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Vodka Collins

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Arrows frontman Alan Merrill was a young American pop star who had found success in Japan in the late '60s, when he realized he wanted to change his image before it was too late. After encountering drummer Hiroshi Oguchi through session work, the two artists decided to start working together on a project in 1971. Vodka Collins was a hard-working glam outfit that included bassist Take Yokouchi, and the trio started doing enough work to where they were getting noticed by the Japanese media. They scored a record deal and toured relentlessly through Japan, although they were oblivious to the fact that their management was robbing them of most of their money in the process. Tokyo-New York came out in 1973, right when the band was starting to understand how woefully underpaid they were. Merrill threatened to walk out of a 10,000-seat gig if his manager didn't begin to show them more profit, but his bluff was called, and he got on a plane to London that night to form the Arrows. Their short-lived history made a fan out of T. Rex singer Marc Bolan, and some have even claimed that David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust project was inspired by the band. They seemed finished, but the 1990 re-release of Tokyo-New York in Japan was so big that Merrill and Oguchi re-formed that year for a series of reunion shows. The reaction was so positive that, by the mid-'90s, the group was recording new albums with rhythm guitarist "Monsieur" Hiroshi Kamayatsu and bassist Masayoshi Kabe. They signed to Polystar to release Chemical Reaction in 1996, then switched to Tower Bounce Records for 1997's Pink Soup. By 1998, the band's situation was again quite tense and unhappy, as their label hastily released the inferior Boys Life collection of B-sides. On top of that, rumors of heroin abuse and Oguchi's ties to the Yakusa were too much for Merrill and he flew back to America, while Kamayatsu and Kabe quietly left the group at the same time. Despite the group's bizarre and disjointed history, they left behind a very interesting career and one great '70s glam rock record. ~ Bradley Torreano


1973 in Tokyo, Japan

Years Active:

'70s, '90s