THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

W

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?

Has It Been That Long Already?

Yep, it’s been that long… it actually has been five years since I started blogging (this site started in 2007, and I apparently miscalculated last year… fuck it!) Time to update the annual list of what I’ve been through since I started blogging:

Two webhosts (only one of which I recommend, Bluehost)
Four laptops (Don’t get me started…)
Three iPods (I finally upgraded to a 120GB model!)
One iPad
Morning Musume and AKB48 both making their American concert debuts – and way fucking overdue to return to these shores on a regular basis… no excuses, please, just book the dates and get on the plane! And yes, I know AKB were just in DC last week…
Twenty-one Morning Musume singles
Nineteen (soon to be twenty) personnel changes in Morning Musume
Two personnel changes in C-ute
No personnel changes in Berryz Koubou
More personnel changes in AKB48 than anyone can keep up with… (and I’m not even going to bother trying to anymore!)
Seven and a half Morning Musume albums (the “half album” being the 7.5 Fuyu Fuyu EP)
Twenty-one Berryz Koubou singles
Five and a half Berryz Koubou studio albums (the “half album” being their misnumbered (3) Natsu Natsu Mini Berryz)
Eighteen C-ute singles (all of their major-label releases)
Six and a half C-ute albums (I still consider 2 mini ~Ikiru to Iu Chikara~ to be an EP)
Seven Koda Kumi studio albums (I lost track of compilations and singles!)
Four Ayumi Hamasaki albums (Go ahead and yell at me, Vee…)
Two albums and three EPs from Maki Goto
Three albums, two EPs, one best-of, and four guitar tab books from SCANDAL
Three post-Whiteberry EPs from bands led by Yuki Maeda (One Yukki, two The Husky)
Nine Stooges albums (two of those being the remastered editions of their Elektra albums, another being a 180-gram pressing of Raw Power, and counting 2010’s 2CD and four-disc deluxe reissue of the original Bowie mix of Raw Power and the Raw Power Live album released last Record Store Day)
The entire Koharu Kusumi solo discography
The entire Buono! discography to date
The entire AKB48 singles discography to date
Six New York Dolls albums (three of those being vinyl editions of the first three studio albums)
Eight Puffy AmiYumi albums
Five Mission of Burma albums (and a new one on the way)
Three Panic! At The Disco albums
Three Meat Puppets albums
Three Cannibal Corpse albums and two DVDs
Three Deicide albums
Five Hank III albums (counting the Assjack album and the overdue legit release of the This Ain’t Country sessions as Hellbilly Joker) – and Hank III finally getting to say “fuck off” to Mike Curb.
Two copies of Flyleaf’s first album (one autographed)
Three autographed Sick Puppies CDs
One guitar autographed by Iggy Pop and the Asheton Brothers
One Asheton brother being transferred from the Stooges to Rock N’ Roll Heaven’s Helluva Band (I’m sure Ron is trading Mike Watt stories with D. Boon!)
James Williamson rejoining the Stooges
The Stooges finally making the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (Next targets: The New York Dolls, Black Flag, and The Minutemen… and that’s a fucking vow and a promise from me!)
Lux Interior being transferred from the Cramps to Rock N’ Roll Heaven’s Helluva Band
Captain Beefheart succumbing to Multiple Sclerosis after several years… and the original version of Bat Chain Puller finally being released by the Zappa Family Trust a year later!
A Sex Pistols reunion
A Public Image Ltd. reunion
Malcolm McLaren, the former Sex Pistols “mis-manager” dying of cancer… followed by Johnny Rotten NOT singing “Celebration” or “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” (good on ya, Johnny…)
A fIREHOSE reunion (!!)
Seven books autographed by Henry Rollins
One book autographed by Sen. Arlen Specter
Three e-mails from Henry Rollins
Two e-mails from Jello Biafra
Three day trips to New York where I spent over $700 combined in one store (Virgin Megastore) alone
One day trip to New York where I didn’t spend any money in any record stores (Virgin Mega closed two years prior!)
Four visits to Apple Stores where I spent $0 (and wish I had been able to spend several times what I spent at Virgin)
One visit to an Apple Store where I finally bought something (my iPad!)
Six day trips to Philadelphia
Three day trips to Syracuse, NY
One Stooges concert
One Bon Jovi concert (goddamn motherfucking fuck!)
Two Flyleaf concerts
Two Evanescence concerts
Two Sick Puppies concerts
Two 3 Doors Down concerts (Which makes four times I’ve seen my fiancee’s favorite band, versus zero times I’ve seen my favorite band… that’s gotta be corrected quick-fast)
Two opening sets prior to 3DD by Hinder (Most boring band not named Nickelback or Daughtry, by a long shot)
Two Breaking Benjamin concerts (and unfortunately, although they played well as always, the sound at the second sucked! What was up with that, Ben?)
One Michael Angelo Batio personal appearance
One missed Puffy AmiYumi concert (goddamn motherfucking fuck!)
One missed Morning Musume concert (yes, that concert!!)
One missed Mike Watt & The Missingmen concert (which I made up for on April 2, 2011!)
Six 100-count spindles of CD-R’s
Two Palm Treo 680 smartphones
Three Blackberry smartphones (never again!)
One iPhone
Four SD cards
Three phonograph needles (I’ll be needing a fourth soon.)
Morning Musume CDs finally being released in the United States (until a certain “label” dropped the ball… REAL indie labels like Matador and Merge, the opportunity is now…)
Ten WordPress themes
Seven domain names (on top of the previously mentioned ones, there’s TGML’s URL, the one for the Meetan blog, and a second one for the Reina blog)
Two different Reina Tanaka/Robert Fripp header graphics at MotokoAoyama.com (Vee improved on the original)
Ai Kago finally making a comeback… then blowing it… then joining her fellow ex-W in the world of MILFdom.
One W album that’s gone the way of the original version of SMiLE
The original version of SMiLE going the opposite direction of W3: Faithful (and in a big way… five CDs PLUS double vinyl and two 45s? Got it!)
One Guns N’ Roses album finally being finished, handed in, and released!
Ace Frehley beating his ex-bandmates to record stores with new material… and not having to sell out to Wal-Mart to do it!
Four of the many Mike Watt-related albums that were recorded during this blog’s and its predecessor’s lifetime finally seeing release… and getting sneak previews of a couple of them from the man himself the day before hypenated-man came out!
Two animes with Reina Tanaka doing voice work
The return of most of my favorite O.G. MoMusus
Three knocked-up MoMusus
Two instances where I bitched about Nozomi Tsuji getting knocked up
Three instances where I remarked about what a lucky bastard Taiyo Sugiura is
Three snarky remarks made by me about Avril Lavgine
One snarky remark made by “Reina” about Jamie Lynn Spears
One snarky remark made by me to “Reina” about Beyonce Knowles
Countless snarky remarks about American Idle
More American Idle contestants losing their recording contracts
Five Reina Tanaka photobooks… and a sixth finally on the way!
Two tires
Three illnesses
Three NaNoWriMo wins
Three book projects (two simultaneous, one on hold)
One published short story (”The Man In The Hummer” in Deliver Us From Evil, available from Jaded Silence Press)
One novel coming out on my own book label next month!
All four versions of American Wota
All three versions of International Wota
No getting the Sunn O)))-themed IW 4.0
One nomination at the IntlWota Awards
The debut of IdolMinded
Two jokes stolen from Jeff Dunham
One joke stolen from Nothing Nice To Say
Three times I got under the skin of Tony Brummel at Victory Records… that I know of. (Might as well make it four: How does it feel to lose Silverstein AND Bayside on top of Hawthorne Heights and Atreyu, baldy? I hear Aiden’s next…)
Seven (or was it eight by now?) times my partner at My Sweet Meetan, Chris (CK) went to Japan
Reina Tanaka’s 18th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 19th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 20th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 21st birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 22nd birthday
My 40th birthday… I stopped counting after that.
Mike Watt’s 50th birthday… and counting
Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday… and counting – face it, he’s one unstoppable motherfucker, for which we should all be grateful.
Several boxes of CD sleeves
Countless mouse and camera batteries
Five new electric guitars, all named after J-pop idols
Five effect pedals (two formerly owned by essential brother/up and coming guitar shredder/fellow MoMusu fan Maxxxwell Carlisle!)
Several packs of Ernie Ball Slinky guitar strings… and then I wised up late last year and switched to D’Addario .10′s, except for the Dean MAB3 I named after Erena Ono which will still get .09s!
A year and a half of experimentation with different kinds of guitar picks before I finally settled on 1.50mm Dunlop Tortex Sharps (heavy and pointy is best, it seems… – I could probably do a whole blog post on that subject!)
Countless VitaminWaters
Countless instances where I took to heart David Peel’s adage that “fuck” is not a dirty word
A year and a half of lost blog archives (Don’t trust your webhosting to anyone who stage-names himself “Vikki Stixx”… or for that matter your real estate matters)
Not enough trips to Starbucks or Sonic (yeah, N.E. PA got one of those in 2008!)
Two coffee pots
One K-Cup machine (about fucking time I got one of those… the aforementioned second coffee pot is now on reserve duty)
More money spent at CDJapan than at Gallery of Sound
Not as much money spent on vinyl since 2008, at least I don’t think so… but then again I’ve still taken that option whenever offered)
Virgin Megastore going out of business in 2009
Five Record Store Days (counting the forthcoming one this Saturday, which I’ll be honoring)
And one girlfriend, since upgraded to fiancée and then to wife on 6.26.10

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.

Happy 4th!

Fourth Blogging Anniversary, that is…

I almost forgot to post something today, but I have a good excuse: Today was also my fiancee’s bridal shower, and guess who had to schlep gifts back and forth in his car? Yep…

I should note that for the past few weeks I’ve been – on top of planning towards the wedding and subsequent move into mine and my wife-to-be’s new apartment – finishing up the novel (yeah, still… but then again if I didn’t have to hold a day job it would have been finished already), working on a screenplay for Script Frenzy, working on a couple of reviews for this blog (they’ll be up this week), and working on my guitar.

And last night, boy, did I work on my guitar… I got this thing (Epiphone Les Paul) a few months ago, but I never changed the strings until last night. Such was my Saturday night:

Ready to start restringing - I always start with the low E.

And to keep things J-pop related, here’s another part of what helped keep me sane, especially today:

And what's keeping me sane through all this? Good music, of course!

Besides, I couldn’t figure how to equal or better the live MoMusu and Stooges clips from last year! But what I can do is (even though I didn’t get this finished until after midnight when the 11th became the 12th) update a list I posted two years ago on my second blogging anniversary at MotokoAoyama.com, which would make this “A List That Took Four Years To Make”:
Continue reading

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).

hp2009-short

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?)