Like a lot of you, I originally got wrapped into this whole idol business though the all-consuming, all-powerful multi-media conglomerate we call Hello! Project. Once I saw the MV for Morning Musume‘s “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari”, I was essentially on a path of no return and life has never been quite the same, and I’m okay with that!
But in time, chika idols entered my world, and by then, the pre-fabricated environment of H!P just wasn’t hooking me like it used to. Sure, I’d check in every so often and see what was new, but for the most part, it’s been a cherished but yet distant part of my fandom past. But very recently, an all-new new H!P unit has appeared that’s really gotten my interest. They’ve got that classic charm and sense of fun that made me a Hello! idol fan in the first place. I’m sure you know that I must be talking about the newest H!P sensation, BEYOOOOONDS! (That’s five “O”s, I had to count them.)
Okay, so BEYOOOOONDS are a blast, but as with a few other of my personal idol interests, they’re largely on another continent from the Homicidols mission, so I was never really planning on doing anything with them aside from maybe suggesting them for the weekender. And then, just as if by a divine scheme, these upstart H!P wonders have unleashed their first multi-A-side single, including this absolute bop of an uplifting pumped-up pop-tune: You’ve probably heard it by now…
Yes, the song “Go Waist”! Sure it’s a fun little distraction on a first casual listen, but stay with me here: I’m about to tell you the whole slightly odd and fascinating backstory to this song’s history, and explain why this seemingly light workout number is actually one of the most cleverly subversive songs of the year…
Now H!P has a history of some pretty strange cover choices. After all, remember when Berryz Koubou covered the German Euro-disco group Dschinghis Khan? (I’m not complaining at all, but how does that even happen??) Well, this song by BEYOOOOONDS also drinks from the oddball cover well. But to trace this songs history, we have reach back a looooong time ago… (Five “O”s in that long, see what I did there?)
The basic composition of the song (Pachelbel’s Canon) is traced back to somewhere between 1680 and 1706 when it was written by the German composer Johann Pachelbel. So yeah, this is basically the oldest idol song ever written! Now Johann’s music was nearly completely lost to time and fell into a pretty deep obscurity for the next few hundred years, until a conductor named Jean-François Paillard recorded a new, slightly updated version in 1968. This recording captivated a whole new audience and ended up a surprise hit when a San Francisco radio station put it into regular rotation…
The composition surged into a newfound popularity and it’s structure would in time, either directly or indirectly influence a wealth of other songs across the music spectrum. Now keep in mind the song’s return to prominence was sparked in San Francisco, which was a city that broke ground in others ways as well…
In 1979, the New York based Village People recorded “Go West”, a tribute to San Francisco’s rising reputation as a sort of mythological gay utopia, utilizing a melody written hundreds of years ago that returned as a radio hit localized in that very city. Now the Village People were pretty huge at the peak of disco, so popular that the gay subtext was lost to a new audience of straight folks who just thought they were macho guys making groovy music. Pretty subversive!
However, “Go West” wasn’t nearly one of the Village People’s most best-known hits, (It peaked at number 45 on the US charts.) and when the song ran it’s course, it became relegated to pop-culture novelty status as disco died out. (The Villagers did make one last ditch, ill-advised effort to stay relevant by rebranding as a new wave group, but that’s whole other article..) The song could’ve very-well been forgotten at that point, had it not been for a spur-of-the-moment 1993 performance of the song by the British duo Pet Shop Boys for an AIDS benefit. This led to what is easily the most popular version of the composition…
As for the their version, the subtext was intended to be ironic and dripping with sarcasm. Apparently Neil Tennant didn’t initially like the song, and sang it from the point of view that it was all a of bunch wishful-thinking for a utopia that would never possibly come true. See, further subversion!
But then this newer version of the song took an even weirder turn… Over the years to come, Pet Shop Boys ironic, sarcastic take on a gay pride song morphed into one of Europe’s most enduring football stadium sing-along hits. Every year at the World Cup, along with other events, “Go West” is a bonafide soccer anthem, pumping up packed crowds as they get into the spirit of the game. It’s quite a wild history for a once-obscure classical composition.
And it doesn’t even stop there. The basic melody structure of the song has been (perhaps at times unconsiciously) in everything from Green Day’s “Basket Case”, The Farm’s “All Together Now”, and in a further twist of strangeness, the National Anthem of the former Soviet Union. And now it’s the year 2019, and BEYOOOOONDS have turned it into a crowd-pleasing workout jam for the 21st century!
- Pachelbel’s Canon is composed, but falls into obscurity.
- A San Francisco radio station makes a new recording of the song a surprise hit.
- The Village People convert the song into a Gay-lib anthem.
- Pet Shops Boys cover it as an ironic AIDS-era club song.
- Said song goes on to become a monster hit with stadiums packed full of soccer hooligans.
- BEYOOOOONDS revitalize Hello! Project and cover their own oddball version of a nearly-lost classical song that may have influenced the Soviet National Anthem, later adapted by the producer of a campy disco group as a gay anthem which went on to become a sarcastic commentary on the state of the world, but yet took on new life as a crowd-rockin’ sports jam.
And if you made it this far, you might still be wondering why the heck I felt so compelled to lay out this odd history lesson about a current idol song. That’s a fair question! The simple answer is that I think it’s damn interesting, plus it’s a great example of how idol music is an absolutely fascinating patchwork of ideas assembled for the pure purpose of making people happy. (And to get them them to spend money.) From Babymetal‘s downright surreal ascension into a full-fledged metal unit, BiSH‘s playful teasing of punk-rock roots, to You’ll Melt More’s tributes to German krautrock, this is the way idol works and it’s one of the most unique genres on the planet because of it.
So don’t just take those idol songs you love at face-value. Sometimes even the simplest songs have much deeper, and perhaps even downright subversive roots.
And oh yeah, don’t enjoy forget to enjoy some fun pop-tunes too!