Another side of Monkey - The Spiders

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 JoH - Editor 31 Oct 2006
The Spiders, Japans premier Group Sounds (GS) band, were Masaaki Sakai - - on vocals and flute, Hiroshi “Monsieur” Kamayastu on guitar and vocals, Takayuki Inoue on guitar, Mitsuru Kato on bass, Shochi Tanabe on drums, and Katsuo Ohno on keyboards and steel guitar. The term “Group Sounds”, often shortened to “GS”, was coined as after a huge buzz was created by the Beatles, but the term “rock’n’roll” with multiple L’s and R’s was thought to be too difficult for most Japanese people to pronounce.

They were first formed in 1961 by Shochi Tanabe, originally playing mostly country music, but basically serving as a backing band to singers and playing whatever the gig called for. The GS version slowly came into being, the final link being the addition of handsome teenager Jun Inoue on vocals in 1964, just as the British Invasion was hitting.

Early on they recorded some cover versions of instrumental hits like “Wipe Out”, which were in vogue at the time, although they were not major hits. Soon however their sound was more along the lines of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Animals and the Kinks, which is to say R&B influenced rock, and in fact the band did a fair number of covers of UK rock songs and R&B. Amongst the things that set the Spiders apart from other GS bands was that their style was a bit more frenzied, and they often danced and clowned around while playing.

The Spiders became the premiere GS band, and were called on often to open for visiting foreign bands, including the Animals, the Astronauts, Beach Boys, and the Ventures. They also played as the backing band for Peter and Gordon. The Spiders actually turned down an offer to open for the Beatles in 1966, being unsure of how they would fare in such a slot. Also in 1966 the Spiders released their debut Album No.1, which was all original material. Later the same year they released Album No. 2 which was all covers. Both were well received.

Again inspired by the Beatles, the Spiders made four Help! like movies - Wild Scheme A-Go-Go (1967), Go Forward! (1968), Big Commotion! (1968) and The Road To Bali (1968). Some of these movies have been released in other countries, sometimes with different titles. The band also made swings at international markets, releasing records in many major markets and playing dates in the States and Europe, including an appearance on British TV show Ready Steady Go! and shows in Paris. (YouTube)

The band had little impact overseas, but continued on in Japan until 1971. The group has reunited a few times, and the band remains fondly remembered. The group appears on a number of the GS albums that have been released in the UK, and the UK label Big Beat released the Spiders compilation Let’s Go Spiders!.

All of the Spiders went on went on to have successful careers somewhere in the entertainment business. Kamayatsu, whose father was also a professional musician, has remained active in music and is a well known, popular TV personality. Sakai, whose father had been a comedian, had a successful solo career, and has remained active in music and acting. Tanabe runs Tanabe Agency, one of the best known music production and management companies in Japan. Takayuki Inoue joined a new band called PYG with Ohno, which was sort of a GS super group, and later became very successful writing music for TV and film. Jun Inoue went on to have a career as a solo singer and comedian.

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