PINK LADY AND THEIR PLACE IN JAPANESE POP HISTORY
(NOTE: This is a response to some questions I sent my friend Shin Kurokawa who is a massive J-pop fan and even coined the phrase ages ago. ---- Todd)
Todd Dissinger: Hi Shin! I was wondering if you could maybe give some of us American fans of Mie and Kei a Japanese perspecitive on them.
Shin Kurokawa: Man, that's a big can o' worms. ;) I'm sure there are books out there.
TD: Just how popular were they in the 70's? Were they the 500 pound gorilla of their time in Japanese pop music, or were there groups or solo artists just as popular or even more then them?
SK: They were sorta like the Spice Girls of the late 70's, if there can be any analogy. This was at the time when Japanese Pop music started to really split into the so-called idol music and the rest. The idol stuff was heavily into choreography and visuals (I suppose "kawaii-ness" was/is the main ingredient), and the performers were usually ever-present on TV (primarily on comedy or quiz shows). PL actually had their own quiz show, aside from a bunch of variety' shows I don't remember too much about.
Artists more popular than PL at the time? Hmm... Guys like Saijoo Hideki, Noguchi Goro, Go Hiromi... they were quite popular, and they appeared with PL quite often. Solo artists like Matsuyama Chiharu, Minami Kohsetsu, Arai Yumi (now Matsutoya Yumi), and groups like Kai Band, Alice, Tulip... they all hated the idol pop scene so much that they never appeared on TV (until rather recently).
Then the 80's came. Idols like Matsuda Seiko pretty much killed PL. PL was quite influential. But then, any fad in Japan will go rather far, as you know. Like, they were the inspiration for this female wrestling duo called Beauty Pair (which, by the way, was the inspiration for Takachiho's Dirty Pair!)
TD: What about their music? Were they chronically savaged by the Japanese music press for being "bubblegum" or did the press cut them some slack?
SK: Their music was actually quite innovative, but not as much as their choreography. At the time it was still new / hip for lyricists to use western (esp. English and some French) expressions. So PL songs had a LOT of that.
TD: Did they basically create the "idol" concept as we know it or were they just the prime example of it in the 70's?
SK: No - the idol concept has been around for a long time. In a way, movie guys like Ishihara Yuujiro and Kayama Yuzo were considered idols when they were young --- early 60's. The Beatles had a lot to do with what happened later. There were tons of copycats, of course, and obviously a lot of overnight idol-type sensations...
Somewhere along the line, choreography (and wardrobe!) became such an important ingredient in the presentation of pop music. Most idols were expected to demo some simple moves, not much more than, say, the Pips (haha)... Compared to those, PL's choreography was VERY daring and complex - but then, all schoolkids quickly learned their moves, so it couldn't have been THAT complex... how do I know this... *grin*
TD: Has Pink Lady had any lasting influence on Japanese pop? Are they considered an important milestone in any way?
SK: Milestone, yeah, I'm very sure of that. Not many duos have achieved that kind of success. Let's see... there was WINK in the late 80's but they were extremely short-lived...B'z... well, they're men! (^^)
TD: How about their status today? Are they laughed at or considered in bad taste by today's J-pop standards?
SK: Obviously, not many kids these days dance to their songs. But everybody sorta sees PL as a pop-icon that never seems to die - they're pretty well-respected. There was an auction show on TV a while back, in which PL's costumes (some replicas) got sold for some incredible amount of money that they were invited back for a couple of more shows. On one occasion, PL's hands were cast in latex (a long story...) Suffice to say that the auction was unbelievably tense and the winner paid something like $7000 for them. :)
Shin Kurokawa is an Associate Producer/Translator for Animeigo, Inc., a company that dubs many popular Japanese anime series into English. For more info, write to: