Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

The Spiders
June 23, 2008, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Japan

Bam Bam Bam

In June 1966, the Beatles visited Japan to perform a series of concerts at Tokyo‘s legendary Budokan Hall. Their visit created such national excitement among teenagers that almost overnight there was a dramatic shift in the way young musicians formed groups, played their instruments and thought about fashion and style.

This new wave of 1960s Japanese rock groups was called Group Sounds—or GS for short. The term GS was purportedly coined when Jackey Yoshikawa and the Blue Comets were guests on Yuzo Kayama‘s TV show. Kayama started teasing Yoshikawa about his poor English pronunciation of “Lock ‘n’ Lorr.” Yoshikawa admitted that because of the two R’s and two L’s, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” is difficult for Japanese people to pronounce correctly. Yoshikawa then challenged Kayama to come up with an English term that Japanese people could easily pronounce. Kayama thought for a moment and suggested, “Why not call “Rock ‘n’ Roll” the “Group Sounds?” Within days the media and fans all over Japan began using the new expression.

The Spiders first formed in 1961 by Shochi Tanabe, originally playing mostly country music, but basically serving as a backing band to singers and playing whatever the gig called for. The GS version slowly came into being, the final link being the addition of teenager Jun Inoue on vocals in 1964, just as the British Invasion was hitting. Early on they recorded some cover versions of instrumental hits like “Wipe Out”, which were in vogue at the time, although they were not major hits. Soon however their sound was more along the lines of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Animals and the Kinks, which is to say R&B influenced rock, and in fact the band did a fair number of covers of UK rock songs and R&B.

Amongst the things that set the Spiders apart from other GS bands was that their style was a bit more frenzied, and they often danced and clowned around while playing. The Spiders became the premiere GS band, and were called on often to open for visiting foreign bands, including the Animals, the Astronauts, Beach Boys, and the Ventures. In 1966 the Spiders released their debut Album No.1, which was all original material. Later the same year they released Album No. 2 which was all covers. Both were well received. The Spiders were Masaaki Sakai on vocals and flute, Hiroshi “Monsieur” Kamayastu on guitar and vocals, Takayuki Inoue on guitar, Mitsuru Kato on bass, Shochi Tanabe on drums, and Katsuo Ohno on keyboards and steel guitar.

Like many if the UK groups the Spiders usually wore matching suits. And inspired by the Beatles, the Spiders made four Help! like movies – Wild Scheme A-Go-Go (1967), Go Forward!!, Big Commotion! and The Road To Bali (all in 1968). Some of these movies have been released in other countries, sometimes with different titles. The band also made attempts at international markets, releasing records in many major markets and playing dates in the States and Europe, including an appearance on British TV show Ready Steady Go! and shows in Paris. The band had little impact overseas, but continued on in Japan until 1971.

The group has reunited a few times, and the band remains fondly remembered. All of the Spiders went on went on to have successful careers somewhere in the entertainment business. Kamayatsu, whose father was also a professional musician, has remained active in music and is a well known, popular TV personality. Sakai, whose father had been a comedian, had a successful solo career, and has remained active in music and acting. Tanabe runs Tanabe Agency, one of the best known music production and management companies in Japan. Takayuki Inoue joined a new band called PYG with Ohno, which was sort of a GS super group, and later became very successful writing music for TV and film. Jun Inoue went on to have a career as a solo singer and comedian

Catalog number FS-1030 Philips Japan. No release date listed.


I’m constantly amazed at the depth of your research on all these groups. How are you able to find all these details? It’s hard enough to find information on Japanese music in the late 70’s let alone the mid 60’s, so the fact that your descriptions of these bands and the history around them is just fascinating to me. In any case, well done. I love your site, and especially your taste in music. Thank you.

Comment by Kaidan

Thanks for this well-informing and interesting article. Wanted to find out more about this japanese band and got on your blog. The first time I listened to this group was on a Group-Sound-Compilation. I like the songs they recorded, don’t understand the text but I like the melody and they are one of my favorite GS-bands.

Comment by Philipp Konanz

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