We have plane hijackings, riots with farmers, and bassists escaping in the n.u.d.e.
Julian Cope - Japrocksampler
My godfathers, what a book. As usual I am at a loss to describe just how excited I feel reading Japrocksampler. It's superb, and a Righteous kick up the arse for all those tired, boring hacks who ceaselessly write yawnathon retrospectives which endlessly fill the likes of Mojo, or Q. You know the stuff; the stuff you buy in airport waiting lounges to kill time. The stuff that regales us with 4th hand Morrison stories or never ending "debates" about which release actually is the Beatles' best LP... No wonder people don't seem to be able to put any music outside the obvious stuff into context, let alone care for it...
And no wonder we're seemingly breeding a set of faux experts, Antiques Roadshow-style eunuchs who can blithely spout stuff about people whose place in the spotlight is well past. A cursory glace through Japrocksampler, I'm sure, would open many minds to the possibiliity of what is actually out there, waiting to be heard. And would shame other minds for their active contribution to the (seemingly) never ending, self-regurgitating pantheon of Rock History we are spoonfed, Pravda-style.
Oh, and another thing, whilst we're about it. Japrocksampler is written by someone who firstly knows what he's talking about, and secondly has decided that a subject as important as Rock History should be treated with respect, not in monthly instalments surrounded by glossy adverts. All Hail Copey!
Onto the book then. Cope sets out in fairly straight chronological order the social and political events in Japan (both in "normal" society and the Japanese underground) that led to such classic LPs as the Far East Family Band's Parallel World being recorded. This is a very sensible approach, for the (inevitable) difficulty with the names is a major stumbling block, and and it's good to have a recognisable timeline that you can at least partially hang on to.
Some of the Rock n Roll stories are insane (why else would Cope bother writing them?) We have plane hijackings, riots with farmers, and bassists escaping in the n.u.d.e. And incredible band myths such as in the stories of Les Rallizes Denudes and J.A. Caesar. And who can forget (having read it) the story of the fabulous Speed Glue and Shinki, a band whose personnel make the Stooges' Asheton brothers sound like candidates for the Green Party .
Of course the text is enlivened by Cope's very own brand of rock speak. I'm glad he's kept this going from Krautrocksampler, as it's a nice subliminal link between the two books. I also like the insert notes about the Eleki guitar the Jacks, and the Gedo bands. Its great stuff to browse over and take five out if the main text takes you a little too far out there... And the photos are class, I instantly want to own EVERY LP that's pictured; even the Group Sounds 7's and especially Milk Time and Lets Go Ski Surf, and the Far Out LP...
Oh why oh why write on? It's as plain as a pikestaff that if you have any feeling for this artform we know as Rock n Roll you should be already reading this book, or on the point of buying it.
This book is truly wonderful.
Words: Richard Foster