BOOK TWO: Chapter 10


The borderline between reality and illusion will be dissolving.
Voodoo rock that invokes blood and the memory of blood.
Original flyer announcing new J.A. Caesar music, 1971

The Era Comes in on the Back of a Circus Elephant

The clap of thunder deafens you from the start, as forked lightning zigzags across the stereo system and sound FX mystify. Is that rain on a tin roof or somebody frying an egg? A lone woman's voice screams. More lightning. You cling on as drums and percussion introduce a lone fuzzsaw guitar theme that interrupts then obliterates the Weather and, as the rhythm picks up speed, a host of female voices ba-ba-ba along with the melody until suddenly... blam. No sound. A single maraca s-s-shakes as an angry man's voice curses. He shouts some more then emits a braying laugh. No sound. A doomy organ chord far away heralds ugly stabbing piano in the near distance. Mr Angry resumes his rant, but a single woman's voice interrupts him. He answers incautiously and the other women gobble gobble gobble their sarcastic reply. A gunshot, a scream, a host of s-s-shaking percussion, and we're off again into the high-velocity fuzz-guitar theme ba-ba-ba'd back into existence by the garrulous gobbling of the female throng. Welcome to the World of J.A. Caesar. You're in the cheapest seats in the house.

Of all the great Japanese rock'n'roll music to emerge from the 1960s, it is most surely the musical soundtracks that Julius Arnest [1] Caesar produced for Shuji Terayama's Tenjo Sajiki Theatre Company that are the most instantly recognisable to any listener. Produced for and recorded during theatre performances, the records of J.A. Caesar ring with the clamorous tones of their age, the deafening refusal to let any tradition, any cultural given, any cliché pass by unexamined. Indeed, the Caesar soundtracks fail sometimes through their sheer commitment to creating 'astonisment overload', as Colin Wilson once described TV news. But their essential genius to the twenty-first-century listener lies in their usefulness as devices with which to break open the head, to steep the aching modern mind in an eye-bath of cool clear liquid, to swallow all misery whole and, temporarily at least, to kiss your ass goodbye and sink into the maelstrom of Caesar's who-knows-what-the-hell-is-going-on? Psychedelic in its intent, psychedelic in its execution, the music of J.A. Caesar was created in the psychedelicised mind of one who understood intuitively that in order to reconstruct the damaged Japanese post-war collective psyche, it was essential first to go all the way and, only then, back off.

Between 1969 and 1983, Julius Arnest Caesar composed and produced dozens of original musical soundtracks for his mentor Shuji Terayama, Japan's foremost '60s dramatist, theatre director and 'avant-provocateur'. Through Terayama's fantastic satirical 'city plays', Caesar's work explored the most extreme cultural boundaries of the time, from the protest songs of SHO O SUTEYO, MACHI E DEYO (Throw Away the Books, We're Going Out in the Streets) to the glam rock-inspired BARAMON (Rose Gate), subtitled 'A Gay Sexual Liberation Record'; almost every work containing examples of violent and challenging psychedelic music, disorientating chanting and mysterious narrative known as sekkyobushi. For extra inspiration, Caesar reached back into the confused memories of his rural childhood, bringing forth snatches of traditional folk melodies and rhymes that seemed alien and peculiar even to his own so-called liberated Japanese audience. The well-travelled Caesar intuitively recognised that much of this indigenous music could be lost to the post-war Japanese, so he consciously integrated such traditional instruments as the stringed biwa and the plucked shamisen into his songs. Added to this heady mix was a mind-manifesting dose of the strange Western rhythms emanating not only from Britain and the USA, but also from the hip Italian, French and Dutch progressive psychedelic musicians of the late '60s. Japanese commentators have been quick to note that Caesar, unlike the majority of his compatriots, showed no fear or revulsion towards psychedelic drugs; indeed, his liberated attitudes have been attributed to his traveller days as a futen, or wandering poet. In interviews, Caesar is nowadays coy about the size of his hallucinogenic intake in the late '60s, but associates remember his times in the Netherlands as having been particularly psychedelically informed. This vat of personal experience, buoyed up by the unrestrained attitudes of director Shuji Terayama, created in J.A. Caesar a psychedelic frontiersman spirit in which no subject could be considered taboo, however beyond the traditional boundaries of Japanese taste it appeared to be. In 1972's JASUMON (Heresy), there is a particularly harrowing scene that conjures up the Japanese army's infamous destruction of the Chinese city of Nanking, in 1937, as weeping Chinese women, recently raped, scream at their departing abusers: 'Come back, come back and violate us again, you heartless bastards!' Caesar's work was mostly commissioned by his mentor Terayama, the best example surely being SHIN TOKU MARU (Poison Body Circle), which included Terayama's cheerful sleevenote: 'When I was a young boy, I loved this book'. Not so cheerful is the Hitchcockian psychodrama contained within, about an unhappy boy whose mother dies. Treated mercilessly, abused, imprisoned and eventually thrown out of the family home by his new stepmother, the boy steals then wears his dead mother's clothes and, in full make-up, returns to the house to murder his torturers. Goading his young charge ever onwards, Terayama played Andy Warhol to Caesar's Lou Reed.

J.A. Caesar was accompanied throughout all of these performances by his own rock ensemble Akuma no le [2] which featured the brilliant lead guitarist Takeshi Mori, plus a whole host of percussionists as well as the aforementioned Japanese instrumentalists. Certain of Caesar's works required more specialised Western-styled rock'n'roll contributions, at which time Caesar would bring in auxiliary members to boost his musical arsenal. Such was the man's reputation in the early '70s that he could command the services of such well-known rock musicians as Foodbrain's organist Hiro Yanagida or the Happenings Four's Kuni Kawachi.

However, despite most of Caesar's LPs having consistently yielded large amounts of fascinating and wildly eventful music, I have included in my Top 50 section only those records that stand alone as coherent musical statements even when removed from the context of the play they were intended to illustrate. Otherwise, I am fearful that my own love of this artist's entire worldview will appear off-putting to those dipping their toes into his acid bath for the first time. Right now, however, we shall go back to J.A. Caesar's roots and deal with the historical content of his life story. For this singular artist has a story well worth telling...

A Young Person's Guide to Desert Islands

J.A. Caesar's life began in 1948, on the sparsely populated southern island of Kyushu, over 600 miles southwest of Tokyo. Information about his early life is fragmented, for this natural self-mythologiser has always been reluctant to disclose details 'in order to retain my mystery', [3] but Caesar is happy enough to admit to having been born a Libran named Takaaki Terahara, and to have had his first vision dawn on the beach at Mimi Gawa, in 1952. Here, aged four, Caesar witnessed a lunar eclipse and was so transfixed by the event that he declared to his parents that he was 'jealous of God, because God had written the music of the tides moving the water back and forth'. [4] Although such displays of mysticism are rare in such young children, Kyushu islanders are well known throughout Japan for their independent spirits; indeed, it was a Kyushu man whose actions brought down the overly conservative government before World War I and instigated Japan's first policy of modernising the islands. Caesar, however, felt unhappy and too isolated on Kyushu's barren east coast. Mainly friendless, the lonely child steeped himself in Buddhist prana teachings and spent all of his spare time writing poetry or walking on the empty beaches staring at the horizon. Caesar became increasingly convinced that he could 'create his own world, his own original customs, civilisation or even nature', [5] and was, like the late-nineteenth-century American poet Vachel Lindsay, determined to experience life as a Gnostic odyssey through the land of his ancestors. And so, in late 1962, the fifteen-year-old Caesar packed up his belongings and headed northwards, taking with him a handwritten book of his own poetry and the first volume of Hannya Shinkyo, a Buddhist prana teaching written in Sanskrit.

In America, the early '60s was the era of the travelling beat poet, but the outer reaches of post-war Japan were still in such a chaotic state of repair that the wandering futen was an everyday sight, and it took the young Caesar several rides in the clapped-out cars of locals before he'd even left his own prefecture of Miyazuki. Thereafter, his journey took him up the northeast coast to Usuki, where he slept under the stars after visiting the famous Buddha statues on the road towards Notsu. The following day, with neither money nor food, Caesar was befriended by a young woman [6] on the outskirts of Oita prefecture's capital city. Eighteen long months older than Caesar, the girl told him that her name was Jiya (Freedoml and that she was a huge fan of Tokyo eleki band the Spiders. Entranced by Caesar's futen spirit and seemingly practical lifestyle, Jiya joined him on the road north formulating wild plans of travelling to Tokyo, where she would work for the Spiders. To further impress her, Caesar told Jiya that he too had taken a wanderer's name and was known to his friends as Jigen (Dimension). However, travelling together as a couple was far harder than either Jiya or Caesar had anticipated, and the pair took almost a week to reach Kita Kyushu passage, where their island met Japan's main island of Honshu. Heading east on the road to Hiroshima, the young couple were soon forced to take temporary cleaning jobs in the tiny town of Ajisu in order to earn enough money to eat, and, by the spring of 1963, they were still barely thirty miles from Kyushu's northernmos point This was nothing like the romantic beat-poet lifestyle that Jigen Caesar had intended, and his self-belief plummeted. Indeed, the teenager found the situation so intolerable that he decided to get shit-faced drunk and commit himself to the ocean. Late the following evening, Jigen and Jiya walked drunkenly down on to the beach a Fushino Gawa, where Jiya suggested melodramatically that they should make a suicide pact. However, as the two walked out upon the shifting sands, neither knew that this particular stretch of shoreline contained some of the most vicious currents in the whole of Japan, and both found themselves in immediate difficulties. Drunk and exhausted, Caesar blacked out in the surf and woke up next morning to find Jiya gone. Her body was never retrieved from the sea.

Jigen Enters the Zero Dimension

Throughout 1963, Caesar struggled to rid himself of the guilt he felt over his companion's death, but his tortured mind veered between feelings of utter nihilism and a desperate desire to return to the safety of his family. His nihilistic feeling won the day, however, and the fifteen-year-old soon made connections with members of Hiroshima's yakusa, or criminal underworld. The yakusa set him to work as a Scoutman, a kind of pimp for their liquor industry, pressing young women to work for low wages as hosutessu, or hostesses. Caesar found this occupation easy and, between 1964 and late 1966, slowly worked his passage east towards his ultimate Tokyo destination, making an easy living as the yakusa's Scoutman in the cities of Okayama, Osaka, Nagoya and finally Shizuoka, less than a hundred miles southwest of Tokyo. Here, Caesar met another Scoutman named Joji Abe, who claimed that he was off to Tokyo to make his fortune as an actor and writer. Around Christmas 1966, however, Caesar was enraged to discover that several of 'his' hostesses had been lured abroad by the yakusa to work as prostitutes. After a huge argument in which his yakusa boss drew a sword on him, Caesar was forced to flee. Swearing to break off all ties with the criminal underworld, he made for Tokyo.

Now comparatively wealthy from his illicit activities, Caesar decided to return to higher education in order to gain entrance to Tokyo University. For the next few months, he lived quietly in a small bedsit and attended one of the many cramming schools that are, even nowadays, still popular among students who have temporarily dropped out. Gaining the required passes for his intended university course, Caesar was happy to pay the huge 700,000 yen fee and set off one foggy morning to deposit the money with the university's entrance board. However, in a now-stereo-typical J.A. Caesar moment, he lost his way in the thick fog and, in his own words:

Once ensconced in the design school's boarding house, however, Caesar's violent yakusa past almost got him expelled after he beat an older student to a bloody pulp for stealing the breakfast of one of his friends. Deciding to keep a low profile for once, Caesar worked hard throughout 1967 and began to grow his hair long after one of his female lecturers declared that long hair made one's sixth sense grow stronger. Modelling his hip new look on Scott Walker, Caesar was photographed at his college Christmas party singing 'House of the Rising Sun' in full Walker Brothers regalia. At the beginning of 1968, however, Caesar's yakusa past returned once more to haunt him. While playing a game of Mahjong in the college refectory, three of his new college friends returned from the local take-away empty-handed, their faces bloody and bruised. They had been robbed by the Tokyo yakusa, said his friends, who - from a safe distance - had cautiously followed their assailants to their home. A self-righteous fury descended upon Caesar, and he hastened to the yakusa hangout and beat several shades of shit out of two of the gangsters, returning with his friends' money. However, the following day, one of the three college friends who had suffered the attack encountered the same yakusa at the railway station. Caesar's college friend was informed that the yakusa knew who Caesar was, knew about his past, knew where he lived, and that there was now a price on his head. [8] In a panic, Caesar and his three friends left their college rooms and, in Caesar's own words:

Rebel without an Address

Caesar spent the summer of '68 in Tokyo's turbulent Shinjuku district, where the hippies of Japan had begun to gather around the Village Gate jazz club and two coffee shops, Ogi and the Go-Go-Café. With long straight black hair down to his waist, Caesar was now unrecognisable as the former underworld Scoutman; more-over, his canny ability to survive as a futen made him something of a blueprint to aspire to among the hordes of young refuseniks arriving from all over the islands, and many began to copy him. Three other particularly long-haired futens began to frequent Shinjuku, each gaining notoriety as uber-outsiders among the Japanese media. Unlike Caesar, they each acquired their nicknames from other hippies or media people, and were known as Kiristo (Christ), Gurriba (Gulliver the Traveller) and Barbara (the Barbarian). But Shinjuku was far too populated an area to accommodate the vast numbers of new hippie arrivals, and others began to set up communes in nearby Kokubunji, or in the ex-US Army camp at Fukuzumi. If the Group Sounds phenomenon had caused suspicion among Japan's conservative elders, this new lifestyle was about to send them through the roof; especially as the well-respected movie director Shuji Terayama was known to have gone into print encouraging young people to leave their parents' homes and embark on a life on the road.

But Caesar's disputes with the yakusa and his increasing media notoriety as 'Futen Number One' were beginning to drive him to distraction, as his artistic life was now totally disrupted. The era of free love was giving way to the era of revolution, and a new breed of hippie had begun to appear on the streets. Known in America as Yippies and White Panthers, these were not peace freaks but activists determined to overthrow the present regime. And on the streets of Japan's biggest cities, these tough activists called themselves Foku Gerira (Folk Guerrilla) and, in Tokyo, they demanded of the four futens that they must declare on which side of the fence they stood. Paying no attention to the politics, Caesar regarded all the activists as just more of the same old threatening yakusa shit, and looked for a bolthole into which to escape. [10] Caesar was hanging out in Ogi one day, drinking coffee, when Christ walked up to him, proffering two tickets for the latest Shuji Terayama production Hanafuda Denki. But Caesar declined: 'Sorry, Futen, I'm never sure how to take actors. If they're prepared to parrot somebody else's lines, then I'm not sure I'm interested in them.'

Ms Saki, Ms Maki, Ms Emaki & the Systemisation of Accidental Meetings

A couple of weeks later, Caesar was riding the bullet train back to Shinjuku, after a couple of days bumming around the beaches of Atami on the southeast coast an hour's ride away from Tokyo. He got talking to a pretty girl named Benten Emaki, who explained that she was an actress in the cast of Shuji Terayama's latest Tenjo Sajiki production The Era Comes in on the Back of a Circus Elephant. Caesar took an interest once he knew that his favourite singer Carmen Maki had become a Tenjo Sajiki member, but was disappointed to discover on the night of the performance that Maki was away making a TV performance. However, Caesar was mightily impressed by Maki's understudy Yoko Ran, and heard something in her song 'Dove' that resounded so deeply within him that he later described Ran's performance as having 'started my theatre music career'. Utterly convinced by this song alone, as well as with Tenjo Sajiki's whole production attitude, Caesar returned to the theatre next day, where he caught sight of Carmen Maki rehearsing. Entranced by Maki, Caesar had a romantic premonition and was unsurprised when she approached him after the rehearsal. He and Maki spent the evening in the Go-Go-Café and the following night together; there-after they returned to Terayama's theatre, where Caesar ran into an old friend, Nigoshichi Shimouna, who was also member of Tenjo Sajiki. With Caesar still in shock from this discovery, who should walk in but Shuji Terayama himself. Taking one look at Caesar's outrageous appearance, Terayama asked: 'Do you do plays?' When Caesar replied in the negative, Terayama looked at Caesar's old friend and winked, then he caught Caesar's eye and said: 'Stay with us. You'll have some fun.' Caesar remarked later that after so many years of statelessness, Terayama's fatherly invitation to 'stay with us' was the most welcoming sound he could have imagined. Only much later did Caesar discover that Terayama's invitation had been motivated by one of the director's own major theories; a theory he had written about in a book entitled The Systemisation of Accidental Meetings, and which defined itself most succinctly in the manner in which J.A. Caesar had been 'delivered' to Shuji Terayama's door. The series of coincidences was completed, however, when Caesar developed an interest in Tenjo Sajiki actress and author Saki Takahashi [11], only to discover that she was being courted by his old yakusa mate from Shizuoka, the former Scoutman Joji Abe, who was himself in the process of fulfilling his own ambition to become a writer and actor.

To celebrate Caesar's arrival, Terayama shoehorned a role for him into The Era Comes in on the Back of a Circus Elephant, casting him as a life-size rag doll who does nothing but play the drums. Despite having no lines at all, Caesar's appearance caused uproar and delighted approval among both audience and press. He moved into the apartment of his old school friend Nigoshichi Shimouna, inherited a kitten from singer Yoko Ran as a symbol of his new domesticity, and phoned his parents' home for the first time in four years. After a tearful reconciliation, they readily agreed to send all of the childhood songs and poems that had fuelled his days down on distant Kyushu. The time had come for Caesar to fulfil his longstanding dream of creating his 'own original customs, civilisation, or even nature'...

The Scream That Wishes to Change the World

By early 1969, despite having zero experience in the field of theatre music, Caesar found himself thrown in at the deep end, writing and arranging songs for Tenjo Sajiki's highly experienced musical ensemble Kangokutai (Jail Team), who were unsurprisingly suspicious of the futen's slight CV. However, the ultra-charming Caesar eventually won around the entire ensemble, with the exception of guitarist Shinichi Kurita, whose steady relationship with Carmen Maki had dissolved after her night with Caesar. But nothing could dissuade Caesar from the happiness he experienced in his new role, later commenting: 'I felt the purity of boyhood among the Tenjo Sajiki members, all of us completely absorbed, like children playing in a sandpit.'

By the middle of 1969, Caesar had completed his first wholly original theatre piece for Tenjo Sajiki. Entitled 'Odyssey '69', it utilised many of his teenage poems and some beat writings, but was unfortunately never recorded. However, the success of this first work allowed Caesar to increase considerably the pace at which he could compose, and the young ex-futen now took the opportunity to bring together his own musical ensemble, the aforementioned Akuma no le. First, the cuckolded Shinichi Kurita was replaced by Takeshi Mori, a beautiful young lead guitarist whose Whirling Dervish style shared an affinity with Flower Travellin' Band's Hideki Ishima, introducing a singularly Far Eastern and futuristic element into Tenjo Sajiki's soundtracks. With new boys Yuzo Kawata on bass and Shigeyuki Suzuki on drums, the 21-year-old Caesar now felt like the elder statesman, even confident enough to deliver new material written on koto as well as on piano and guitar. Sporting a Hendrix-style moustache to denote his new maturity and wearing his hair longer than ever, Caesar began the '70s with the chaotic rehearsals of Sho o Suteyo, Machi e Deyo (Throw Away the Books, We're Going Out in the Streets), Shuji Terayama's new 'city play' whose outsider ideas had first been published in the playwright's controversial book of the same name. Aimed at teenagers, and containing themes which espoused running away from home and rejecting traditional values, Terayama's book had helped instigate the entire futen movement of the late '60s and gained its author a high degree of notoriety throughout Japan's conservative society.

At this symbolic doorway between the vanishing idealism of the '60s and the decadence of the '70s, however, it's essential that we now step back for a moment in order to address Caesar's situation. For, despite our young culture hero's great trek across southern Japan and his subsequent warm welcome into the bosom of Terayama's 'family', this was in many ways the end of the J.A. Caesar story, as the young ex-futen surrounded himself with like minds and set about enriching Terayama's Tenjo Sajiki dreams by bringing forth songs and poems inspired by his time on the road. This was not to be a rock'n'roll tale of career-building in the traditional music-business sense. And no manager, visionary or otherwise, would ever be on hand to prepare Caesar's next strategy on the road to acclaim and riches, or to cause his downfall through excessive womanising or poor financial moves. Indeed, J.A. Caesar had no strategy of his own, being always at the beck-and-call of Shuji Terayama's enormous theatrical vision.

And so, for the next thirteen long years, Tenjo Sajiki's roller-coasting schedule and Terayama's extraordinary expectations of the young ex-futen pitched our hero into making the kind of artistic achievements that only gruellingly long hours and hard work can bring. Called upon daily to rewrite this and alter that, Caesar quickly became an adept at troubleshooting awkward situations in a manner that was both artistic and practical. Understanding how lucky he was to have been selected by such a cultural iconoclast as Terayama, Caesar shouldered as much responsibility as he could take and more, knowing that he had been granted an artistic platform like nobody else. For over a decade, songs and theatrical poems spewed out of him as though he were some minstrel at the court of a medieval king, one minute delivering some visionary elegy, the next involved in such thankless last-minute tasks as shoring up a play's dead moments with an invigorating 'ditty', sometimes pinched from an earlier work, or even eviscerating favourite songs so as to allow Terayama's folkie mate Kan Mikami more time for 'shouting'.

Throughout this fertile '70s period, Caesar was to write literally dozens of musical scores for Terayama. And yet Caesar's highest (known) artistic achievements - JASUMON, BARAMON, SHIN TOKU MARU, DEN EN NI SHISU and AHOBUNE - were mostly barfed out in a fairly perfunctory manner wherever mobile recording facilities were easily accessible. Moreover, like many recordings of the classic jazz era, the Caesar albums that have passed down to us from this extremely plentiful period of his career (and whose superb contents have inspired me to write this short biography) were simply intended as live snapshots of certain shows. Who knows what works of psychedelicised genius await the future excavator of J.A. Caesar's work? Apart from those very few recordings that were deemed worthy of a full vinyl LP release, most were simply packaged 'musicassettes' available from Tenjo Sajiki's merchandise stall along with the posters and other memorabilia that concert goers like to spend money on as evidence of an enjoyable evening. Of course, it's to be hoped that the publication of this Japrocksampler will inspire those in control of Caesar's work to re-issue it all. But so little is available at the present time (December 2006) that I'm delighted to have had access to so much of it. When listening to Caesar's albums, it is also essential to remember that none were sequenced with any real thought about repeated listening in the manner of classic rock'n'roll LPs. Indeed, for this very reason, I have chosen to include in my Top 50 only those Caesar soundtracks that work coherently and cohesively as 'stand alone' pieces. As for cataloguing Caesar's enormous '70s work schedule and travel itinerary, suffice it to say that even during Tenja Sajiki's annual travels to arts festivals in the Netherlands, France, Yugoslavia, Denmark and Iran, the composer appears always to have been at Terayama's right hand, just in case script adjustments meant the rewriting of a song, overture or poem.

The Death of Shuji Terayama & Afterwards...

However, Caesar's world changed utterly on 4th May 1983, with the untimely death of Shuji Terayama at the age of forty-eight. Having spent all of his adult life in thrall to the master and even now only in his mid-thirties, Caesar yearned for the cloistered safety that his relationship with Terayama had brought. The feeling of empowerment he had derived from putting forward some particularly extreme concept was suddenly swept from under him, and Caesar spent much of the year engaged in composing a depressing eulogy to his mentor entitled 'Saraba Hakobune' (A Farewell to the Ark). Next Caesar instigated the Gravity theatre lab, but it was soon announced that Terayama had bequeathed Tenjo Sajiki to the middle-aged futen, and both Gravity and Tenjo Sajiki came to be run through the theatre company and publishing imprint Banryu Inryoku. With Terayama out of the picture, Caesar's star nevertheless began to fade. Unable to command the same attention without its figurehead, Tenjo Sajiki's 1984 production Lemmings - Take Me to the End of the World received only marginal publicity, and Caesar's soundtrack was deemed unworthy of a vinyl release, turning up instead as a cassette-only soundtrack available at shows. [12] For much of the '80s, Caesar and Tenjo Sajiki continued on this much-reduced level, so reduced indeed that my investigation of this period became tricky. Although Tenjo Sajiki's long-time international connections guaranteed the company's occasional return to the arts festivals in France, Belgrade, Amsterdam and Berlin, Caesar's career began to sink beneath the radar, and he bided his time by writing and arranging albums for Singers Kauki Tomokawa, Morita Douji and his old flame Carmen Maki.

In 1991, Caesar's Banyru Inryoku group [13] was invited to perform Terayama's version of King Lear at London's Mermaid Theatre, as part of the Japan Festival. But thereafter work became sporadic and Caesar was reduced to supplementing his theatre work throughout the '90s by making cheaply recorded soundtracks for porn movies. It was in this manner that Caesar eked out the barest of livings until the arrival in the late '90s of a new animé superstar, the 'revolutionary girl Utena' of the series Shojo Kakumei Utena, written and produced by Kunihiro Ikuhara. As a former student activist himself, Ikuhara still held fond memories of Caesar's choral rock'n'roll, and was determined to evoke the spirit of the futen's primary era in the musical accompaniment of his cartoon 'revolutionary girl Utena'. The Utena series propelled Caesar back into the spotlight with the release of seven soundtrack albums between 1998 and the end of the millennium, causing something of a J.A. Caesar revival. In 2002, the re-issue label P-Vine released a compilation of Caesar material OKAMI SHONEN (Wolf Boy), subtitled 'Pilgrimage of Blood'. Although the compilation contains music from as far back as the 1972 period, those seeking the wild orgasmic rock of Caesar's Akuma No le band should, however, proceed with caution. Nevertheless, as the music of Julius Arnest Caesar remains some of the greatest to have emerged from the late '60s and '705 rock dimension, we can only expect his futen phenomenon to grow and grow.

Tokyo Kid Brothers

The story of the Tokyo Kid Brothers commenced in the summer of 1968, when Tenjo Sajiki's Yulaka Higashi left to form his own splinter underground/experimental theatre troupe with eight close friends from his former high school. Naming the troupe Kid Brothers in deference to his roots as an apprentice of Shuji Terayama, Higashi secured a residency at Shinjuku's Panic Disco, where the dancers performed Kokyokyoku dai Hachi ban wa Mikansei Datta (Symphony Number 8 Was Unfinished) from December '68 into the new year. In order to help finance themselves, leader Higashi opened a theatre shop named 'Hair', while the troupe's performance of their second musical The Golden Bat, written by singer Itsuro Shimoda, ran from December 1969 to April '70. In February 1970, a Hair producer B. Casteri came to see the Kid Brothers' performance, and was so impressed that he proposed helping to finance the troupe on a trip to New York. When negotiations with Casteri fell through, however, Yutaka Higashi decided to risk taking the troupe to New York at their own expense, at which time he changed their name to Tokyo Kid Brothers so as to resonate more strongly in the USA. From May 10 December 1970, The troupe performed The Golden Bat at an off-Broadway theatre named La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, where the play was advertised as a 'Voodoo Musical', declaring 'Golden Bat Is The 13th Emissary With A Universal Mission'; other poster comments included 'Noah's Ark Sailing Journal', 'The Paradise Of Tokyo In The Hell Of Japan', 'Japanese Pilgrimage Story' and 'Greek Tragedy: Tokyo Version'. Returning in January 1971, the company recorded the play as their debut LP for Polydor Records, with musical arrangements from Foodbrain's organist (and former Hair musician) Hiro Yanagida. After a triumphant Tokyo show entitled Return of the Golden Bat at the Korakuuen Hall, the troupe started work on their next show Nanso Satomi Hakkende (The Story of Eight Dogs), named after a very important Japanese mythical classic. In April 1971, the company left for Europe, first releasing a concert LP combining the best material from their three shows. However, it was not until Tokyo Kid Brothers rejected the work of Itsuro Shimoda in favour of their own reading of Shuji Terayama's own 'Sho o Suteyo, Machi e Deyo' (Throw Away the Books, We're Going Out in the Streets) that this troupe really hit the mark. Gone was the pleasant singing and love'n'peace atmosphere, replaced instead by quarrelsome dialogue, hectic urgent guitar heavy rock, funereal dirges, ecstatic anthems and mawkish chorales in the vein of Tenjo Sajiki. Indeed, the album version released in 1971, on Victor Records, is an underground classic, said to have featured contributions from Flower Travellin' Band's guitarist Hideki Ishima and organ by J.A. Caesar himself. Unfortunately, this release proved to be the absolute zenith of Tokyo Kid Brothers' recordings, and future releases such as THE LOST COLOUR BLUE (Polydor Records), ONE & THE SAME DOOR (King Records), OCTOBER IS THE GOLDEN COUNTRY (Warner Pioneer) and the self-released EP LOVE & BANANA proved to be patchy affairs, with too many outside songwriters watering down their sound. In 2000, founder Yutaka Higashi died and P-Vine Records released a sumptuous 6CD commemorative box. However, despite the Inclusion of song contributions by many Japrock legends, the overall standard of Tokyo Kid Brothers' performances was pale indeed, when compared to J.A. Caesar-period Tenjo Sajiki.

Footnotes: (go back)

  1. Misunderstandings abound in the crazy world of J.A. Caesar, who admitted in later interviews that his middle initial was intended to refer to one of his childhood heroes, actor Ernest Borgnine. However, as the Japanese pronounce the name 'Arnest', so Caesar's middle initial became 'A' not 'E'.
  2. In its most simplistic translation, Akuma no le means something like 'Devil's House'. However, 'Akuma' does not really allude to anything approaching the Judaeo-Christian vision of the Devil, and summons in the Japanese mind meanings closer to 'demon', 'deuce', 'diabolus', 'evil spirit', 'Old Nick', 'serpent', 'scratch', 'succubus' or 'unclean spirit'.
  3. Takeo Udagawa, Shizumitsu Tsuchiya, Alex Mizuno, Toru Ueda, Tomisada Namura, The World of J.A. Caesar: Originator of Japanese Psychedelic Culture, the Living legend of Tenjosajiki & Banyuinyoko (Byakuya Shobo 2002).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Caesar claims that he has never given out Freedom's real name for fear of reprisals from her family. But the more likely answer seems to be that he himself never knew it.
  7. Udagawa et al., The World of J.A. Caesar.
  8. When, in 2002, Caesar was asked to confirm this story by the journalist Seiko Tsuchiya, he replied simply: 'They were after a different person, a friend of mine.'
  9. Udagawa et al., The World of J.A. Caesar. Tatami is a woven straw mat around 170 centimetres long by 90 centimetres wide. Its size is standardised and, therefore, is often used to describe the size of a room.
  10. In 2002, Caesar told the journalist Seiko Tsuchiya: 'I was not a natural revolutionary, and believed that unless one liberated oneself, we could never be free. I always thought we ourselves should be the first area for liberation. Even when you chant revolution in a group, it tends to be one person chanting and the others getting together and sympathising with the word.'
  11. Saki Takahashi later wrote a history of the early years of the Tenjo Sajiki Theatre Company, entitled '15 Sai: Tenjo Sajiki Monogatori' (Fifteen Years Old: The Tenjo Sajiki Story).
  12. THE LEMMINGS cassette was re-issued on CD in 2000 on the Banyru Inryoku label.
  13. There is much historical footage - posters, adverts, tickets and the like - on Caesar's current Banyru inryoku homepage here: http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/~banyuinryoku/index.html. More is available at: http://www.land-navi.com/backstage/tirasi/banyu2.htm

Select Discography

.JASUMON ('Heresy')1972Victor
.BARAMON ('Rose Gate')1973Victor
.DENEN NI SHISU ('Death in the Country')1974Sony
.SHIN TOKU MARU ('Poison Body Circle')1978Victor
.NUHIKUN ('Directions to Servants')1979(cassette only)
.SEALBREAKING SONGS1980Ain't Group Sounds
.KUSA MEIKYU ('Grass labyrinth')1983
.THE LEMMINGS1984 (cassette only);
Banyru Inryoku (2000)
.SARABA HAKOBUNE ('Farewell to the Ark')1984SMS
.KING LEAR1991(cassette only)
.OKAMI SHONEN aka PILGRIMAGE OF BLOOD2002P-Vine (compilation)