Proof that the Japanese have always excelled at anything they put their hand to, including reinterpreting Western rock, comes with the growing cult appreciation for their amazing mid-1960s GS rock scene. GS refers to Group Sounds, the name the local media gave to a glut of garage bands circa 1967.
Rock in Japan had really got going with the instrumental eleki boom of 1964-1965, but obviously the Beatles and other British acts were as popular in the Far East as they were anywhere else in the world, and many of them, including the Fabs, helped inspire the GS boom by visiting the country. This pop explosion was ably supported by a wildly enthusiastic teen audience that gave the major GS groups such as the Tigers and the Spiders the kind of popularity reserved for visiting stars ie hit singles, movies, lavishly-packaged albums and mob scenes whenever they played.
Our earlier foray into the GS phenomenon, GS I LOVE YOU - CDWIKD 159, was a resounding success, not least in Japan itself, where it was praised for its "sophisticated selection" and "killer sound". This sequel volume, drawing on the Japanese imprint of the Philips label, is even stronger and it features several acknowledged classics of the genre, such as D'Swooners Please Please Trina, the Youngers' Hanashitakunai and the Carnabeats' wild Chu! Chu! Chu! There's a kinetic energy to the best Groups Sounds that is practically unmatched by contemporaneous US and UK garage bands, with plenty of fast'n'furious fuzz guitar, reckless rhythm and a nice line in blood-curdling screams.
With this compilation we also focus on the strong original material released by groups such as the Tempters and the Jaguars, two of the very best GS combos. The latter's second album, "5-1=0", from whence several tracks on GS I LOVE YOU TOO derive, is regarded as a classic of the era in Japan. The Jaguars were popular enough to star in a couple of their own Help-style movies and several soundtrack tunes are featured here, such as the stomping Dancing Lonely Night and the band's theme tune Beat Train. We also get a taste of the instrumental eleki style with the Savage's Joe Meek-ish Space Express.
As usual the set features copious liner notes, including full group histories and many pictures of these rarely glimpsed acts. With breathtaking master tape sound, the GS style really leaps out of the speakers at you, and GS I LOVE YOU TOO is definitely not for the faint at heart, or the culturally myopic for that matter. Oh, and it's still only the second legally licensed GS collection outside of Japan (the first being our earlier volume of course!)
by Alec Palao