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Glay strikes the right chord with Chinese leader Zemin

by Steve McClure

No word on whether Chinese President Jiang Zemin will embark on a new career as a rock star after the members of Japanese pop-rock band Glay presented him with an electric guitar at his official residence in Beijing on Sept. 10.

Glay were in the Chinese capital along with many other Japanese representatives to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and the People’s Republic of China.

The band, whose single “Mata Koko de Aimashou (Let’s Meet Again Here)” is the theme song for JAL’s New China ad campaign, will perform in Beijing on Oct. 10. The show — the band’s first in Beijing — is being billed as “Glay — One Love in Beijing.”

It’s actually a case of love postponed. Glay was originally scheduled to perform in Beijing in August but had to postpone following the diplomatic fracas between Japan and China concerning the Chinese authorities’ seizure of five North Korean asylum seekers at the Japanese Consulate General in the city of Shenyang.

All hype aside, in the posters for the New China campaign, Glay’s four members — seen posing on the Shanghai waterfront — give the distinct impression that they’d rather be somewhere else.

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Number Girl’s number is up. The cutting-edge rock band from Fukuoka have decided to call it a day after bassist Kentaro Nakao quit the band to pursue his own musical interests.

That’s really too bad (the band breaking up, not Nakao doing his own thing), because Number Girl, under the leadership of the charismatic and vividly eccentric Shutoku Mukai, had created one of the most original and powerful sounds in Japanese rock. The group’s most recent album, “Num Heavy Metallic,” made it into the middle reaches of the Oricon album chart, which was rather surprising given the uncompromising, and sometimes abrasive, nature of the band’s music.

In a statement posted on their home page ( www.numbergirl.com ), the group’s four members say that it doesn’t make sense to call the band Number Girl if one of the members leaves. That kind of solidarity is laudable, similar to when Led Zeppelin decided to call it quits after drummer John Bonham died, but it is a shame to ditch the name just when Number Girl was beginning to build a broader fan base.

The three other members of the band say they plan to continue their musical activities, but in just what form remains to be seen.

Number Girl will perform with several other bands on Oct. 5 at Shelter in Shimokitazawa and will be playing a few dates around the country in November, including a show Nov. 28 at Zepp Tokyo. The band’s final gig is Nov. 30 at Sapporo Penny Lane. Check out the Web site www.toshiba-emi.co.jp/capitol/artist/numbergirl for more information.

Home taping is killing music — so warned the recording industry a generation ago when the compact cassette was seen as a threat to music copyrights.

Now the CD-R has replaced the cassette as the recording industry’s bete noire. The Recording Industry Association of Japan, which represents the nation’s major record companies, recently released a survey showing that music is being copied onto CD-R and rewritable CD-RW discs at a rate of 236 million discs a year.

But it turned out that home taping didn’t kill music. In fact, it had the opposite effect — it helped promote music as people made tapes of their favorite tunes and passed them among friends who might not have heard of the music or artists otherwise.

In the RIAJ survey, 66 percent of respondents said they had made personal recordings in the past six months, compared with 53 percent who purchased new CDs. And 26 percent said that they bought fewer CDs after starting to use CD-Rs, compared with 18 percent who said they bought more CDs.

I think it’s still hard to establish a direct causal link between copying and the decline in CD sales — people might be buying fewer CDs simply because they don’t like what’s being released. But at the same time, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a lot of people are renting CDs or borrowing them from friends and making CD-R copies.

One possible solution could be to levy a surcharge on CD-R sales, with the money going to labels and artists, as is already done with blank MiniDiscs and digital audio tapes. But you can bet that such a proposal would be fought tooth and nail by the companies that make CD-Rs.