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Kenji Sawada — Stripper (ス・ト・リ・ッ・パ・ー)

Yup, that album cover says it right there. This was no longer Kenji Sawada(沢田研二) of the old Group Sounds band, The Tigers….this was Julie The Sex Machine! As you’ll see from the video, he made himself available to just about everyone. Personally, I thought he probably would have made a better foil for David Bowie than Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一) in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”.

This NHK video from 1994 is pretty tame considering my first viewing of him when he came on the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen. Throughout the program, I saw frilly-dressed aidoru bouncing about, yukata-garbed enka veterans warbling away and other singers in between. Then, HE came out. My jaw was fully dropped. Kenji Sawada looked like a mixture of the late American comedienne Phyllis Diller and David Bowie during his Aladdin Insane phase. And then came this low and rumbling dangerous bass and a twangy electric guitar before Julie started bopping about singing these lyrics:

Take off the heels, take off the rouge,
When you’ve taken everything off, come here,
We can’t start until you’re naked,
Start of the show, baby,
Take off the past, take off the yesterday,
When you’ve taken everything off, come here,
It won’t do to hide your eyes to escape,
Morning, night, noon…passion is a stripper
Naked contact,
Summer, Fall, Winter….love is a stripper
I’ll show you but I win, baby,
I’ll show you everything I got,
I wanna see everything you got!

Yup, I think there was a reason for him being slotted into the 2nd half of the program. NHK probably didn’t want any more parents and senior citizens storming the gates with swords and pitchforks on New Year’s Eve. I would’ve loved to have been in the audience when Julie showed up and performed. A lot of those folks knew him as the nice vocalist from The Tigers….not anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if the inspiration for Visual-kei came from him.

Sawada composed the song with Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子) taking care of the lyrics. Released in September 1981, “Stripper” rose to No. 6 on the Oricon charts and won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. The single also managed to sell 350,000 records. The album, “S/T/R/I/P/P/E/R” had already come out in June 1981 and peaked at No. 13.

courtesy of Kenji Sawada
from Flickr