Happy End (band)
|Also known as||Blue Valentine|
|Origin||Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan|
|Genres||Folk rock, psychedelic rock|
1973, 1985, 2015
|Associated acts||Tin Pan Alley, Nobuyasu Okabayashi, Apryl Fool|
Happy End (Japanese: はっぴいえんど Hepburn: Happī Endo) was a Japanese folk rock band, which existed from 1969 to 1972. Composed of Haruomi Hosono, Takashi Matsumoto, Eiichi Ohtaki and Shigeru Suzuki, the band's pioneering avant-garde sound is highly revered and they are considered to be among the most influential artists in Japanese music. MTV described Happy End's music as "rock with psych smudges around the edges."
In October 1969, Haruomi Hosono and Takashi Matsumoto formed a group named Blue Valentine (ヴァレンタイン・ブルー) right after their previous psychedelic rock band Apryl Fool disbanded. In March 1970, Hosono, Matsumoto and Shigeru Suzuki contributed to Kenji Endo's album Niyago. The group changed their name to Happy End and were the backing band for Nobuyasu Okabayashi, performing on his album Miru Mae ni Tobe. The band began recording their own album in April 1970.
Their self-titled debut album (written in Japanese as はっぴいえんど) was released in August on the experimental record label URC (Underground Record Club). This album marked an important turning point in Japanese music history, as it sparked what would be known as the "Japanese-language Rock Controversy" (ja:日本語ロック論争 Nihongo Rokku Ronsō). There were highly publicized debates held between prominent figures in the Japanese rock industry, most notably the members of Happy End and Yuya Uchida, regarding whether rock music sung entirely in Japanese was sustainable. Previously, almost all popular rock music in Japan was sung in English. The success of Happy End's debut album and their second, Kazemachi Roman released a year later, proved the sustainability of Japanese-language rock in Japan.
For their third album, also titled Happy End (this time written in the Latin alphabet), they signed with King Records and recorded in 1972 in Los Angeles with Van Dyke Parks producing. Although Hosono later described the work with Parks as "productive," the album sessions were tenuous, and the members of Happy End were disenchanted with their vision of America they had anticipated. A language barrier along with opposition between the Los Angeles studio personnel and Happy End was also apparent, which further frustrated the group. These feelings were conveyed in the closing track "Sayonara America, Sayonara Nippon", which received some contributions from Parks and Little Feat guitarist Lowell George. As Matsumoto explained: "We had already given up on Japan, and with [that song], we were saying bye-bye to America too—we weren't going to belong to any place." While the band officially disbanded on December 31, 1972, the album was released in February 1973. They had their last concert on September 21, 1973 titled City -Last Time Around, with a live album of the show released as Live Happy End the following year.
After breaking up, all four members continued to work together and contribute to each other's solo albums and projects. Hosono and Suzuki formed Tin Pan Alley with Masataka Matsutoya, before Hosono started the pioneering electronic music act Yellow Magic Orchestra and Suzuki continued work as a guitarist and solo musician. Matsumoto became one of the most successful lyricists in the country and Ohtaki worked as a songwriter and solo artist, releasing one of Japan's best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums, A Long Vacation in 1981. Happy End reunited for a one-off performance at the International Youth Anniversary All Together Now (国際青年年記念 ALL TOGETHER NOW) concert on June 15, 1985, which was released as the live album The Happy End later that same year.
An album called Happy End Parade ~Tribute to Happy End~ and composed of covers of their songs by different artists was released in 2002. Hosono was involved in selecting the contributors and in Kicell's cover of "Shin Shin Shin", Matsumoto determined the cover art and title, and Suzuki participated in Yōichi Aoyama's cover of "Hana Ichi Monme". In 2003, their song "Kaze wo Atsumete" appeared in the American movie Lost In Translation and on its soundtrack.
Eiichi Ohtaki died on December 30, 2013 from a dissecting aneurysm at the age of 65. For the 2015 tribute album Kazemachi Aimashō, commemorating Matsumoto's 45th anniversary as a lyricist, Matsumoto, Hosono and Suzuki recorded the previously unreleased Happy End song "Shūu no Machi" (驟雨の街). A special two-day concert for the same anniversary was held at the Tokyo International Forum on August 21–22, 2015 featuring numerous artists. Matsumoto, Hosono and Suzuki opened each day by performing "Natsu Nandesu" and "Hana Ichi Monme", immediately followed by "Haikara Hakuchi" with Motoharu Sano. They also closed the shows with "Shūu no Machi", and finally "Kaze wo Atsumete" alongside a number of other artists.
Happy End are credited as the first rock act to sing in Japanese. Their music has been cited as one of the origins of modern "J-pop", with each member continuing to contribute to its development after the group's break up. The band is also considered progenitors of what would become the "City Pop" style.
In 2003, they were ranked by HMV Japan at number 4 on their list of the 100 most important Japanese pop acts. Hosono and Ohtaki also appear on the list as solo artists, ranked number 44 and 9 respectively. In September 2007, Rolling Stone Japan named Kazemachi Roman the greatest Japanese rock album of all time. It was also named number 15 on Bounce's 2009 list of 54 Standard Japanese Rock Albums.
- Haruomi Hosono (細野晴臣) – bass, vocals, keyboards, guitar
- Eiichi Ohtaki (大瀧詠一) – guitar, vocals
- Shigeru Suzuki (鈴木茂) – guitar, vocals
- Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆) – drums, main lyricist
- Happy End (はっぴいえんど Happī Endo, August 5, 1970)
- Kazemachi Roman (風街ろまん, November 20, 1971)
- Happy End (February 25, 1973)
- Live Happy End (ライブ・はっぴいえんど Raibu Happī Endo, recorded 9/21/1973, released January 15, 1974)
- The Happy End (recorded 6/15/1985, released September 5, 1985)
- Happy End Greeeatest Live! On Stage (はっぴいえんど GREEEATEST LIVE! ON STAGE, recorded 4/12/70, 8/7/71, 4/14/71, released July 15, 1986)
- Happy End Live On Stage (はっぴいえんど LIVE ON STAGE, recorded 8/9/70, 8/21/71, 4/14/71, 8/7/71, released August 25, 1989)
- City - Happy End Best Album (CITY／はっぴいえんどベスト・アルバム City/Happī Endo Besuto Arubamu, 1973)
- Singles (シングルス Shingurusu, 1974)
- Happy End (はっぴいえんど〜HAPPY END, 1993, box set)
- Happy End Box (はっぴいえんどBOX Happī Endo Box, 2004, box set)
- Happy End Masterpiece (はっぴいえんどマスターピース Happī Endo Masutāpīsu, 2014, box set)
- "Juuni Gatsu no Ame no hi" (１２月の雨の日, April 1, 1971)
- "Hana Ichi Monme" (花いちもんめ, December 10, 1971)
- "Sayonara America, Sayonara Nippon" (さよならアメリカさよならニッポン, February 25, 1973)
- "Ashita Tenki ni Naare" (あしたてんきになあれ, November 26, 1999)
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