1960s Japanese Group Sounds a.k.a. GS.
What are the Group Sounds?
In June 1966, the Beatles visited Japan to perform a series of concerts at Tokyo's legendary Budokan Hall. Their visit created such national excitement among teenagers that almost overnight there was a dramatic shift in the way young musicians formed groups, played their instruments and thought about fashion and style. This new wave of 1960s Japanese rock groups was called Group Sounds—or GS for short.
"Lock music is very popular...Like Rady Jane and Yerrow Submaline... But Japanese people cannot pronounce Lock n Lorr, so we call it, 'Group Sounds.'"
— Rolling Stone, March 1, 1969
from "Rockin' in the Land of the Rising Sun."
The Origin of Group Sounds!
The term GS was purportedly coined when Jackey Yoshikawa and the Blue Comets were guests on Yuzo Kayama's TV show. Kayama started teasing Yoshikawa about his poor English pronunciation of "Lock 'n' Lorr."
Yoshikawa admitted that because of the two R's and two L's, "Rock 'n' Roll" is difficult for Japanese people to pronounce correctly. Yoshikawa then challenged Kayama to come up with an English term that Japanese people could easily pronounce.
Kayama thought for a moment and suggested, "Why not call "Rock 'n' Roll" the "Group Sounds?" Within days the media and fans all over Japan began using the new expression.
Group Sounds and Japanese Garage Bands!
By 1967, nearly 30 new bands with mod names like the Spiders, the Tempters, the Carnabeats, the Jaguars, and the Tigers made their record debuts. The top GS groups had enormous popularity in Japan with wild scenes of Beatlemania-like hysteria greeting them at concerts and following them wherever they went.
A quintessential GS song can be characterized by its slightly dissonant melodies and a tendency to go from a straight ahead pop or beat number to an over-the-top, fuzzed-out screaming psychedelic rave up—sometimes all within the same song!
Some films featuring the Spiders:
Japanese Group Sounds in the Movies!
The Spiders, the Tigers and the Jaguars made teen-oriented feature films in the style of "Help!" and "Hold On!" Just like American and British teen-rock movies, they tend to have silly plots but also have very cool & rockin' music performances!
* WILD SCHEME A-GO-GO 1967
* GO FORWARD!! 1968
* BIG COMMOTION! 1968
* THE ROAD TO BALI 1968
A film featuring the Tigers:
* HI! LONDON 1969
* THE TIGERS BEAUTIFUL CONCERT 1971
A film featuring the Jaguars:
* HEY YOU, GO! 1968
Buy Group Sounds Movies on DVD!
Japanese Group Sounds Invade America???
The Spiders attempted to crack the international market by touring and releasing records in the U.S. and Europe—but with no success. They even appeared on the legendary British TV show, "Ready Steady Go!" Despite their lack of success, the trips abroad helped secure their status in Japan where going abroad is equated with "making it."
The Tigers visited the United States for a much-needed vacation and to film a commercial for Japanese TV. Back in Japan they were advertised as having "appeared" on "The Ed Sullivan Show." (Of course, the fact that their appearance was in the audience and not on stage wasn't mentioned!)
Special thanks to Glenn Sadin for use of his writings on the 1960s Japanese Group Sounds scene.