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The Golden Cups
Tokimune ‘Dave’ Hirao – vocals
Eddie Ban – guitar
Kenneth Ito - guitar
Masayoshi ‘Louis Louis’ Kabe – bass
Mamoru Manu - drums
As the most anachronistic, muddle-headed, obstinate and capricious of all the first wave of Group Sounds acts, Yokohama City’s Golden Cups most deserve a thorough explanation and excavation in this book. For no band save perhaps The Undertones was ever comprised of such true rock fans that they accidentally scuppered their career through the sheer joy of playing whatsoever was passing through members stereo systems at any given time. From their bizarre but brilliant take on American garage music (‘Hey Joe’) through their horrendous blues workout period (they recorded half of The Butterfield Blues Band’s EAST WEST LP for Chrissakes), via their dreadful record company-pleasing staff writer composed hits ("Nagai Kami no Shoujo" ("A Girl With Long Hair") and "Aisuru Kimini (My Love Only For You)’) to the sheer loserdom of their twilight live LPs (‘Joy To The World’, ‘Nantucket Sleighride’, ‘I Shall Be Released’), The Golden Cups always made important career moves based on members’ current obsessions. This is probably because the band members were raised in the international port of Yokohama City, Japan’s equivalent of Hamburg and Liverpool, and famous across insular Japan for its high percentage of foreign nationals. And just as Liverpudlians of the early ‘60s benefited so much from their casual dockside trading with American ships that they were nicknamed ‘Cunard Yanks’ by the rest of Britain, so the teenagers of Yokohama scored records, clothes and even musical instruments down at the docks that never made it into popular Japanese culture. From the off, all of the members of The Golden Cups were way ahead of the pack as Yokohama’s nearby US Army base at Honmoku pumped out rock’n’roll on its Far East Network radio transmitters. The Cups were founded by Dave Hirao, who’d sung lead vocal in Yokohama’s The Sphinx back in ’64, traveling to the USA the following year to experience the sounds of rock’n’roll first hand. On returning home, Dave discovered that local guitarist Eddie Ban had done precisely the same, returning from his own American jaunt with a prized fuzz box. The two hooked up with Hawaiian guitarist Kenneth Ito, whose immaculate credentials included ownership of the first Fender Telecaster in Japan, and fluency in English. Initially taking the name Group & I, the three discovered the tall gangly glue-sniffing Franco-Japanese Masayoshi Kabe in a local record shop bunking off from the local international school, where he played lead guitar in the band Take Five. Local boy Mamoru Manu completed the band on drums. The band’s earliest set was made up entirely of wild covers and included The Byrds/Love/Leaves’ version of ‘Hey Joe’, James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, Them’s ‘One More Time’ plus standard work outs on ‘I Got My Mojo Workin’’, winning them the coveted position as house band at the infamous Golden Cup Discotheque, near the Honmoku US Army base whence so much of their radio influences had issued from. Playing to GI’s every night tightened up the band considerably, and they changed their name to The Golden Cups at the behest of the discotheque manager. With incredible timing, the newly-named band was asked to appear on the brand new early morning TV show Young 720, which aired every morning on NHK-TV, at 7.20 am. The appearance propelled them into the midst of the burgeoning Group Sounds scene and a deal with Capitol Records. With their righteous rock backgrounds and long experience, the Cups found themselves playing arduous schedules, Dave Hirao recalling later: "We were very busy. One day we did ten 45 minute shows in a row, and then got to the studio around midnight to record." In June 1967, Capitol released the Cups’ disappointing and twee debut single ‘Itoshi No Jizabel’ with its remarkable garage romp B-side "Hiwa Mata Noboru’, following up with the incredible ‘Giniro No Glass (Love Is My Life)’. However, Capitol imposed strict rules on the band’s recording and forced them to use staff songwriters for their singles, causing a schizophrenic attitude to develop in the band. Playing at jazz kissas such as Tokyo’s La Seine, the boys would go for total burn up, but compromise totally at concert halls, playing the dull overly arranged ballads, even accompanied by an orchestra. Consequently, the Cups’ debut LP THE GOLDEN CUPS ALBUM was equally schizophrenic, ranging from fuzzed out garage punk (‘Giniro No Glas’, ‘Hey Joe’) via competent soul and blues re-treads (‘I Got My Mojo Workin’’, ‘I Feel Good’) to truly East take on the ‘Hey Joe’ bassline is, however, still something to experience for its muscular and masterful fuck-offness.
One month later, the band had their biggest career hit with the super lame ‘Nagai Kami No Shoujo (Girl With Long Hair)’, which reached number 14 due to its accompanying cheesy ‘Girl With Long Hair’ contest. The B-side was, however, another high watermark and ‘This Bad Girl’ contained more of Kabe’s sensational bass runs and shows how Eddie Ban’s guitar was naturally chromatic and raga before that concept had really kicked off in the West.
However, Kenneth Ito was forced to return to Hawaii that summer and on his return was denied a visa. He was replaced not by another guitarist, but by 16-year-old fat boy Mickey Yoshino, who arrived in time to contribute substantial amounts to THE GOLDEN CUPS ALBUM VOLUME 2. Again a schizophrenic stalemate, this record featured diabolical hits singles (‘Woman Woman’, ‘My Love Only For You’, ‘Gimme Little Sign’) as well as wild garage goodies such as ‘Happenings At 3 O’Clock A.M.’ However, when the band themselves showed poor judgement with yet more soul standards, it was becoming clear that a whole coherent Golden Cups LP was unlikely ever to happen. It was, therefore, no surprise when The Cups’ took advantage of the floundering Group Sounds scene to record a live LP chock full of Butterfield Blues Band covers, indeed BLUES MESSAGE – ironically pressed on red vinyl - contained versions of ‘Walkin’ Blues’, ‘I Gotta Mind To Give Up Livin’’ and ‘Get Out Of My life’, as well as more unnecessary soul standards. When Eddie Ban left the band in April ’69 to form his own band with D’Swooners drummer Eddie Fortuno and organist Hiro Yanagida of The Floral, Louis Louis Kabe took over on lead guitar. Later LPs included SUPER LIVE SESSION, its title a homage to Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s albums of the same names, the music within mirroring the Cups’ current obsession with the extended jamming of Western so-called super groups. However, line-ups now changed regularly and haphazardly, as Eddie Ban returned temporarily then left again, as did guitarist Kenneth Ito, whilst Ai Takano from The Carnabeats came in on drums. The RECITAL LP featured orchestral versions of their hits, whilst the band themselves were currently obsessed with The Band, The Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull! Indeed, the abominable 1971 live LP LIVE ALBUM WITH THE GOLDEN CUPS even featured Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy To The World’! Each release sounded more and more like a cruise ship entertainment than a heavyweight outfit, and it was something of a mercy killing when, on New Year’s Eve 1972, the Okinawa discotheque in which they were playing burned to the ground, taking all of The Cups’ possessions and equipment with it. Ironically for a band that so hated its own hits, the band had chosen to play the cheesy ‘Nagai Kami No Shoujo (Girl With Long Hair)’ that night, but none of the drunken GI’s present had even heard the song before. However, despite this having been a long saga of often painfully unartistic achievement, The Golden Cups deserved to have their story told for the long term changes they exerted on Japanese rock’n’roll.
Posted by choan, Sep 06, 2007
Mops and another band pictures are mixed in. Only "artist_fullsize/9.jpg" and "artist_fullsize/509.jpg2" are Cups.
Delete this comment after correcting it.
Posted by barbara_c, Aug 04, 2008