5 August 2009

The Yamasukis - Yamasuki

Yamasukis - yamasuki

Label: UK
Year of Release: 1971

In Clive Selwood's bitter-sweet and brilliantly sprawling music industry memoirs "All of the Moves, But None of the Licks", he mentions that this single was the only one John Peel put out on his Dandelion Records label which was "gifted" to them by their chief distributors (in this case, Warner Brothers).  Whilst the idea behind the label was always that Peel would act as a talent scout and help to sign numerous acts, it would seem that in this case something of a compromise was reached - albeit not one which many people noticed, since the disc sank like a stone despite heavy promotion.

It would seem that in the very same year it flopped, it was picked up again, this time by Jonathan King's UK Records, who also had Clive Selwood on their payroll for a time.  Coincidence?  It's doubtful, I'd say, but don't go away to Wikipedia or Chartstats to see how well it sold on its second outing, as it failed to chart again.  It would seem that some things were just never meant to be.  

Despite the fact that this record apparently achieved better sales on the continent, you can only conclude that it really is a bizarre concoction of noises which would be lucky to sell well anywhere.  A Japanese choir sings, whilst a very enthusiastic man barks loudly in Japanese over the top of them, ranting and raving about matters which are obviously indecipherable to me, and the backing music chimes naively and sweetly behind all of them.  It sits in no sensible category, being too odd to be straight pop, too saccharine to be rock, and too simplistic to be progressive or psychedelic.  It would be tempting to blame all the above on the gulf between Japanese and Western music being huge, but that would ignore the fact that the whole project is actually the work of the French production team Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde, both attempting a Euro-Japanese crossover record.

It actually gets even odder than that.  The B-side here "AIEAOU" was later re-adapted by Bananarama and put out as their first single, this time under the title of "Aie a Mwana".  It is doubtful those enthusiastic Banana girls knew about the background behind the song, however, as their version appears to be a cover of a cover, taking its cues from another version produced by Black Blood, which was a psuedo-African single in its stylings (If you're not hopelessly and utterly confused by now, you're doing very well, whatever hour of the day it may happen to be).  

Kluger and Vangarde would later go on to greater success producing singles for the Gibson Brothers and Ottawan, making them by far the most populist artists to have ever had a sniff around John Peel's short lived label.   Meanwhile, I am informed that this particular record is apparently now commonly used as a tool to teach European students how to speak Japanese, which I doubt was ever the original intention behind it.

Excuse me, I think I'm going to have to take a bit of a lie down after all that.

(sorry about the awful scan of the label, by the way - the silver font is extremely difficult to capture, and matters haven't been helped by some daft bastard of a second hand record store employee plastering a price label across it).


Jordan Elwell said...

This is truly the best description of Yamasuki that I have read.

joee said...

Great post, but being from Belgium, I have to say it:
the producers Kluger & Vangarde were actually Belgian, not French! Check it out on Wikipedia e.g.

23 Daves said...

Whoops! Apologies for that oversight, it's the kind of mistake you must be sick to death of!