One recent late night purchase via Amazon Japan was a recently released five disc collection of recordings of works written by J. A. Caesar for Terayama Shuji's theatrical troupe Tenjo Sajiki. I'm posting the first two discs for the time being, which are live recordings of the "J. A. Caesar Recital" that took place over two days (February 3/4) in 1973. The first part was on Saturday evening at six, the second on Sunday at midday. It's a mix of pieces from various productions.
(The third disc is a recording of 青少年のための無人島入門 (Seishonen no Tame no Mujinto Nyumon - A Teenager's Guide to Deserted Islands) from 1971. The fourth is split between 走れメロス (Hashire Merosu - Run Melos Run) from 1972 and 恐怖の音楽 (Kyofu no Ongaku - Music of Terror) which is a short collection of music written for radio in 1972 also. The fifth is こども狩り (Kodomo Gari - Child Hunting) from 1979.
There's not a huge amount of information about J. A. Caesar on the web in English, but one notable contribution is Julian Cope's recent Japrocksampler, an overview of the Japanese rock/psych scene of the 60s/70s. I might have a few issues with the book from a historical perspective, but I can't knock his enthusiasm for the topic. Cope's written a chapter on Caesar and I've included it for academic purposes with the first zip file. I've included another pdf of the Japanese booklet's section on the recital in the second one which has commentary and lyrics. Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei's Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan, which I may come back to discussing in the future, barely even mentions Caesar's essential contributions to the experience of Terayama's work which seems rather an oversight.
Prithee, why should I fill up my ears, not to mention hard disc, with this music?
One downside to these recordings is, regardless of any given piece, that they're out of the theatrical context so the visual element is lost. If you like the idea of a mixture of psych rock, traditional Buddhist chant, folk music, massed choirs, nostalgic melancholy, loud guitars, big organs, the whiff of the avant-garde when it maybe just about still mattered, something to play on the car stereo to intimidate and bemuse passengers and pedestrians, then go for it. You might think it sounds like a deranged version of Hair, which isn't so far off the mark. Drugs, lightly administered, might enhance the experience but are by no means essential.
Which is pretty much all that needs to be said on the subject for now if you read the Cope pdf. Well, except there's the tricky issue of track naming. Since I can just about read Japanese, I'm quite happy leaving things that way and it's much less of a headache, but for some (people, software) Japanese text is a bit of an issue and it's nice to be able to give things a name rather than just unknown characters. Here, then, is a transliterated and somewhat translated-ish track listing.
DISC ONE (123meg! Perhaps a lighter compression next time around...)
1. 転生譚 - Tenshotan - Like many of thes titles, there are various religious/Buddhist references which are rather beyond my ken. "Metempsychosis" might do. That said, I've got two readings: "tensho" and also "tensei". Hmm, and is it "tan" or does it change to "dan"...
2. 国境哀歌 - Kokkyo Aika - National Lament
3. エンプティ・バード変奏曲 - Empty Bird Hensokyoku - Empty Bird (Variation)
4. 首吊りの木 - Kubitsuri no Ki - The Hanging Tree
5. オルフェ・ヒロシマ - Orufei Hiroshima - Orphée Hiroshima - A welcome break into English for non-Japanese speakers.
6. 帝政ロシア顛落のロック - Teisei Roshia Tenraku no Rokku - "The Fall of Imperial Russia" ROCK!
7. 民間医療術 - Minkan Iryou Jutsu - Folk Medicine
8. 人形昇天 - Ningyou Shouten - Ascension of the Puppet - That's Caesar on the ribbon controller of his Electone. A YC model it says here in the booklet. Maybe this YC-45 then.
9. 大鳥の来る日 - Ootori no Kuruhi - The Coming of the Phoenix. Ootori (lit. Big Bird) is sometimes written with this character 鳳 and is the phoenix (fenghuang) of Chinese mythology.
DISC TWO (167M)
1. 狂女節 - Kyoujo Bushi - Song of the Madwoman
2. 東京巡礼歌 - Tokyo Junreika - Tokyo Pilgrimage Song
3. 長髪楚囚～あわれ自由や～ Nagakami ?? Aware Jiyu ya - Hmm. The third and fourth characters, for the best of me, I can only manage to translate as "a prisoner of the Chu dynasty"! Idiom? I've no idea how to read them though as I can only find the word in a Chinese dictionary and I've no idea what it means. It sounds like "soshu" when they sing it. "Long Haired Prisoner of the Chu - A Pitiful Freedom". Err... Anyway, Caesar was known for his very long hair. Perhaps the longest male hair in all of Shinjuku....
4. 英明詩篇 1 - Hideaki Shihen 1 - Hideaki Psalm Number One. This neatly encapsulates one of those frequent headaches for learners of Japanese script. After thinking that the first two characters are "eimei" (the so-called Chinese reading) which means intelligent or clear sighted, I read in the notes that in fact it's named after the performer Sasaki Hideaki whose given name uses exactly the same characters which I never would have worked out otherwise. It's originally from Throw Away Your Books... Let's take a short commercial break and a cup of tea with an excerpt from the film version.
And we're back and almost there...
5. 越後つついし親不知 - Echigo Tsutsuishi Oyashirazu - What it says on the tin! Echigo is the old name for Niigata and both Tsutsuishi and Oyashirazu (means wisdom tooth) are places there. It is the name of a story by Minakami (sometimes Mizukami) Tsutomu which was also filmed by Imai Tadashi. I guess I might try and watch it one day if I find a copy. Lyrics by Caesar.
6. 母捨般若経 - Bosha Hannyakyou - I spent a fair while reading about Hannya referring to Prajnaparamita. Well, yes. But it's just as much a reference to the Noh mask. The first two characters, hmm, "Abandoning Mother (who abandons who?) Hannya (or vengeaful jealous female demon, I suppose) Sutra". The lyrics at the end of this piece are "Please die, Mother!". Terayama's mother issues really deserve their own post...
7. 母恋しや珊瑚礁 - Bokoishi ya Sangoshou - Mother Love and the Coral Reef. Lyrics by Caesar.
8. 和讃 - Wasan - Wasan is a style of shomyo or Japanese Buddhist chanting. Wasan means it's in Japanese (where bonsan is chanting in Sanskrit, kansan in Chinese).
9. 人力飛行機の為の演説草案 - Jinryoku hikoki no tame no Enzetsu Soan - Err, "A Draught Address In The Cause Of Human Powered Aircraft" which sounds rather pataphysical in its way.
10. 山に上りて告げよ - Yama ni Noborite Tsugeyo - Go Tell It On The Mountain. I think this song title is a direct quote of the Japanese title of James Baldwin's novel.
a. All lyrics when present by Terayama Shuji unless indicated otherwise.
b. J. A. Caesar ("J.A.シーザー") is also sometimes transliterated as "Seazer" or "Ceazer".
c. There's a list of the various performers at the top of page 19 of the booklet. Caesar sings and plays Electone, harmonium, electric guitar, koto and wadaiko (Japanese drum).
d. These files are only posted for a limited time, since I've got other needs for this space most generously donated by our august sponsor.
e. All mistakes mine all fault.