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Japanese disco

Related: Japanese music - disco

Profile by Toshi Kubota

The 1970's. When we think about the '70s here in the States, a riot of tense images comes to mind. The oil crisis and gas lines. Bombing Cambodia. Watergate. Gene Simmons' long, bloody tongue. The fall of Saigon. Camp David. George Clinton as Dr. Funkenstein. The Munich Olympics. Afghanistan. Kent State. Star Wars. Studio 54 and the silent beginning of the AIDS era. Revolution in Iran and the American hostages. An inelegant, chaotic decade in America, bookended by the overdose of Jimi Hendrix and the murder of John Lennon. A ten-year hangover from the 1960's and its thwarted idealism, perhaps.

America does not exist in a vacuum, however, and what went down Stateside in the 1970's had parallels in Japan and the rest of the world. In fact, Japan's first post-war economic crisis started right here, when Nixon destabilized the yen/dollar exchange rate in 1971, promptly bringing Japan's economy to a screeching collision of a halt. Next, the oil crisis set off by OPEC in 1973 plunged Japan into recession for the rest of the decade. Politically, Japan had its own version of the Watergate scandal brewing at the exact same time as Tricky Dick's agonizing public demise. Between 1974 and 1976, an investigation into bribery allegations led to the arrest and ouster of Japan's Prime Minister, Kakuei Tanaka, driving a huge nail in the coffin of Japan's public trust in the government. Familiar yet? For all of the purported differences between peeps, societies, and cultures, we always hear the same damn story.

These events resonated in the Cosmic Groove, of course. Music is fluid, reflecting the times, providing a mirror on people and life in general. The prevailing societal winds of the 70's - inflation, public demoralization, and economic recession- fostered an environment in which music like punk (nihilism), new wave (ice-olation), or disco (hedonistic party vibe), easily thrived. A far cry from the idealistic themes of peace, love, equality, and awareness that laced rock and R&B in the 60's. But the 60's were over. It was the 70's, and disco exploded, not just here, but in Japan as well. It was music that helped people to just have a good time. Although the very best disco- think Chic, Parliament, Rick James- redefined groove, and laid the groundwork for hip-hop, it was fundamentally party music. It got your groove on, never mind the outside world. And it appealed to folks in Japan just as much as it did to us, in all of our collective, bell-bottomed, wide-collared glory. So without further delay, we present the secret history of Japanese disco. --http://www.toshikubota.com/e_html/discodaze.asp [Oct 2004]

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