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Really looking forward to old age

by Steve McClure

Rock stars can do things us regular folks can’t. They can get good tables at crowded restaurants without a reservation. They can have promiscuous sex and take all sorts of exotic drugs and then be knighted by the Queen. And if they’re Eikichi Yazawa, they can travel forward in time to visit their future self.

The video for Yazawa’s latest single, “Kusari o Hikichi Girei (Tear Off a Chain),” is a variation on the Rip Van Winkle story, in which Yazawa, 53, meets his 83-year-old self in a dystopian locale that suggests something out of “Blade Runner.”

Shot in sepulchral black and white, the video opens with the elderly Yazawa stumbling into what appears to be a clinic. He’s told to take a shower, whereupon the shower attachment turns into a mike stand and — hey, presto! — Yazawa suddenly finds himself on stage, belting out “Kusari o Hikichi Girei,” taking turns at the mike with his younger, 53-year-old self.

Filmed in Los Angeles by director Eagle Egilsson, it’s pretty high-concept stuff as far as Japanese music videos go. The makeup job on the octogenarian Yazawa is very impressive indeed — he looks really ravaged, as if he’d spent the 30 years between ages 53 and 83 playing one-nighters at sleazy cabarets.

2002 sees the end of Yazawa’s first 30 years in show business. He came to the public’s attention as the leader of rock band Carol and went solo in 1975. Yazawa’s fans are noted for their extreme loyalty.

To mark this 30th anniversary, Yazawa is doing a nationwide one-man acoustic tour, which includes two dates (Aug. 14 and 15) at the Tokyo International Forum. To be honest, I find it hard to figure out why Yazawa is so consistently popular. His music is fairly safe and predictable. Maybe his fans simply appreciate his no-nonsense, ganbaru spirit.

And so the idea behind the “Kusari o Hikichi Girei” video is to emphasize Yazawa’s staying power — apparently he plans to still be rocking and rolling well into his 80s. And why not? Several old bluesmen (John Lee Hooker comes to mind) have managed to keep on making music well into their autumn years, and if Yazawa avoids the less healthy aspects of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle (drugs, alcohol, junk food, conversion to brain-destroying religious cults), he may well do it.

Dates for Yazawa’s performances can be found at www.toshiba-emi.co.jp/domestic/artists/yazawa/live.htm

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Summer is upon us with a vengeance, in case you hadn’t noticed (the salarymen still wearing jackets and ties seem not to have). And for summertime listening pleasure, it’s hard to beat The Surf Coasters, probably Japan’s best exponents of the surf-music genre. There’s just something about surf music that seems to dispel the summer heat — maybe it’s the distinctive, high-pitched guitar twang.

The band has just released a new album, “L’Esprit,” and while they don’t stray too far from the surf-music template, organist Kiyomi Nishida (who joined the band last year) adds some much-needed variety to The Surf Coasters’ sound. She’s particularly good on the cover of The Doors classic “Light My Fire,” which features special guest Ends (aka Ryoichi Endo) on vocals.

Overall, though, the band’s sound is dominated by Shigeo Naka’s driving, incendiary guitar, which is firmly in the Dick Dale tradition of scintillating six-string soloing. The Surf Coasters are a great live band, and they’re doing a nationwide tour this month. For gig dates, see www.surfcoasters.com/liveinfo.htm