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The GS (Group Sounds) . Check out Asia's GS Scene

The GS (Group Sounds) . Check out Asia's GS Scene

With the movie “GS Wonderland” in cinemas now, many people are taking another look at the GS (Group Sounds) music phenomenon. The boom hit Japan in the late 1960s and a unique music scene was created – but what about the rest of Asia? Was there a GS scene anywhere else? Asianbeat speaks to Sammy Maeda about the Asian GS scene. Sammy is a music producer and DJ who wrote the lyrics to two songs in the movie GS Wonderland.

Asia's GS Scene

In 1964 the Beatles Liverpool sound spread throughout the UK and USA, and this movement - small bands singing in harmony to rock and roll being played on electric guitars - went on to spread throughout the world. The Beatles tour of Japan in 1966 started the boom here. The next year saw the birth of the Group Sounds, which lasted till 1969, and it became a social phenomenon that defined the Showa-Genroku era (the late 60’ to the early 70’). GS

The boom, and the new lifestyle also reached Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore and Korea (mostly among those who were well off). Hong Kong was especially influenced, being a British colony the music came directly from the UK, and bands were a plenty. The Philippine band D'SWOONERS, who migrated to Japan after a stint in Hong Kong, with their excellent technique, became a copy book for many Japanese musicians.

Korea was the only country outside of Japan to use the term “Group Sounds”. In Japan GS refers to the band scene in the late sixties, but in Korea is refers to rock bands from the seventies. It wasn’t as big a boom as Japan, but it was pretty popular in nightclubs. The most influential person in the Korean GS scene was Shin Joong Hyun (*1), who was known as the Jimmy Hendricks/Takeshi Terauchi(*2) of Korea. He has become the president of the Korean GS Association. Shin formed the bands “ADD4 in the early sixties, and “Shin Joong Hyun and the yup juns” in the early seventies, leading the Korean GS movement. GS
(*5)The drummer in ADD4 was Choi Yon Pil (*3), who went on to become a famous singer in Japan. Shin Joong Hyun and the yup juns’ most famous song was “Mi-in” (Beautiful woman), which was covered by the Japanese band “Crazy Ken Band” (*4) in their album “777”, and it also became the title of a Korean GS movie. GS
(*6)The “KEY BOYS” (*5), who had a string of hits, is a band that seems to have been influenced by Japanese GS. Other popular bands include “HE6” and “Trippers”. Another band that can’t be left out is the seventies band “Sanullim” (*6), which was made up of the three Kim brothers and was led by Kim Chang-wan, who is known as the John Lennon of Korea. You can see the influence of American garage punk that was around in 1966 having a similar fuzz vibe. The powerful guitar and organ sound of their big hit “Ani Borusso” can be equated to The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” or the The Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (*7).
The image of GS (bands singing pop songs) continued up until the eighties, but recently it has faded into the shadows, and as Garage Punk in the US and Freakbeat in the UK, it has become synonymous with the roots of Japanese rock(*8). This can be seen in the fact that GS is not just for older fans, but Japanese youth and overseas GS fanatics are still listening, with GS still being released overseas, and the there are many young bands trying to recreate the sixties sounds. However, from that perspective, I don’t think that there are many people in Korea listening to Korean GS. I have spoken to many Korean band musicians about Shin Joong Hyun and Sanullim, but they look at me as if I am some kind of weirdo (lol). I remember people laughing at me when I showed an interest in Pon Chack(*9). That’s why I don’t think young Korean music fans are very interested in GS - the roots of rock.

(Text: Sammy Maeda)
*1.Jimmy Hendrix and Takeshi Terauchi. They are both known as masters of the electric guitar
*2.Shin Joong Hyun: Known as the godfather of Korean rock.
*3.Cho Yong-pil: Famous as a singer in Japan. His hit song “Pusanko e Kaere” helped him to be chosen to appear on the Kohaku New Year’s Eve show for four straight years from 1987 to 1990.
*4.The leader of the Crazy Ken Band is Ken Yokoyama – he always has music playing in his brain. “777” is their fifth album released in 2003.
*5.The Key Boys. They had a hit with “Let’s Go To The Seashore”
*6.Sanullim. Debuted in 1977. A real rock band made up of the three Kim brothers, still going strong today. The leader, Kim Chang-wan is also a popular TV personality.
*7.“Satisfaction” by the The Rolling Stones and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles are world famous songs.
*8.Premier GS researcher. Reevaluated by Susumu Kurosawa who was involved with the movie GS Wonderland.
*9.Popular Korean music. Known as Pon Chack Disco – a powerful rhythm popular with techno fans – not found in Japan or the west. In Japan, Denki Groove invited Epaksa to take them on in a release called “Hirake! Pon Chack”.
In December 2005, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the birth of GS, the Showa Genroku Tokyo Garage released a reedited mix of GS songs from 65 – 71 from a rock perspective. It was directed by Sammy Maeda who selected the tracks that was simultaneously released by seven companies. The Teichiku edit “Meramera / the Columbia edit “Psychedelic Man” / the Toshiba edit “Gogo Sanji no Happening”/ the Victor edit “Tunnel Tengoku” / the King edit “Let’s Go Jan Jan” / the Universal edit “Let’s Go Peacock” / and the Tokuma Japan edit “Koi no Psychedelic”.



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