If you have heard Japanese GS comps like GS I Love You, Monster Go Go ,Hot Nips etc. you know the exciting sound of the Spiders.
The story began in '61, Tanabe(drums) quite Swing West to form his own band . At first, the band played at Jazz Kissa (Japanese club) and some clubs in US army bases. They played any kind of music: Jazz, Country & Western, Lounge music, Japanese traditional music, etc.
In ‘62 Hiroshi "Moneirur"Kamayatsu joined the band as a guest singer, he was a professional solo singer who sang Country & Western. His father was a Japanese Jazz singer who was Japanese-American, born in United States, and held Jazz school in Tokyo. Kamayatsu grew up hearing lots of American popular songs and Jazz. He began playing guitar at 12 years old. In 1958, at 19 years old, he joined Western Band ,Wagon Masters as a guest singer (The band normally was a backing band with some guest singers).
In 1959, he quit the band and joined another C&W band, Wagon Ace. He released his first solo single "The Executioner Therma/Alla Deguello" in 1960 which were sung in Japanese. He was a good C&W singer, but he did not meet with success. He wanted to be like Tommy Collins, but the audience wanted a more pop-oriented sound. After some singles were issued, he released some comical songs. They were no longer country songs anymore, just lame domestic ones.
He wanted to change his life. It was Kamayatsu's father who named the band the Spiders, as in “to make a web around”. At the time, the Spiders had some guest singers including a girl singer. They had an old style backing band and guest singers, as well.
Between ’62 to ’63 the band’s membership changed constantly during the months of ‘63 Kunihiko Kase (Blue Jeans, Wild Ones) played with them. However, he quit soon to join Terry Terauchi’s Blue Jeans.
In ’64 Jun Inoue, a handsome teenaged guy (some thought he looked like Paul McCartney), joined the band as a vocalist. The band had a new image; the lineup was Shochi Tanabe (drums, leader), Takayuki Inoue (lead guitar, vocals), Hiroshi Kamayatsu (guitar, vocals), Katuo Ono (organ, steel guitar), Mituru Kato (bass), Masaaki Sakai (vocals, flute), Jun Inoue (vocal ). Takayuki Inoue was a member of a vocal trio called the Three Jets (the name was taken from West Side Story) at first he couldn’t play guitar at all and through practice became a lead guitarist! You can hear his fab vocals on “With a girl like you” and “In The Midnight Hour”, to name a few.
The summer of 1964, the Liverpool Five came to Japan. They were first Beat band with vocals that came to Japan. The Spiders were influenced by British beat bands, as well as by a European-pressed Beatles album given to them by one of their friends. The music interested them, so they decided to become a vocal beat combo.
In Nov. 1964 they recorded their first Eleki release (A surf instrumental; Eleki was a Japanese-English term which meant Electric guitar or Electric Guitar Sound). Actually they didn’t care for instrumental numbers much, but the record company demanded they play them. Listening to their instrumental covers like "Dynamite", "Wipe Out", one can hear they played these songs wilder than other Japanese bands, with a hard-edged sound.
In Jan 1965, they opened for the Astronauts and Ventures. In April, they backed Peter and Gordon. In June, they opened for the Animals and the Spiders covered some Animals songs along with Beatles songs. When they played the Animals’ songs, Eric Burdon who was in his dressing room dashed to the stage because he thought HIS band was playing! (This is legend, so I 'm not sure it is truth, but anyway he amazed their exciting play) They also opened for the Honeycombs, Ventures (when they returned in ’66), as well as the Beach Boys.
They played some original songs along with lots of the Beatles and Animals covers. Sometimes, the audience shouted, “Go home imitators!". This made them nervous, so when Beatles came to Tokyo in ’66, when they were offered the opening act slot, the band refused it, because they grew tired of being called imitators. Unfortunately, they had to play cover songs on the record or flexidisk which were sold at budget prices. The record company or flexi publisher didn't care who played the songs, they only needed someone who played good cover version of Western hit songs.
In 1965 they had some regular appearance on TV and radio music show, “Excite Show”, ”New Eleki Sound” and “Beat the Beat”. This appearance made them popular. With the Eleki explosion in full flower, there were lots of instrumental band which covered the Ventures, Astronauts, and Shadows, since it was easier for young Japanese to practice hard and play guitar than to sing in English.
“New Eleki Sound” was a battle of the bands TV show for instrumental a.k.a. Eleki bands. The studio set imitated go-go clubs and the Spiders played with go-go girls called the Turkey Army. The Spiders wanted to be a vocal beat combo, so they called their sound “Tokyo Sound” as opposed “Liverpool Sound” (the Japanese called Mersey beat and British beat “Liverpool Sound” even though it was not all from Liverpool). One of Spiders' charms was their dancing. They did the Monkey a-Go-Go, sung with steps inspired by the Miracles. For the TV program, they wrote original songs such as “Monkey Dance” (later released on Crown Records), so they could do their comical Monkey a-Go-Go dance that the kids loved. It was the flip side of their first single. The A side was “Furi Furi” which was a Japanese traditional three-beat song, but it failed to chart.
In 1966, they signed with the Philips
label (a subsidiary of JVC) and in April they released first album “Album
No.1”. They wrote all songs themselves, making it the first beat band album
in Japan. They played fab garage numbers “Furi Furi 66” (the English version
of “Furi Furi”), “Hey Boy”, “Go Go”, along with the sophisticated ballads
“No No Boy “ cool song with dubble meaning and “Teardrops”. Some songs
were sung in English and others in Japanese.
Only a month later, they released an all-cover song LP, “Spiders Album 2”, side one is Beatle covers, on the other side, they covered Animals’ “Don ‘t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” and “Johnny B. Goode. They became the best beat combo in Japan. They formed their own management office called Spiduction under their former Hori Production, in order to manage themselves.
In June ’66 the Beatle typhoon came to
Japan. After the storm passed, many Japanese guitar bands became vocal
beat combos. This was the beginning of the Group Sounds era. In July they
released a Beach Boys-like original, “Summer Girl”, but this did not chart.
The flip was the cool “Narebaii (appeared on Monster A Go Go as “Nati Bati
Ii”). The Japanese public didn’t notice this song’s merit at the time.
Kayayatsu wrote both songs and sung "Narebaii" by himself.
Another GS band, the Blue Comets released “Blue Eyes “ which was a hit. When they did the Ed Sullivan show, they played Japanese traditions song“Etenraku” and their hit song “Blue Chateau”.
In September Spiders released “Yuuhi ga Naiteiru (Sad Sunset)” .It was a minor-key folk ballad that was written by a professional songwriter. The band did not like the song and didn’t want to record it, but did in an attempt for a hit song.
They were the first Japanese band to sign with
the Philips label. Philips released their single and EP in Europe and in
Australia. To promote them, they toured Europe from 24 October to 14 November.
They had photo sessions, in Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Copenhagen,
and London. They appeared on some radio and TV programs, played 2 stages
at the Star Club, Piper (a club in Rome), the Palladium (in Paris). They
also appeared Ready Steady Go and played “Sad Sunset” and “Boom
Boom”. They met the Spencer Davis Group and the Mindbenders there.
Spiders in Holland
In the sixties, the Japanese Yen's value was much lower than nowadays, the exchange rate being 360 yen to 1 US Dollar. To save money, they were sponsored by KLM Airlines. So some people said the tour was just for sightseeing, not a real promotional tour, however, I don’t think so, because in the ‘60s a sightseeing Japanese band could not have appeared on famous European clubs and TV programs. Unfortunately, their songs weren’t hits in Europe. The promotional tour was not successful there, even though there were fab beat bands all over, even in Japan.
When they came back to Japan, “Sad Sunset” became a big hit. They were surprised because they didn't think it would be a success. Touring Europe they saw, listened and felt the real rock scene, and wanted to be wilder, but the Japanese preferred tearjerker ballads.
At this time, the Spiders and Blue Comets lead the GS boom. In January '67 the Spiders released their 3rd album, half of the songs are originals, Narebaii (arguably the Japanese first psych song ), Summer Girl , the other half are cool covers of Inside Looking Out (dig Sakai's screaming vocals!), Land of 1000 Dances, With a Girl Like You, etc. The Spiders success was due to Sakai's frenetic screaming, although he also sang ballads well, Kamayatsu's cool sense of music, Ono's fab organ playing, he also played a fantastic steel guitar, a solid rhythm section, and comical between-song banter by Sakai and Jun Inoue.
In March ’67 they released a single, “Taiyou
no Tubasa”. It was one of first singles to use a fuzz box, but this song
also featured an orchestra. It’s possible the record company thought the
listeners would think the noisy fuzz tone out of place. There is a fuzz
box anecdote about another GS group, the Jaguars. When they covered “Satisfaction”
on a TV program, upon hearing the fuzz introduction, the TV director dashed
towards them because he thought the amp was broken.
From spring to summer, the Carnabeats, Jaguars, Tigers, followed them and all had hits. Spiduction signed new a GS band, the Beavers, who were originally called the Outlaws, but the record company or their manager thought it would be cuter to use an animal name. For Westerners people this name may sound silly, but the Japanese didn’t know there was a double meaning. Animal-named GS bands were one of the trends in ‘60s Japan: the Jaguars, Lions, Ox, Cougars, and Tigers.
The Beavers released their 1st single
“Hatukoi no Oka” in July, and in November, they released a double sided
killer, “Kimi naki sekai/Why Baby Why? (the flip side is on a Sixties Japanese
Garage Psych Sampler)”. Kamayatsu, using the pseudonym Gokigen(means Feel
good), wrote both songs, however neither song was a hit. Spiduction
signed another GS band, The Tempters, in mid ’67. They released their 1st
single,dubble side winner, “Wasure enu kimi/Let’s Live For Today”. The
A side was a fab original number, which was inspired the Rolling Stones’
“Paint It, Black”. B side was fab Japanse cover version . In no time, the
Tempters became the top teen idol GS band along with The Tigers. They attracted
many teenaged girls, and now the GS boom was at its peak.
In June of ’67 the Spiders went to Hawaii for a concert there. They became members of the US musician’s union, becoming the first Japanese band to do so. They wanted stateside success badly. They released a few 45s there, but they never got another chance to play any other venue in the US.
In Japan, the Spiders released some more singles and hit with “Anotoki Kimi wa Wakakatta” which was released in March, ’68, making it to #6 on the Japanese charts. Kamayatsu wrote the song ,the first eight bars of it closed to "Fool Rush In".
They also appeared lots of movies, five of their own movies, and as guests in other movies. The singer, Masaaki Sakai, whose father was a famous comedian, was also a good comic actor. Their movies were cool comedies with lots of music clips. In ’69 GS boom came to an end. In ’70, the leader, Tanabe, quit the band to devote time to his management office. Maeda joined the band to replace him and they released the novelty song “Electric Obaachan (Electric Grandma), which plagiarized Jan and Dean’s “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena". This pleasant novelty tune proved to be their swan song.
In January ’71 the band split up. Both lead singers,
Sakai and Jun Inoue became solo artists, Takayuki Inoue and Katuo Ono joined
a new band called PYG with ex-members of Tempters and Tigers. Kamayatsu
went solo and in mid '70s, he played with Vodka Collins with Oguchi (ex-Tempters),
Merrill (who wrote "I Love Rock'n' Roll", which was a latter-day success
for Joan Jett) and a bass player.
*I'm looking for lost clips, promotional materials, and anything about them, which was written outside Japan. Let me know if you have anything.
Let's Go Spiders UK Big Beat CDWIKD 202 now on sale
GS vinyls which were released out side in Japan
GS reissued CD information
Copyright: Hitomi I Thanks to Brian Phillips
Back to Menu