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Legendary is a word too often used when writing about musicians. Takeshi Terauchi is no myth, more an elemental force and surely a nominee for the status of Living National Treasure – a first for a rock musician in Japan. While not exactly well known in the West, he has received praise over the years from artists as diverse as the Ventures and Jello Biafra.
You don’t want to mess with Terry, as he is commonly known. An 8th Dan of the Wado school of Karate and a Zen master of the Zuiganji temple, he is also a pioneer in the history of Japanese guitar music, record producer, author and businessman who still finds time to play for charity. Terauchi is a hard drinking (or used to be), guitar-shredding maverick who ruled his band with an iron fist while his free hand gave the tremolo arm lessons in tensile strength. His early recordings date back to the late 1950s, with the country and western outfit Jimmy Tokita and the Mountain Playboys. Now in his early 70s, he is still going strong.
Terauchi has released a vast number of records in his long career, embracing country, surf, Hawaiian, rock’n’roll, funk, classical and more. He rode the wave of the Eleki boom, a musical style encompassing surf and beat instrumentals. The fuse was lit by the Ventures’ first trip to Japan in 1962, although the trend started in earnest in 1964, when Terauchi and media promoter Nabe Pro organised a huge bash headlined by the Animals and the Ventures at the Kousei Nenkin Kaikan in Tokyo. This was the year that Takeshi Terauchi and the Blue Jeans released their debut album “Korezo Surfing” (Let's Go Surfing).
Sales of electric guitars in Japan rocketed, the demand so great that even the burgeoning electrical corporations produced their first models. There were several bands playing Eleki – notably the Spacemen and Yuzo Kayama and the Launchers – but, armed with his custom red Fender Jaguar, Takeshi Terauchi and his Blue Jeans led the vanguard.
Terauchi rejects suggestions that he was influenced by the Ventures, although they were certainly no hindrance to his rise, and he often played a Mosrite, a gift from the band. He is adamant that his music emanates from Japan, and the tracks on this collection stand as a testament to the fact. Many are versions of traditional Japanese folk songs (Minyo), a style that became much copied. Terauchi’s speedy “shredding” technique could be said to echo Tsugaru shamisen, a unique blues-like style of percussive, semi-improvised playing from northern Japan. He revisited some of these standards for his 1974 album “Tsugaru Jongara” with the re-formed Blue Jeans.
Here is a selection of some of the finest beat instrumentals, traditional-infused nuggets and later raw Tsugaru-influenced workouts from his long and varied career.
By Howard Williams