Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hamelin: A Tribute, A Farewell

In 2008, BT recorded their second known cover of another artist as tribute (there are only three known BT covers to date). The band's name was Lä-Ppisch and the song was Hamelin which was written and composed by Ueda Gen who died earlier that year. On September 2008, an album titled Sirius〜Tribute to UEDA GEN〜 in which BUCK-TICK participated. 

What is Lä-Ppisch and who are they?

In German, läppisch means silly or ridiculous. Though they named their band as "silly", Lä-Ppisch is far from silly. They can be whimsical but Lä-Ppisch is a good and serious band. For a more detailed background, here's an exert from syncmusic:

"One of Japan’s most successful ska bands, Lä-Ppisch have migrated from their early Madness-inspired sound, to a broad scope of hard rock and psychedelia, steadily releasing an album a year since their debut in 1986. The band was formed in 1985 in Tokyo, based around high-school friends Magumi (real name: Kyoichi Fukuda; vocals) and Kyoichi Sugimoto (guitar). The two originally had a band in their hometown of Kumamoto, but on coming to Tokyo, they recruited Gen Ueda (keyboards, second vocals), bass man Tatsu Todoroki, and drummer Yukiyoshi (real name: Kaneko Koujuu). Ueda and Sugimoto remain the main songwriters in the group, and their styles are quite distinctive; Ueda is melody-based and Sugimoto is riff based." -syncmusic

Who is Ueda Gen?

Ueda Gen is a known producer and musician who was part of the rock-ska band Lä-Ppisch. He started with the band Lä-Ppisch back in 1986 along with his Meiji University friends and remained until in 2002 when  he decided to leave the band. After Lä-Ppisch, he went on a solo career as a singer-songwriter and also became a music producer and wrote songs for other artists (most notably Hajime Hitose for her debut single). In 2006, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, but still continued to work while undergoing treatment.  In 2007, Lä-Ppisch decided to have a revival concert tour which included Ueda, however he was only able to attend once due to his deteriorating health. After his two-year battle with lung cancer, Ueda passed away last March 2008 at the age of 47.

Why did BUCK-TICK participate?
For those who are not well-acquainted with BT's history, BT and Lä-Ppisch are two bands in the late 80's band boom who started out together. In September 21, 1987, BT and Lä-Ppisch debuted together under Victor Invitation Records as major label bands. Because of this, the two bands went on events together and became close at one point. In 1991, Lä-Ppisch left Victor and changed labels, while BT remained in Victor until 1997. Despite parting ways, throughout the years, the two bands held great respect for each other. In fact, Uta is a close friend of Magumi (vocals) and Toll, who is known as "Ani" by many in the industry, looks up to Ueda as a Leader (he's a year older than Toll) and called him"a great talent". In a way, this tribute is a personal one for BT. They lost  a comrade they admired and respected.

Why Hamelin?

Hamelin was the fifth single the band released under Victor in the 1st of January 1991. It was written and composed by Ueda Gen. According to Imai, when they were approached for the tribute, it was Ueda's wife who requested BT to cover Hamelin. At first, Imai didn't agree with it not until he realized that Hamelin was his favorite song from the band. It was clear that Imai and the band members were heavily invested in the song and as Toll admitted, the whole band put their hearts in it and worked hard in recording the song. In recording, Imai decided to infuse their 13kai sound into the song, changed the arrangement and the lyrics. At one point Imai joked to Sakurai that he wants to steal the song, because it sounds like a Buck-tick song. There was a point where Imai was upset with Yoko-chan (BT's keyboardist and programmer), because he didn't listen and research about Lä-Ppisch and Hamelin. Sakurai on the other hand commented that Hamelin was a "good song from a good band" and Hide was happy to be part of the tribute and commented how unique the song was. 

Lyric Change, Interpretation and Arrangement:

In the original song, Hamelin was referring to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin
"The Pied Piper of Hamelin (German: Rattenfänger von Hamelin also known as the Pan Piper, the Rat-Catcher of Hamelin) is the subject of a legend from the town of Hameln (Hameln), Lower Saxony, Germany, in the Middle Ages. The earliest references describe a piper, dressed in multicolored ("pied") clothing, who was a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizens refuse to pay for this service, he retaliates by using his instrument's magic power on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. This version of the story spread as folklore and has appeared in the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, and Robert Browning, among others. The Pied Piper is also sometimes thought to have been, or associated with, the Norse God Odin, or the Anglo-Saxon variant Woden." -Wikipedia
In the song, the Pied Piper theme imagery is very vivid. In Ueda's song, the role of the Pied Piper was in form of a mysterious band/orchestra that travels and performs from town to town.
Verse I
A mysterious orchestra plays from town to town
The song passes through my bedroom window unhindered
I'm sure a lot of people have gone out to meet it
Perhaps they've walked to the other towns?
Perhaps, I should go too?
Take me with you, lead me away, take me with you

If I had a flute, I could play it
And bang the drum
So, c'mon, teach me the song
I'm terrible at dancing
But I'll dance with all my heart
So please, teach me the steps
Of the mysterious orchestra that plays from town to town

In the first verse, their song reaches the people (and presumably the children) including the narrator. The narrator is immediately eager to join and will do whatever is necessary just to follow the band, as he can see that the other people seemed enjoy to follow the band. He begged to be taken and lets out an excited sound at the end of the first chorus.

Verse II
Even a sand storm won't hold me back, I'll leave my house with my coat on
And chase after the children of the town as fast as I can
I bet they'll be laughing as always
Perhaps, they'll be tossing stones in play?
Because the sad truth is something I will never speak of...
Follow me, follow me, follow me

If you have a flute, you can play it
and bang the drum
So c'mon, I'll teach you the song
Even if you're terrible at dancing
Dance with all your heart
And I'll teach you the steps

When the moon rises
We will climb that hill
And then, I'll sing that song
(La la la...)

The second verse tells us of  a very determined narrator who is in haste to leave his house and willing to fight his way through a sandstorm. He was in his way to chase after the children that followed the mysterious band. What is revealing in this verse is that the narrator is aware of the "sad truth that he will never speak of". Whatever it is, the narrator is very aware of where their destination and their fate will be. The second chorus followed and revealed that the narrator is now leading and inviting the children, just like how the mysterious band did. In this case, the narrator became the Pied Piper and started luring the children by saying "Follow me!" and teaching them the ways of the mysterious band. As the night fell, he was able to bring them to climb the hill while singing "lalala~". The hill in this case may be Koppelberg Hill or Koppenberg Mountain which appeared in other versions of the legend. 

In this way, the children of my town have vanished, not even one remains

In the closing lines, the narrator revealed that the children of his town disappeared and laughs (studio version) and cheers (live version) at the end of the song. It was never stated whatever happened to them and ended the story with a mystery.

This song, by all means, is very dark, despite its light melody. No wonder that Imai said this was his favorite and no wonder why it fits BT so much. In BT's cover, Imai changed the arrangement, infused 13kai elements and somehow changed the direction of the context of the song.

Even against a sandstorm / wearing a cloak that can’t fail / I proceed to leave my home behind

Verse I
From the neighboring town / comes a mysterious band / and they go again to the next town
Just outside of my room / outside of the window / they go past my window slowly
Lots of different people / you have met, haven’t you
Lots of different towns / you have walked through, haven’t you?
After here will be many different places / you go to, right?
Please take me with you / please take me I said / please take me with you

If it’s a flute, I can play it
I can also beat a drum
Hey / won’t'cha please show me how to play that song
Dance [dancing], I am bad at it
But I try very hard to dance
Hey / won’t'cha please show me how to do that dance step

From the neighboring town / comes a mysterious band / and they go again to the next town
(Instrumental break)
Just outside of my room / outside of the window / they go past my window slowly
Lots of different people / you have met, haven’t you
Lots of different towns / you have walked through, haven’t you?
After here will be many different places / you go to, right?
Please take me with you / please take me I said / please take me with you

(Repeat Chorus)

If and when the moon rises
Let’s go climb up the hill
Hey / won’t'cha please show me how to sing that song
la la la…
translated by btzone

In BT's cover, the song starts with the second verse. We now see a determined narrator who is willing to fight through a sandstorm to leave his home and everything behind. The next few lines were omitted (the lines about him chasing the children and being aware of the sad truth) instead we jump into the first verse where the narrator first heard of the mysterious band/orchestra.  He then proceeds to beg them to take him with them and was very willing to do anything just to follow and join the band/orchestra. By eliminating the next few lines of the second verse, we now know that this narrator is very different from the original version. If in the original version the narrator became the Pied Piper, here, the narrator is the one who was the victim (the children) who is unaware of the "sad truth". The lines of the second chorus was omitted as well (the lines where the narrator says "Follow me!") instead the first chorus where the narrator begged "Please take me with you!" was repeated. It then proceeds with  the first verse and the chorus and then original bridge.

Even against a sandstorm / wearing a cloak that can’t fail / I proceed to leave my home behind

The original closing lines were omitted and was replaced by the second verse of the original version where a determined narrator remained uncertain of his fate.  

In a way BT's version seemed to lean towards the metaphor of life. In their reinterpretation, it seemed like there was something personal mixed into it. By repeating "Please take me with you", it is like an echo of the grief that we usually hear from people who lost their loved ones. In a way, this is BT's requiem for someone they admired and respected. If we place the original version and the BT's version lyrics together, we can see how the lyrics correspond to each other. Also in a way it is an allegory where the mysterious band is death and everyone journeys through life while following the footsteps of death. In the end, after climbing the hill, they die while the others are left behind.


No comments:

Post a Comment