Friday, March 16, 2012

Saeko Suzuki | The Law of the Green

A few days after posting this album by Majida El Roumi, where I wrote a bit about the early days of CDs, I received an email from a regular visitor in Japan, Bill Sakovich, who writes about his life in the archipelagos at Ampontan. My off-the-cuff musings prompted Bill to remember his own early experiences with music burned into discs of polycarbonate plastic:

"Your recent post on the advent of CDs made me think of my first purchases. It was in '86, here in Japan. Bought a player and two discs. One was a Thelonius Monk trio disc, and the other was The Law of the Green by Suzuki Saeko.

"Suzuki was trained as a pianist, got involved with all the keyboards (including the Fairlight when that was big in the 80s) and also played drums. In fact, she was the drummer in the first band that Sakamoto Ryuichi formed, before he became famous in YMO and as a solo artist. She composed all her music, also sang.

"In this video, she starts on the marimba and switches to the drums at 4:30. The Zappa influence is apparent. I saw this tour, and this was the opening number:

"The Law of the Green was released to coincide with the tour, though this song was not on the disc. This one was, however:

"I still have The Law of the Green. It is long out of print (though another one or two of her discs have been reissued). Considering its unavailability either in Japan or overseas, and the amount of music you've uploaded that I've taken advantage of, if you're interested ..."

I wrote Bill back and said that I'd be interested, but would mostly be interested if he'd allow me to publish his back story. Bill agreed and sent along a bit more information as well:

"She started out on classical piano when young and got interested in the drums in her second year of high school. Went to a junior college for the arts. Started playing around Tokyo in other people's bands or backing singers, began attracting attention, and then started working as a studio musician.

"From the late 70s to the late 80s in Tokyo there was a group of musicians making some unique music, of whom the three members of YMO were the most prominent. (Sakamoto and Hosono Haruomi of those three in particular.) They were not garage bands, but people with musical training, often classical, who worked in the general territory of modern pop music, but got experimental. Another one in that circle was Tachibana Hajime, who did some unique things of his own. Suzuki played in both Sakamoto's band and Tachibana's band roughly at the same time.

"She went solo and released her first disc in 83. That was where Philadelphia appeared. The second was in 84, which I had on cassette, but now can't seem to find. It was called Science and Mystery, but the official title was in some Scandinavian language. This was rereleased on CD five years ago and is still available on Amazon Japan. The Law of the Green was the third, and that came out in 85. In 86 she released a four tune 12" vinyl record, which I bought and taped. I still have the tape. In 87 she released her last solo album, which I didn't know about and never heard, but I got married that year and was otherwise occupied.

"She continued to work in support of other people's projects but tapered off in the early 90s because she had children (She's married to a guy in a band called the Moonriders, which are not as interesting.) She started getting back into things in the early 2000s, probably because her children were getting older, and is still semi-active.

"Reading her Japanese Wikipedia entry, she also did a movie soundtrack long ago that won an award, and three soundtracks in a manga series in the 2000s. She has also had her own radio shows as a DJ on two or three occasions, and wrote a column for a movie magazine.

"Her 55th birthday was Wednesday March 14th.

"Here is the instant ramen commercial I told you about.

"That's her singing, and she also did the music. (She did a few commercial jingles, too.) She's saying Sugu Oishii, Sugoku Oishii (Delicious right away, really delicious)."

Get it here.

Thanks, Bill!


burntoutsavannahs said...

i just wanted to say thank you for all of the albums you have hipped me to, including this one. you have a really great taste & are a great human being.

Jessi Hance said...

Starting with the first track about a bicycle - how could I not love it!- everything is so cute and quirky. Thanks for this discovery!

The text encoding of the id3 tags was wonky for me, but I just copied the track names from the file names. And I'm going with the spelling "Saeko", which seems more common than "Saiko."

Gary said...

Got it, yeah, I had it wrong before. Thanks Jessi!

Fit Video said...

Hi my name is Paul Burns and I was the one that first set up Bill's Cd player way back so we could listen to SS's Law of the Green. Bill sadly passed away on December 21st due to cancer. We were friends for nearly 29 years and I shall miss him greatly.