person, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to have some semi-private amusement of my own over her recent inability to keep her coochie under wraps. Certain songs by the Rolling Stones and Sonny Boy Williamson II came to mind almost immediately, and so a Spotify playlist (which anyone with a Spotify account and a good imagination can contribute to) was born…

A Tale of Two Heroes

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?

And another ex-W becomes a MILF…

Ai Kago, the most troubled ex-MoMusu, has just gotten some surprise positivity in her life.

She’s married AND pregnant. (Translation of her blog announcement at Tokyohive).

To my knowledge, she hasn’t announced who the culprit (er, lucky bastard, ahem, new hubby/daddy) yet, but I hope he isn’t some douchebag twice her age like the last loser she was involved with. More than that, I hope she’s finally found the happiness that she deserves.

Aibon, You Need To Change A Few Things…

 


Waking up to see any bad news is never what one wants to see first thing in the morning, especially on a weekend morning after sleeping in. But that’s precisely what happened when I picked up my Blackberry and read International Wota’s headline about her suicide attempt.

 

Putting the last two words of that last sentence in a paragraph with any entertainer is a sad thing to begin with, but when that name is attached to a Japanese singer associated with happier-sounding works, it’s even sadder.

Like everybody else that is processing this news and blogging or tweeting about it, I am wishing Aibon the best. Given that she was in Morning Musume when I first started to get into the band and also became a XXL fan of the side groups she was in at the time – hell, my Gmail address has been minimoniotaku since 2004! – this is only natural. Shit, she even inspired one of the characters in my almost-complete novel project (although I have no intention of giving her literary doppelgänger such a tragic ending)!

With reference to one of the first posts IW linked to, I don’t believe Aibon needs a permanent break from the entertainment industry. What she needs a permanent break from is the guy she’s been living with for the past couple of years. From what I can tell, he hasn’t been much of a help or a positive influence on her, and his much-reported associations with organized crime certainly don’t help.

Aibon, have a safe recovery, get the fuck away from that guy you’ve been involved with, get in touch with some friends (we all know you’ve been in contact with fellow ex-MiniMoni Mika Todd through Twitter), and by this time next year you should be ending the year on a high note, not a low one.

Did Someone Say “Cake”? (Happy 4th Cake Day, International Wota!)

In Honor of International Wota’s FOURTH (holy crap!) anniversary… otherwise known as Cake Day 2011… a little revisit of the first time I commemorated Cake Day at Stuck In A Pagoda in 2008…


“Okashi Tsukutte Okasui” by MiniMoni – their harmonies on this song slay me everytime.

And in the interest of equal time, we also have pie:


And because I’m going to the special hell: I’m sure that in the four years since the first Cake Day, some lucky bastards have been getting a different kind of pie from all four ex-MiniMoni’s – not just Aibon and Nono in the months leading up to the first ever Cake Day! >:)

Those Are Big Shoes To Fill, Pt. 2

So far, Tsunku’s plans for a new Mini Moni lineup are taking a more interesting shape. This morning, he announced who the leader of the third-gen lineup of the revived band is going to be:

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Qian Lin, better known to us all as 8th-gen Morning Musume member LinLin. (If anyone has noticed, I’ve more often than not referred to Lin and her fellow “Panda Musume” Li Chun [JunJun] by their real names here and at Stuck In A Pagoda.) Throwing Lin into the mix is a good choice – she fills both the senior MoMusu member role held in the original lineup by Mari Yaguchi and the “international presence” role held throughout the band’s original existence by Mika Todd. And, by nice coincidence, LinLin also plays guitar – something Mika Todd also knew very well:


In a more personal yet somewhat related note, writing has been rather sporadic for me, period, the last few days (this blog post is the first thing I’ve seriously written since Friday night!), and most of my energy has been directed at completing the novel that the original MiniMoni itself inspired. I intend to make up for that big time this month. Thanks for hanging in there, friends.

Those Are Big Shoes To Fill…

This must be the year for Hello! Project to be doing the unpredictable. First, Morning Musume making their long-demanded debut in the United States, and now this:

Tsunku announced on his blog today that he’s reviving MiniMoni with an all-new lineup. 

MiniMoni hasn’t exactly been far away from Tsunku’s – or fan’s – minds. Their first single, “MiniMoni Jankenpyon”, has turned up on set lists during the W/Berryz Koubou 2004 tour (sung by members of Berryz, despite the fact that two ex-MiniMonis were headlining) and during a Wonderful Hearts package tour a few years later with random MoMusu (one of which was Reina Tanaka, who had once cosplayed as a MiniMoni member in her pre-MoMusu days), Berryz and C-utes. Both times, the random members were dressed in the standard old-school MiniMoni covers. 

So far, only one member has been confirmed for the new lineup: Hello! Project Egg Kanon Fukuda: 

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My initial presumption would be that Tsunku will be utilizing mostly H!P Eggs for the new lineup, rather than shoehorn existing Wonderful Hearts into the band, despite the original group’s origins as consisting of 3/4 Morning Musume. Whether the original 150cm and under rule concieved by Mari Yaguchi in 2000 is held to is also presently unknown. But whoever gets in the new lineup will have some big shoes to fill – especially vocally, since the group had four very distinctive voices in Ai Kago, Nozomi Tsuji, Mika Todd and Mari Yaguchi. Ai Takahashi’s later membership in the band in Marippe’s place did nothing to diminish that, thankfully.

The timing of this annoucement is interesting: Mari Yaguchi FINALLY issued a solo single earlier this spring, and was recently in the studio with fellow O.G. MoMusu Kei Yasuda. Meanwhile, Ai Kago’s first post-Hello! Project single is coming out in a few weeks. Nozomi Tsuji is concentrating on her “new” career as a designer of baby clothes at present, and it’s been awhile since anything new was heard about Mika Todd. 

Also a mystery right now (give Tsunku a break, he’s only announced one band member so far!) is what the musical content will be like. MiniMoni’s original sound, however varied, was more youth-oriented, until 2003 when the group started turning towards a more mature R&B-oriented sound. An educated guess might surmise that a new lineup might hark back to MiniMoni’s original approach, but again, with only one horse in the starting gate it’s too early to tell. 

More on this when there’s more to talk about.

Survey Says…

Paul at Hello!Blog has done it again with his annual desire to combine his love of Hello! Project with some mad coding skills. This time around, the survey incorporates all of Hello! Project, including the Elder Club, making for what should be some rather interesting results. Here’s the “tall” version of my survey graphic (the long version I’m going to use as the basis for a future header).

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Now I get to explain myself again… Continue reading

21 Already?!?

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This morning I found myself driving my mother to work, followed almost immediately by being dispatched to the nearest McDonald’s to grab sweet teas for her and her co-workers. No problem there, as I wanted one myself. 

It wasn’t until I was waiting my turn at the drive-thru that I realized what today was. 

February 7th.

Ai Kago’s birthday.

I couldn’t remember her exact age, so, knowing that I’d probably forget to look it up when I got home, I pulled out my Blackberry and brought up Wapedia.mobi on my phone.

“February 7th, 1988″

Yep, today is Ai Kago’s 21st birthday.

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

I remember hearing Morning Musume and MiniMoni for the first time via a Xmas “card” mix CD-R of J-pop artists I was sent from an online acquaintence in 2003. When 2004 started, I took the plunge and, amongst some other recommendations from yet another online friend, I picked up a bunch of Morning Musume singles – specifically all the ones released between “Shabondama” and “Ai Araba! IT’S ALL RIGHT”, including the Sakuragumi and Otomegumi EPs. That was soon followed after a few weeks (and slugging around with a CD-R comprised of all those tracks) by my ordering Best! Morning Musume 1 & 2 and MiniMoni Songs 2. The next thing I knew, I was placing advance orders for “ROMAN ~My dear boy~” and – because her and Nozomi Tsuji were in MoMusu and MiniMoni – the first W single and LP. Neither my record collection nor bank account has not been the same since. 

And that, dear readers and fellow wota, is the Reader’s Digest condensed version of how, even after owning a few CDs by Whiteberry, Mai Kuraki, Yui Horie, Yuu Asakawa, and Chihiro Onitsuka between 2000 and 2003, CJ Marsicano became a Hello! Project otaku. 

It seems like yesterday that, while MiniMoni Songs 2 was still one of the newest CDs in my collection, I was looking at the front cover pic of the group doing their best H!Pified hip-hop look. I looked at the front cover, thought the girl on the far right in the blue velour top was pretty hot looking, looked up her name in the liner notes – of course, it was Ai Kago (I didn’t know her as “Aibon” yet) – and decided to look her up and see if I could find any kind of bio about her. Found out she was 16 at the time.

Oops. (Then, of course, as longtime followers of this blog, its predecessor, and a certain worship blog already know, a certain MoMusu a year younger than Aibon would steal my wota heart by the time Stuck In A Pagoda With Motoko Aoyama debuted in April of 2006, making that “oops” rather moot!)

It seems like yesterday that, on my LiveJournal, I was commemorating Aibon’s 17th birthday by facetiously claiming that  I was playing the Motorhead classic “Jailbait” in her honor. Followed, of course, by the stalkerazzi discoveries that she was caught smoking in a restaurant a few weeks before she was to turn 18 (and before W3: Faithful was supposed to come out, too!).

I had started MotokoAoyama.com v1.0 (RIP) around that time, and on occasion I wondered when Aibon’s suspension would end. Her surprise pre-return return to action in February of 2007 happened, of course, followed by more stalkerazzi pictures that caught 19-year-old Aibon headed to an onsen with some older guy. Followed, of course, by her sudden firing (and my almost wanting to Keith Moon my laptop out of the window in disgust – an act prevented by the necessity of needed to keep my writing chops going and my iPod regularly updated). 

Through it all, though, my love for J-Pop in general and Hello! Project in particular didn’t wane one goddamn bit. In fact, it got stronger. And there’s no doubt that, just like the bands she was in at the time got me full throttle into J-Pop, the desire to see her come back one way or another is what kept that love of J-Pop stronger. Her MiniMoni and W past and her firing and then-uncertain future, along with a pic I discovered a few weeks after her departure  from H!P of Aibon posing with an electric guitar at a live event, would also end up being the seed that inspired Here Is The Wonderland. (I’m STILL working on it, folks!)

Thanks, Aibon. Happy 21st birthday. (Now make a fuckin’ solo album, already, will ya?)