Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Beatles in Japan

A bit of a Beatles bonanza in the Oxfam Music and Arts shop in Exeter yesterday, with 8 LPs spanning A Hard Days Night through to Abbey Road (1964-70) coming in. Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road were Japanese releases produced by the Toshiba company, two on red translucent vinyl (this in 1967 & 69!) Apparently they are particularly prized by audiophiles, being immaculately pressed. Researching them introduced me to an element of record collecting hitherto unknown by me: the 'obi strip'. These are the paper sashes which were wrapped around LPs in Japan. Their very disposability has now made them rare artifacts, and one of these records with its obi intact would be worth a considerable amount. Alas, there was no obi. The ruby vinyl looked splendid illuminated by the sunlight, however, making a particularly pleasing contrast with the crisp granny smith green of the Apple logo. The artists advertised on the inner sleeve of the Sgt Pepper album hint at why The Beatles caused so much excitement in Japan - they look very staid in comparison. Julian Cope's excellent survey Japrocksampler outlines the development of the Group Sounds craze which drew its inspiration from the fab four, and exploded in the wake of their tour of Japan in June 1966.

Abbey Road and Sgt Pepper have the price printed on the back cover, rather like a paperback book. Both would have set you back 2,000 Yen. The White Album had its Richard Hamilton poster and John Kelly photo portraits present. Interesting also to note the background collage on the inner gatefold flap of Beatles for Sale, presaging Peter Blake and Jann Haworth's more famous montage for the Sgt Pepper cover.

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