Takeshi Terauchi and the Bunnys
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By AV+ ML
Little known in the U.S. is Japan’s premier guitar hero, Takeshi Terauchi, affectionately known as Terry. Terry started recording electric guitar (or ‘eleki’) music in the early Sixties. His best recordings in the mid-to-late Sixties were with two different bands: the adorably named Bunnys and Blue Jeans. Generally, the music itself is Ventures inspired instrumentals accented with fuzzed-out whammy bar acrobatics. What makes The Bunnys and Blue Jeans unique is that they were also influenced by traditional Japanese Minyo, that is, very old rural folk songs. Terry recorded many a Minyo with the electric guitar at the helm in place of traditional instruments like the Shamisen.
Terry-san ranks close behind Western contemporaries Link Wray and Davie Allan when it comes to bad-ass guitar riffing. And though finding articles on him in your favorite magazine or finding his records in your local music shop proves a chore, The Bunnys and Blue Jeans have been included on a number of popular compilations, most notably, Pebbles from Around the World, the excellent Planet X GS collection Monster A Go-Go, Guitar Mood, the Hot Nips series, and the Corumbia Sixties Japanese Garage-Psych Sampler.
The simple answer as to Terry’s absence on the American scene is probably that his records were pressed for the Japanese market and not really made for distribution elsewhere. Who fault is that…? Who knows. Still, he is not entirely unknown in these parts. Galactic surfernauts Man or Astro-Man? tear-up Bunnys’ classic Test Driver on the Experiment Zero LP on Touch & Go Records. Hitomi I at Cutie Morning Moon tells us that Tsugaru Jongarabushi, a Minyo recorded by both Bunnys & Blue Jeans, influenced Brian May’s guitar on Brighton Rock. In the ReSearch book Incredibly Strange Music Vol. 2, Jello Biafra states that Terry’s 1966 release Blues Jeans Golden Album is one of the best instrumental records he’s ever heard.
Terry recorded with The Blue Jeans during the early to mid Sixties. The Blue Jeans belted out surf instrumentals with authority and Terry’s guitar is always interesting. Management problems coupled with the need to keep up with changing times triggered Takeshi’s departure from Blues Jeans in 1966. The Beatles invaded and GS, or Group Sounds (Mersey Beat pop sap with vocals), was in. Terry recruited unknown players to form his own GS band, the Bunnys. Joining forces with him was Tatuya Ogino (organ, vibes), Hajime Ono (bass), Hiroshi Kurosawa (gtr, harmonica, vcls), Tadashi Inoue (drums, vcls, shakuhachi), and Hideyuki Koshiishi (gtr, flute, vcls). Terry’s years with Bunnys were brief: – from Dec. of ‘66 through ‘68. Terry’s Bunnys put out 16 singles, and 6 LPs, including a live album.
The Bunnys’ 1st single, Terry’s Theme b/w Test Driver, captures Terry’s monster guitar at its best coupled with an unrelenting Sci–Fi organ. Their 2nd single, Irrevocable Vow b/w Dream in the Ocean contains not so frantic guitar. Instead it is reminiscent of a snooze-inducing crooner, like early Beach Boys’ harmonious pop sounds. Both appear on their 1st LP, Let’s Go Terry ’66. Although these are not standout vocal endeavors, there are other vocal tracks that are. Burning, Burning, for example, combines an oddly timed beat, wild guitar, and harmonies with yelps and moans into a highly passionate stomper. Flamenco guitar influence can be heard in the last song on the first record, as Terry started to look to other guitar styles and folk tunes for inspiration. His next move was to add something uniquely Japanese to an otherwise Western sound.
Seicho Terauchi-Bushi, released in ’67, is Terry’s interpretation of Japanese Minyo. He replaced the traditional shamisen (3-string instrument) with his powerful electric guitar sound and created fresh and exciting eleki versions of 200 year old songs. This heightened his fame, as he simultaneously exposed his young audience to something from past generations and gained the older crowd’s respect. This was the Bunnys’ most successful record, selling over 100,000 copies and becoming the best selling GS record at the time.
1967 was a busy year for The Bunnys, as they released 8 singles on Seven Seas and 3 LP’s on King. Some are better than others. The single Let’s Go Shake b/w Shake No. 1, presents crazy, eccentric yet melodic vocals topping a dance beat characterizing the Bunnys’ sound. Tsugaru Jongarabushi b/w Dark Eyes both utilized a combination of shamisens, and electric instruments. Joining Bunnys, Mr. Michiya Mihashi plays shamisen on these awesome modern renditions of traditional tunes. Their 3rd LP, The World is Waiting for Terry, contains Moanin’, a rippin’ toe-tapping instrumental, along with covers like House of the Rising Sun, Night Train, and Blue Moon.
In 1967 Koshiishi quit the band to join the Edwards and Suzuki replaced him. Their next record, Let’s Go Classics, is an excellent collection of Western Classical songs. Highlights include excellent fuzz versions of Beethoven’s For Elise and 5th Symphony. Other instantly recognizable tunes, Flight of the Bumblebee, Swan Lake, and Carmen are done eleki style. This record is all balls sans wimpy string arrangements. It sold over 100,000 copies. It was issued in West Germany.
Their last release, Bunnys Golden Album, is a collection of singles and some vocal tracks from the 1st LP. You can see the Bunnys performing Let’s Go Bugalu in the 1968 film, Yoake No Hutari. This is like a Frankie and Annette beach party number with references to Hendrix’s Spanish Castle Magic shoved in (checkout the 5, 6, 7, 8’s version on Teenage Mojo Workout LP). Three more singles and a live LP, Bunnys Golden Concert, were also released that same year.
Unfortunately, the Bunnys never toured outside of Japan. Terry left in the Fall of ‘68 to form his own Blues Jeans but not before recording Christmas Party, swinging renditions of Jingle Bells / Blue Christmas/ Here Comes Santa Claus. Accompanied by children gone wild this instrumental begins with Terry wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. He introduces the band members and then himself as a “very good charming boy.” You can find these tracks on the Bunnys’ singles collection 2.
In 1969, the Bunnys backed Terry on Usukudara b/w Dark Eyes and Blue Star b/w Unchained Melody. These are easy listening efforts. That same year, without Terry, the Bunnys put out Tasogare b/w Samishisona Shojo and recorded an unreleased version of Hair. After a few releases on Liberty, they never scored a hit again and disbanded in 1971. One can assume Terry’s departure was due to his need to concentrate on his guitar playing. He has had a brilliant career, and still plays today. His influence on current Japanese popular music can be heard in bands like The Mad 3, Spoozys and countless others.
Special thanks to Mr. Glenn Sadin, Hitmoi I, and the most honorable Toshi Taga (http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/index.html) for supplying information and material for this article.