Scatman’s Japan

November 23, 2009

Whenever I have a rummage through the CD sections of Tokyo’s recycle shops, it’s always there, without fail: “Scatman’s World” by Scatman John. There are usually multiple copies, always priced at 100yen, coated in dust and flecked with mould (much like the Scatman himself, as I recall).

With his CDs dumped in charity shops as often as paperback copies of “The DaVinci Code”, Scatman John must have unwittingly generated more money for for the poor and needy than Bono could ever hope to.

That is, of course, if anybody actually buys these old albums. I’m doubtful. Alas, the Japanese are a fickle bunch, and that is why Scatman John, who sadly died a decade ago this month, has been consigned the bargain bin of history, along with MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, and those Scandinavian line dancers who sang “Cotton Eye Joe”.

But why were there so many copies of his CD floating around in the first place? While one song was enough for the rest of the world, it would seem Scatman John’s LP made a huge splash in Japan when it was first released in the mid nineties. “Scatman’s World” (1995) is the 9th best selling album of all time in Japan by an international artist. Of all time! More than anything by The Rolling Stones, Elvis, or The Beach Boys.
Ask a Japanese person to name some classic albums and they’ll say: “Sergeant Pepper”, “Thriller”, “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Scatman’s World”.

How the hell did this happen?

Well, if television is any indicator, the Japanese certainly have an inexplicable fondness for men in their fifties. And the fact that Scatman John both overcame an impediment (stuttering) and mastered a craft (scat) would have won him respect here.

Either that or fans of Japanese poo-porn were confused by the term “Scat” and mistakenly bought the CD thinking he’d be singing odes to coprophilia. (His vocal technique does sound a bit like someone with a bad case of case of the curry splatters uncontrollably farting in a toilet bowl, so the fecal-fans wouldn’t have been entirely disappointed.)

“Scatman’s World” is, in part, a trippy concept album, all about a mythical utopian society called “Scatland”. It can’t have hurt Japanese sales that the language barrier spared people from the pain of hearing Scatman’s terrible lyrics in songs such as “Song of Scatland”, surely one of the strangest records ever recorded.

The album sales skyrocketed as Scatman’s ubiquitous television appearances in annoying pudding commercials brought him to an even wider audience. It is these ads for which Scatman is best known in Japan. Kids, grannies, and tattooed goths could all identify Scatman John as “oh, that pudding guy.”

And singing in Japanese occasionally, as he did with the god-awful “Super Kirei”and “Ichi, Ni, San… Go!”, must have only added to his popularity, however nonsensical it all sounded.

Now, I know the Japanese have a very high threshold for repetitive and inane pop songs, but surely the music of Scatman John is so infuriatingly bad that it would try even their patience.
Evidently not. Even Ultraman was grooving to the Scatman.

Of course, fame is a fickle mistress, and a decade after his death, Scatman John CDs aren’t exactly flying off the shelves (unless there’s a poltergeist in Book Off). But while Scatman John’s CDs lay unwanted in the fleamarkets and recycle shops of Japan, his spirit lives on in the form of the Scatman imitators who operate to this day, such as this motor-mouthed fella (who does well until he pretends to rap the English words at 0:25 and isn’t fooling anyone.)

And so, Scatman John, rest in peace in your fabled Scatland, and take comfort in the knowledge that the beloved New Orleans jazz tradition that you spent decades mastering is still remembered. Albeit in the form of Euro-pop pudding commercial jingles sung by Japanese men in false moustaches who are taking the piss out of you.

Naked Drunken SMAP Guy Arrested!

April 23, 2009

I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard that skinny pop-star Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, of the aging Boy-Band SMAP, was snatched by the police last night for uncharacteristic lewd, drunken behaviour. Apparently he was found totally wasted in a park near Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown complex, being noisy, and dancing around naked. It’s funny, because on the countless TV shows he appears in, he never does anything remotely as entertaining as this! He’s always as dull as dishwater.

Come to think of it, when an incredibly camp and effeminate unmarried 35 year old singer of winsome love songs is caught indecently exposing himself in a park at home, it’s automatically assumed to be a flamboyant way of coming out of the closet.
Kusanagi is the Japanese George Michael!
I suspect there was another naked man who escaped detection by being on his knees behind a bush when the police arrived.

Well, at least this means I won’t have to see Tsuyoshi on TV for a while (except for the news). He’s on seemingly every channel, all day, every day, you see, despite having no discernable talent or charisma. In fact, this news story is by far the most entertaining thing he’s ever done!

From the Mainichi Daily News

Shoichi Nakagawa: The Piss-Head Politician’s Biggest Boozy Blunders

February 27, 2009

In this climate of global financial crisis, it can’t be heartening to discover that the guy in charge of your country’s economy is a bumbling booze-hound. This was the case in Japan a couple of weeks ago, when the finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, showed up at a G7 summit in Italy, as shit-faced as a 17-year-old sailor on shore leave, and proceeded to slur his way through a nonsensical, factually-innaccurate speech on live television for all the world to see. For the Japanese, who routinely hand over a sizeable chunk of their monthly wages for their government pensions, to witness that blundering dipsomaniac’s performance in the knowledge that he was in control of their life’s savings, must have been like finding out that your priceless Ming vase had been entrusted to the Three Stooges.

Nakagawa blamed his bad behaviour on taking too much cold medicine, but he wasn’t fooling anyone, and was forced to resign (let’s see how unemployment affects his alcohol problem!) The nation collectively bowed their heads in shame and embarrassment, as opposed to the cackles of glee that the disgrace of a statesman invariably provokes in western countries, where people love nothing more than having the opportunity to mock and poke fun at snooty authority figures.
Which is what I shall proceed to do now!

A bit of research reveals that Nakagawa’s a typical, old, out-of-touch politician, who got his job via an expensive private education and his Dad pulling strings (his father was the prominent Hokkaidō politician, Ichiro Nakagawa).
And, much like a spoiled Hollywood brat, he’s been getting up to a lot of booze-fueled tomfoolery over the years.

Even though I can hardly blame the guy for turning to the bottle during the worst financial crisis in decades, by nature I find Nakagawa’s humiliating alco-antics pretty funny, and will catalogue them below. here they are:

Shoichi Nakagawa’s Top 6 Most Hilarious Drunken Mishaps!

1: Appearing on Global TV, Totally Rat-Arsed, and Disgracing a Nation.


2: Setting off a Security Alarm in the Vatican
During the same fateful trip to Italy, the bungling politician caused a scene in a Vatican museum, with slapstick antics worthy of Inspector Clouseau. While being shown around the museum by the ambassador and other local dignitaries, the accident-prone minister wandered around the museum like he owned the place, touching an off-limits priceless statue, not once but twice, and setting off a security alarm. Reportedly, he even sat on a precious exhibit, almost as if it were a bar-stool.

3: Freaking People Out by Screwing Up a Festive Tradition
In Japan, it is common practice for politicians to paint one eye of a traditional Daruma doll before an election for good luck, then to paint the other eye if they win, to show that their wish has been fulfilled. In June 2000, when a swaggering, inebriated Nakagawa found out he’d been elected for a sixth term in office in Obihiro, Hokkaido, he stuck his brush in the inkpot to paint the doll’s eye. Unfortunately, the clumsy nitwit put way too much ink on the brush and ended up splattering the doll’s face with black ink. Witnesses to this cock-up were horrified- black tears were not exactly the symbol of optimism that voters were looking for on election day.

4: Showing Up Wasted for His first Cabinet Meeting
In September 2004, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided to have a Cabinet re-shuffle. At the time, Shoichi was somehow minister of economy, trade and industry. On the day that Koizumi was to announce his new team, Nakagawa, perhaps anticipating that his glory days were over, held a farewell news conference, before leaving the ministry for the nearest pub to get totally pissed-up.
Surprisingly, however, Nakagawa was reappointed and, still smashed, he had to rush back to the prime minister’s office. As a result, Nakagawa spent his first Cabinet meeting utterly shit-faced.

5: Causing a Massive Slide in Stocks by Being Hungover
Last October, in the midst of the financial crisis, as bankers around the world were pulling their hair out in frustration, the Japanese government decided that Nakagawa should hold a news conference to inform the public of his emergency measures to stabilize the market. Nonchalant Nakagawa sauntered up to the podium 15 minutes late, and didn’t have anything helpful to say. He hadn’t actually come up with any decent emergency measures. Somehow, this useless announcement dragged on well into the afternoon and, consequently, the worst slide in stocks in decades wasn’t stopped in time. Japan’s economy was buggered. The notorious drunkard Nakagawa was rumoured to be hung-over at the time, and was slammed by the press for his lax response. Nice going, Shoichi!

6: Late, Drunk, Almost Bumping into a Pillar
In 2006, when Nakagawa was somehow head of the government’s “Policy Research Council”, he indulged in a little old-fashioned Mr.Bean-style physical comedy. Most people, when asked to attend a high-profile meeting between various important political figures, would work hard to be punctual and well-prepared. Not our Shoichi!
When expected at a conference in a plush Tokyo hotel, between the the Policy Research Council bosses, the secretaries general of the ruling parties, and the governent affairs chiefs, Shoichi arrived late, was too trashed to walk in a straight line, and very nearly bumped into a concrete pillar. D’oh!

All of this would be acceptable if he were a nice guy, but Nakagawa’s an out-of-date chauvinist. In a (surely drunken) interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, about Japan’s declining birthrate, he boorishly declared that “Women have their proper place: they should be womanly. They have their own abilities and these should be fully exercised, for example in flower arranging, sewing, or cooking.”
The woman’s place is in the kitchen, eh, Shoichi?
That might be the case in your house, pal, but I suspect it’s because you, yourself, are either too smashed to cook without burning the house down, or because you’d be drinking all the cooking sherry.
And if the birth-rate is declining in the Nakagawa household, it may well be because you’re too pissed to get it up.

Hold on. Drink problems? Sexist? Following in Daddy’s footsteps? He’s the Japanese Charlie Sheen!

Mickey Rourke in Vintage Japanese Commercials

February 7, 2009

Ever wonder what comeback king Mickey Rourke got up to in those wilderness years between appearing in 80s movies like Nine and a Half Weeks and Angel Heart, and his recent award winning performance in The Wrestler?
He was appearing in these Japanese ads. They are worth watching for the weird and inane dialogue, and Rourke’s barely concealed disinterest.

Ex-Celebs in Old Japanese Commercials

February 2, 2009

Japanese drinks corporations, most famously Suntory Whisky, are known for paying vast sums of cash to international superstars such as Harrison Ford to add a little glitz and glamour to their products by appearing in their TV commericals. The companies agree not to show the ads outside Japan, to avoid damaging the stars’ classy reputations by exposing them as shameless sell-outs.
However, when profits are low and booze companies and forced to make cutbacks, they have to hire the likes of Jan Michael Vincent instead, (who must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when Suntory waved the cash in front of his face. “Holy shit! Where do I sign?! Somebody get me a pen before they change their minds! Quick!” He probably sneaked a few of those bottles of whisky into his bag after filming when no-one was looking, too.)
In these times of global financial crisis, Screech from “Saved by the Bell” must be sitting by the phone just waiting for that call from Suntory Whisky.
Here are a selection Japanese booze ads featuring cut-price celebs who were probably pleased to get the call. I don’t blame them (hell, if anyone from Suntory wants to put me in a commercial, I’d be more than willing.) At least they actually need the money, unlike Harrison Ford.

Actually, I feel bad putting Phoebe Cates in there, since she looks phenomenal and I worshipped her as a kid, in Fast Times at Ridgemont high and Gremlins. I’m guessing the rights to the Elvis Presley song cost more than her fee, though!

I’m off!

Boy George’s Bizarre Chu-Hai Commericals

December 14, 2008

Ever wondered what Boy George got up to in those wilderness years between between releasing “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and being arrested for handcuffing and whipping a Norweigan male prostitute?

He was in Japan (where the androgynous man is king) and appearing in these odd-ball commericals for Takara Chu-Hai (which is apparently laced with LSD, if the commercials are anything to go by!)
I somehow doubt that Takara will be asking him back for their next advertising campaign. Not because of the rent-boy scandal, but because he got fat.

John Travolta’s Groovy Chu-Hai Commercials

December 14, 2008

Ever wondered what John Travolta got up to in those wilderness years between between making “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction”?
He was strutting his funky stuff in these commericals for Takara Chu-Hai! (Chu-Hai is a fizzy alcoholic cocktail in a can.)

Travolta might be embarrassed by these ads today, but compared to the films he was making at the time, like “Saturday Night Fever 2: Staying Alive” and “Look Who’s Talking Too,” they were an artistic high point!