I’ve been reading “Japrocksampler” by Julian Cope (the eccentric singer, writer and acid-frazzled archaeologist.) It’s an enjoyable history of Japan’s unheralded rock mavericks, groundbreaking musicians who absorbed American rock n’ roll in the postwar years, and fed it through a filter of Japanese thought, culture and experience, to make something entirely new and weird.
Some of the records mentioned, from the likes of Brain Police and Flower Travellin’ Band (pictured on the book cover, riding motorbikes in the nude) sound utterly mental, and I’m eager to get down to the record shop and pick some of them up (even though they’re fairly obscure, even in Japan.)
You probably won’t have heard of most of these guys. TV and radio in Japan have rarely given exposure to independent or alternative artists, and even now only give airtime to those signed to a handful of major labels and agencies. And yet, if your explore the underground clubs of Koenji or Shimokitazawa, you would have a good chance of seeing some astonishing and unique musicians.
Japrocksampler is a good introduction to Japanese rock and roll, and is greatly helped by Cope’s enthusiastic, hyperbolic writing style.
He’s even started a website about obscure Japanese music which you can check out here.