Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sukiyaki - 4PM

(H. Nakamura, J. Johnson)


Chart Entry: 5th March, 1995
Highest Position: #3
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 103,541
From the album "Now's The Time".


After forming in 1991, it took four years for 4PM's Larry McFarland, Martiz Ware, and brothers Reney Pena and Roberto Pena, Jr. to score a major hit with "Sukiyaki", and then just as quickly they faded away to hiatus after just two albums. The vocal group renamed themselves from IV Real, to 4PM, an acronym of "Four Positive Music", which promised the guys would deliver music without explicit lyric, violent themes, or degradation of women.

"Sukiyaki" was certainly a choice song to uphold those values. It was originally released by Kyu Sakamoto in 1961 as "Ue o Muite Arukō", topping the Popular Music Selling Record chart in Japan's Music Life magazine for three months. Music executive, Louis Benjamin, heard the song while traveling in Japan and quickly recorded an instrumental version with his group, Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen, renaming it "Sukiyaki" for commercial purposes. The fact that sukiyaki is a one-pot dish of beef, tofu, vegetables and noodles, and had absolutely nothing to do with the lyrical content of the song, didn't seem to phase the music buying public at all. "Sukiyaki" went on to top the US Billboard charts for three weeks, almost repeating that feat in Australia when it topped the Kent Top 20 for two weeks.

There was still quite a bit of translation to go before "Sukiyaki" became the hit that it was for 4PM. In 1963, a Brazilian group called Trio Esperanca released a Portuguese version; Dutch band, The Diamonds released their own version; while a French version was delivered via Canada's Claude Valade. An English version finally hit the shelves when Jewel Akens' "My First Lonely Night" was included as part of his 1965 double A-side release with "Mama, Take Your Daughter Back". "My First Lonely Night" is probably the closest lyric translation from the original Japanese hit which told of a lonely man whistling to keep his tears from falling. Jewels' version tells a similar story of a man walking alone after losing his love.

In 1981, A Taste Of Honey released their own English version of "Sukiyaki", the translation provided by Janice Johnson, one of the female members of the group. When translating the original Japanese lyric, Janice found that she could go in three thematic directions while being true to the language. "Ue o Muite Arukō" could potentially tell of a man on his way to his execution, or an optimist in the face of life's challenges, or the story of a love affair that has ended. Being the hopeless romantic she was, Janice opted for love gone wrong, but really, who would be interested in purchasing a song relating to the other two themes? A Taste Of Honey reached #3 on the US Billboard charts and a credible #24 on the Australian Music Report.

Everyone had their own way of bringing "Sukiyaki" to life, but 4PM opted to simply release a cover of A Taste Of Honey's version, which had previously been the most successful re-imagining of the hit. In Australia, despite not reaching #1, 4PM's "Sukiyaki" would become the most successful version of all time, enjoying a ten week run in the ARIA Top Ten that saw it become the 21st biggest hit of 1995. The group's #3 peak in Australia was one of the strongest in the world, 4PM also hitting #5 in New Zealand and #8 in the US, but it would be in Japan where the group really found substantial long term success.

4PM's first two albums, Now's The Time and Light In The Dark went Gold in Japan, but not enough to hold the group together, forcing them into hiatus for a few years at the end of the 90's. They reformed in 2000 minus Martiz, and continue to release albums under the Japanese Pony Canyon label. The trio still tours regularly throughout Japan, their most lucrative market place.


Chart Run:
(24 weeks) (ARIA Top 100)

No comments:

Post a Comment