RC Succession

RC Succession have come a long way from their humble beginnings as a high school folk-rock trio, toiling through the '70s as a relatively obscure soul/R&B band before finally nailing it as a flamboyant, even provocative punk/glam act that predated visual kei by two decades, and inspired such J-rock legends as Boowy, whose vocalist Kyosuke Himuro admitted that he became a rock musician after seeing RC Succession live. The group dates back to late '60s, when it went through a variety of lineups labeled, in a bid for consistency, "Clover," "The Remainders of the Clover," and eventually "The Remainders of the Clover Succession," or RC Succession, for short. The first stable incarnation of the band, which consisted of vocalist/guitarist Kiyoshiro Imawano, another guitarist in Kenchi Haren, and bassist Wassho Rinko (real name Kazuo Kobayashi) and played acoustic music, scored a deal with Toshiba, and got to debut in 1970 with the single "Takarakuji ha Kawanai." The group built up a reputation for their concerts, as well as for Imawano's clever Japanese-language lyrics, which compensated for his thin voice, but their discography was still slow in the making: the first full-length, Shoki No RC Succession, came out in 1972 and was followed by two more albums and a four-year recording hiatus, partly because of poor management. But things began to change in the late '70s, when they added a punk influence (without abandoning their R&B/folk roots entirely) and Imawano developed a taste for flashy stage outfits. Haren was replaced by Reichi Nakaido in 1979, drummer Kozo Niida joined in 1978, and keyboardist Gee2Woo in 1980, and then the band rolled into its golden age.

In the '80s, RC Succession were tagged as part of the motley Japanese pop movement that also included the likes of the Plastics and Yellow Magic Orchestra. The band even tried to break through worldwide, releasing two studio albums on London Records and playing at the The Day of R&B event in 1982 alongside Chuck Berry, but had little success abroad. At home, however, they were huge, as evidenced by their unbroken ten-year spell of Nippon Budokan Christmas concerts in 1981-1991. Even their rebel tendencies did not impede their stardom, although RC Succession were often a lot to handle -- the sleeve of their 1982 hit collaboration with Ryucihi Sakamoto, Ikenai Rouge Magic, showed Sakamoto and Imawano kissing, and their 1988 album of covers, simply called Covers and featuring an anti-nuclear energy song, was dropped by Toshiba, known for its nuke power business. The album was released instead on Kitty Records.

RC Succession's total '80s output amounted to eight studio albums, but in 1990, Gee2Woo and Niida left, leaving Imawano, Nakaido, and Kobayashi to record the album Baby a Go Go as a trio. It proved to be the group's final full-length: RC Succession threw in a towel after the 1991 Budokan show. Imawano and Nakaido proceeded to establish independent musical careers and even worked Page/Plant style on the 1994 joint album Glad All Over, but RC Succession never regrouped. Imawano in particular played in a variety of projects, including Timers and Love Jets, starred in several movies, and worked as a solo musician, often under aliases. He became a regular at the high-profile Fuji Rock Festival in the 2000s, but his career was cut short in 2009 when he died of throat cancer at the age of 58, ending the possibility of a classic RC Succession reunion. ~ Alexey Eremenko

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