Happy End 1973

What’s there to say about an unheralded classic? The origin story is already there for the taking: in 1972, fresh of recording their revolutionary Kazemachi Roman, pioneering Japanese band led by musical visionaries like Haruomi Hosono, Eiichi Ohtaki, and Shigeru Suzuki, travel to Los Angeles in hopes of recording an album more in tune with a huge source for all of their musical tastes. The story continues: pioneering Japanese band Happy End befriend fellow pop eccentric Van Dyke Parks — fresh off recording his calypso-indebted masterpiece, Discover America — to help produce their latest batch of songs that would be guided by the American experience itself. The pieces were all there for a success story. Only history would later prove these sessions to be their undoing.

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Featuring the right session musicians to help them expand their unique take on Americana, musicians like Little Feat guitarist Lowell George, and unsung heroes like Tom Scott and Kirby Johnson, found the band struggling to come to grips with the real America they were encountering. Far off in Japan, the only controversies they ever faced were reconciling their place as a younger Japanese generation trying to find its own identity. In America, with all our myriad issues that were far more expansive to address as easily, arrived this far more innocent band that had staked itself onto a hippy idealism that most were already crudely abandoning here. Sessions that started with promise were swiftly stomped into the ground by serious artistic struggles.

The constant struggle of not being able to speak English clearly forced them to constantly defend certain arrangement choices. Fights with their American personnel spilled over to personal fights over the direction the band should take. At the end of the day, once the album was put in the can, it was a miracle the album managed to exist altogether. Tinged with deep melancholia, Happy End presents their last fully-formed idealistic view of this foreign land. They had always thought of themselves as outsiders in Japan. However, in America they truly realized they had no quarter for their vision and presented a captivating vision of what was felt.

Only, when the album was released a year after they’d broken up could their fans realize what a massive sacrifice it was on their part. Songs like album highlight “Furaibo” that present a new kind of psychedelic soul, or “Ashita Atari Ha Kitto Haru” that point to a nascent kind of sophisticated pop, coupled with others like the southern boogie of “Aiaigasa”, and the tropical kiss-off “Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon”, maybe were the best at pointing out that this generation had enough ideas to go back home, and stake its own place in history.

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