Oct 25, 2020
Welcome to Episode 9 of Holly Jolly X'masu! In this episode, I talk about an overlooked classic from 1972, “Merry Christmas From Sellstars,” by Takao Hirata and Sellstars. This is an album I discovered quite by accident. Its unassuming cover, which looks like a big square of loose-leaf paper, is one I passed by several times before curiosity finally got the best of me. I’m glad I gave it a chance because it’s a wonderful album.
Takao Hirata and Sellstars were a two-hit wonder from early 70s Japan. They managed to put together a fantastic album whose overall quality more than makes up for its brief, 31-minute runtime. The main attractions are the two medleys, but the remainder of the album is nearly as enjoyable, delivering an early 70s, Sergio Medes-esque Yuletide sampler that stays just funky enough to avoid falling into an Easy Listening lull. It’s a great blend of styles and I’ve listened to it countless times since I got it.
After toiling in obscurity for a few years, Takao Hirata burst onto the scene in 1971 with a huge hit, “The Devil is Hard,” then had a whirlwind of a year in 1972, releasing four full LPs and an even bigger hit, “The Bee Musashi Is Dead.” Their star quickly faded after that, but they remained popular enough with their fans to stage a fairly successful comeback in the 90s, and they enjoyed several years of success on the concert trail.
As I mention in this episode, “Merry Christmas From Sellstars” really exemplifies why I collect these albums and do this podcast. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed most about collecting Christmas music is when someone online uncovers a forgotten, long lost song or album. Occasionally, something really great will come to light, like Joseph Washington Jr.’s “Merry Christmas from Joseph,” an extremely obscure, 1980’s R&B album that got a proper re-release a few years ago. With the Japanese Christmas music, almost everything I’ve purchased would be considered obscure or unknown in the US. What pleases me the most, though, are the albums that are little known and hard to find even in Japan.
While “Merry Christmas From Sellstars” is far from the most obscure album I’ve found, it’s one that I’m certain hasn’t been heard much, if at all, in the US. It’s never been rereleased and can’t be streamed. It’s not listed on Discogs and you’re probably not going to see it on eBay. Tracking down and buying the nearly 50-year-old vinyl is truly the only way to hear it. For me, playing an album like this the first time is a real delight, especially when the music turns out to be as good as this is. An even bigger thrill, though, is putting together a podcast episode about it and sharing it with others. I might not have the biggest listenership in the world, and I don’t have any illusions about making money from this, but I truly enjoy getting to present these artists to those of you who are listening.
As I mentioned in the episode, here’s the link to the video of Chieko Baisho’s “Reminiscence,” followed by Takao Hirata and Sellstars’ hits, “The Devil is Hard,” and “The Bee Musashi Is Dead”:
As always, thanks for listening. Next month, I’ll be featuring the 1986 compilation, “Winter Lounge.” There were some fantastic Christmas compilations put out in Japan in the 80’s, and this is one of the best. It features a diverse array of artists and includes one of my favorite Japanese Christmas songs. You don’t want to miss it. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or recommendations, feel free to send them my way. Also, be sure to check out some of the other Christmas podcasts mentioned in this month’s episodes. They’re a great way to keep Christmas going year-round.
Any feedback on this episode would be appreciated. If you’d like to recommend a song or album for a future episode, drop me a line and let me know.
Remember, I've added a button to my Ko-fi page. If you'd like to support me one cup of coffee at a time, a donation is only $3. Any donations received will be put towards purchasing new Japanese Christmas music to review for future episodes. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And if you get a chance, leave me a review on iTunes. Thanks!