In 1980, a group of Japanese people got on stage in front of some black people, gave everyone a history lesson about black music, and then pronounced themselves the best funk band out.
Let me back up for a second. So, in the last installment, I said I’d talk about a guy named Haruomi Hosono. Before the late 1970s, he was entirely unheard of in America, and even in his home country of Japan, he wasn’t well known at all.
But on November 2nd, 1980, he appeared in a few million American households, as he and his band, Yellow Magic Orchestra, took the stage at the Soul Train studios.
YMO weren’t the first non-black band to perform on Soul Train, but they were the first (and only) Japanese band. Also, they were the first to, in the first few seconds of their song, make one of the boldest statements ever:
Now, ‘Tighten Up’ was very popular in Houston Texas, with Archie Bell and the Drells, …now, we are the number one, I think so.
That is, they were playing a cover of one of the first funk hits ever recorded, a track called ‘Tighten Up,’ and slyly implying that they were better than the funk originals: