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Pizzicato Five (formerly typeset as Pizzicato V and sometimes abbreviated to P5) was a Japanese pop band formed in Tokyo. They gained international fame during their later incarnation as the duo of multi-instrumentalist co-founder Yasuharu Konishi and lead vocalist Maki Nomiya. The group, widely credited (along with Flipper's Guitar) with spearheading the Shibuya-kei movement of Tokyo in the 1990s, is known for eclectic and energetic compositions that often pay homage to late 1960s English-language pop music. The catchphrase "A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular" captured the group's ironic stance and eager attitude.
Pizzicato Five was a hugely prolific group during its 16-year-long existence, usually releasing at least an album each year in addition to various EPs and remix albums. Their music has appeared in numerous movies, television episodes, and video games.
Pizzicato V had its beginnings in 1979 when Yasuharu Konishi and Keitarō Takanami were attending university, first meeting each other at a local music society conference. Ryō Kamomiya, Mamiko Sasaki, and Shigeo Miyata were soon recruited after a few years. Miyata left the group almost immediately but the four remaining members kept the name Pizzicato V. The band released its first single on Haruomi Hosono's Non-Standard label (Teichiku Records), a 12-inch EP called Audrey Hepburn Complex which was produced by Hosono in 1985. They followed this with the Pizzicato V in Action EP.
In 1986, Pizzicato V signed with CBS/Sony (now Sony Music Entertainment Japan). In 1987, the band released their first all-new album, Couples. It was a commercial failure, and the record company began pressuring the band to find a new lead singer. Kamomiya and Sasaki decided to quit. Takao Tajima, Original Love's frontman, joined the band soon as the new vocalist. He decided to work at these two bands. With Tajima, the band released its second album, Belissima! in 1988.
The next two albums, 1989's On Her Majesty's Request and 1990's Soft Landing On The Moon were also commercial failures.
In 1990, Maki Nomiya, who had previously released one solo album, joined as the third lead vocalist. Takao Tajima left to concentrate on his own band "Original Love." In 1991, Pizzicato Five signed with Nippon Columbia/Seven Gods (later Triad Records).
Following three EPs showcasing Nomiya's vocals, Pizzicato Five released This Year's Girl. Inspired by the advent of sampling (De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising is said to have been a major influence), the group put together a sound which would help start the burgeoning Shibuya-kei scene. The album would spawn two of their most loved songs: "Twiggy Twiggy" and "Baby Love Child" (the latter song finding its way onto the Futurama episode "Leela's Homeworld" as well as Adam Curtis' 2011 documentary series "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace", in which it serves as title music.)
1992 saw a change in direction as the clubby Sweet Pizzicato Five was released.
The band began to get increasing exposure via the theme songs it recorded for television dramas (a common practice for pop bands in Japan) achieving widespread fame with the 1993 single "Sweet Soul Revue", which was featured in a major spring advertising campaign for Kao Corporation (Kanebo Cosmetics). The single became a smash hit and number 1 hit in the Philippines. In December, the single The Night is Still Young (東京は夜の七時 tōkyō wa yoru no shichiji?) (literally, 7 p.m. in Tokyo) became another smash hit after it was used as the opening theme of the children's television programme Ugougo-Lhuga Nigō.
The band's American debut came in 1994 with the release of the EP Five By Five on Matador Records. This was quickly followed by a full-length album, Made in USA, a compilation of tracks from their last three Japanese albums which sold 200,000 copies worldwide.
Shortly before the release of the next album Overdose in the same year, Keitarō Takanami quit the band, leaving Konishi and Nomiya as the only remaining members. In February 1995 the two set off on a successful 14-stop tour of Europe and America. Another compilation, The Sound of Music was released in October 1995, again featuring various tracks from the Maki-era albums.
After the 1996 release of the album Romantique 96 and several singles including the hit Baby Portable Rock, in 1997 the band formed its own label, Readymade Records, and released the commercially successful album Happy End of the World - the only album to be released unchanged in both Japan and the rest of the world.
In 1998, the band released The International Playboy & Playgirl Record in Japan. It would be released a year later worldwide with a slightly different track-listing and the shortened title (which was also its Japanese title) of "Playboy & Playgirl".
1999 came and Pizzicato Five released the "JBL Maxisonic" series of EPs, followed by the album Pizzicato Five™. It included songs from each of the 3 EPs in very different forms: "Darlin' of Discothèque" is shorter and instrumental, "A Perfect World" is a lounge-style rearrangement sung by guest vocalist Mieko Hirota and the new song "20th Century Girl" is based on the B-side "Room Service", originally written by Masumi Arichika of TV Jesus.
In 2000, Matador Records released Pizzicato Five™ under the somewhat less confusing name of The Fifth Release From Matador. The CD version of this left out the first song "Love Again" but added three extra tracks (one from each of the JBL Maxisonic EPs), while the LP version shared the same title but deviated still further from the original track-listing. It would also be Pizzicato Five's last American release.
2001 saw the Japanese release of the album Çà et là du Japon and the announcement that the band was to break up, followed by a series of live events featuring guest performances by old members and two further "Big Hits and Jet Lags" albums - Pizzicato Five R.I.P. (1998–2001) and Singles (1993–2001).
- Members (at time of disbandment)
- He was the only founding member to stay with the group until the end. He is a music producer now.
- Their third vocalist. She is also a solo singer, a narrator, a fashion model and a dress designer now.
- Former members
- Keitarō Takanami (1984–1994) – guitar, keyboards and vocals.
- One of the founding members; he is a guitarist and a music producer now. He changed his name to 高浪敬太郎 (Keitarō Takanami) later, and was also known as "K-taro."
- Mamiko Sasaki (1984–1987) – lead vocals
- One of the original members and was the first vocalist of this group.
- Ryō Kamomiya (1984–1987) – keyboards
- Takao Tajima (1987–1990) – lead vocal, guitar, harmonica
- Their second vocalist. He had already come out as Original Love's vocalist then. He is a solo singer and is also a music producer now.
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- Ankeny, Jason (2002). "Pizzicato Five". In Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul. AllMusic mirror. Backbeat Books. pp. 865–866. ISBN 978-0-87930-653-3.
- Considine, J.D. (May 27, 1999). "Japan's Pizzicato Five overlays samples with originality". The Baltimore Sun.
- Yang Jeff, Dina Can, Terry Hong, (1997) Eastern Standard Time pg 277 New York: Mariner Books ISBN 0-395-76341-X
- Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 456
- (Japanese) Official Pizzicato Five website with discography
- Matador Record's page on Pizzicato Five
- (Japanese) Extremely thorough fan site
- Comprehensive database of translated Pizzicato Five lyrics
- Pizzicato Five Discography Song by Song Index
- Pizzicato Five at AllMusic
- Pizzicato Five discography at Discogs
- J-pop.com overview