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The Mops

Page history last edited by Matthew Evans 12 years, 9 months ago





The Mops are a Japanese band from the Group Sounds era.  Originally founded as an instrumental surf rock band like the Ventures, but the addition of singer Hiromitsu Suzuki and exposure to Jefferson Airplane Takes Off led the Mops to sign with Victor Records as Japan's first psychedelic rock band in late 1967, despite the lack of LSD and other drugs in Japan.  Though they did not maintain their original line-up, they were one of the few bands to record albums throughout the Group Sounds era and adapt to the New Rock era.  Though the Mops are known for their psychedelic rock beginning, they have often been considered too dark, weird, and punk to fully be considered psychedelic rockers.







When originally formed in 1966 by four high schoolers, the band included drummer Mikiharu Suzuki, guitarists Taro Miyuki and Masaru Hoshi (lead), and bassist Kaoru Murakami in Tokyo, where they mostly practiced after school.  In 1960's Japan, the validity of pursuing rock music was not easily seen, and Mikiharu Suzuki's older brother Hiromitsu would often hassle him about his lack of dedication to schoolwork.  After bringing him to one of their many practices, he became so enthralled that he joined as their lead singer.  Hiromitsu pushed the Mops to play more shows around Tokyo's jazz kissas, including the Go-Go-Kissa club at which they played when they were discovered in early 1967.



Psychedelic Sounds in Japan


After being discovered in 1967, The Mops were pressured by their manager to become a psychedelic rock band, as he had just returned from a trip to San Francisco and brought back a copy of Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, Jefferson Airplane's first album, for the band to listen to.  Hiromitsu was highly influenced by Steve Winwood, who had recently taken a psychedelic turn, and this fact had some impact into their decision.  Overall, in order to sign the deal JVC Records (the Japanese wing of Victor Records) was offering, they would have to do so.  In November 1967, they released their first studio album, entitled "Psychedelic Sounds in Japan."  The LP was eleven tracks long, and included covers of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit and Somebody to Love, The Animals' San Franciscan Nights and Inside Looking Out, and The Doors' Light My Fire.  They also had original songs on the album, many with dark lyrics such as "I Can't Get Hot," "Unforgettable Memory," and "Blind Bird (Please Kill Me)."


By the time The Mops had any real critical acclaim, other Group Sounds bands had started to catch up to The Mops' following of Western psychedelic rock.  The Mops wanted to be known as the "first" psychedelic rock band in Japan, and to have the reputation of the best psychedelic rock band as the result, and the bad timing result in some odd attempts at creating that style.  Without access to the typical drugs associated with the psychedelic movement in Japan, The Mops would do things such as blindfold themselves to create hallucinations through sensory deprivation, and at an album release party, they passed out banana peels to reporters (there is an urban myth linking consumption of banana peels to hallucination).  The band also incorporated heavy effects such as fuzz and wah-wah to create a more psychedelic sound, and used intense light shows at live performances to add to the effect. 


After three singles, the Group Sounds era was coming to an end, and The Mops were dropped from JVC Records.  Bassist Kaoru Murakami left the band to study at a university in 1969, and Taro Miyuki switched to bass leaving the band as a four-piece.



New Rock and The Mops' Image


An insurgence of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath brought the era of New Rock to Japan, and The Mops began to adapt their style to fit this category, using Grand Funk Railroad's "heavy" cover of Inside Looking Out as a model.  They began to adapt a bluesier style, and got picked up by Tobisha/Liberty.  They had some success, releasing eight albums and thirteen singles before they ended their contract with Tobisha/Liberty in 1974.


Throughout their musical careers, The Mops were characterized as being a darker band, though they still maintained their reputation well throughout the New Rock era.  As having originally started as a Ventures-style instrumental group, they maintained their origins of a "garage rock" band, with their heavier, fuzzed feel and dark lyrics.  As they were forced into creating the psychedelic sound to sign their first record deal, The Mops were good at creating a sound that appealed to the Japanese trends in rock, while keeping part of their distinct style.  This is why The Mops were able to remain together and keep acclaim throughout the New Rock period, while many other Group Sounds bands broke up.


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