The 5,6,7,8's are a female garage punk band founded in 1986 by Yoshiko Fujiyama in Tokyo, Japan. The band is known for its style and energy, and is "a cross between the B-52s and The Cramps," according to Rick Fulton in the London Daily Record. The group was originally a quartet, but eventually became a trio.
The band took its name from each decade during the twentieth century that inspired their sound and look. As much as they enjoy traditional 1950s rock 'n' roll, they also like 1950s and 1960s girl groups, including the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las. Band members typically wear matching retro garb and tease their hair into bouffant hair-dos. Other musical inspirations include the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, and soul music.
In the 1980s, The 5,6,7,8's had its first moment of fame when it appeared on "Ikasu Bando Tengoku," a television program also known as "Ika-ten," on which amateur bands compete. The 5,6,7,8's were given a special prize by the judges. Despite this, the band has remained on the fringes of popularity in Japan.
There is no appreciable English-language information about the group's early days. The core of the band is composed of sisters Sashiko Fujiyama, who plays drums, and Yoshiko "Ronnie" Fujiyama, lead singer and guitarist. "About 10 other members have come and gone over the years, but they've all been girls apart from guitarist Eddie [Legend], who went on to front another legendary Japanese garage band, Mad 3," noted Simon Bartz in the Japan Times. "Eddie left because he wanted to be in a band with boys," explained Ronnie Fujiyama in the Japan Times. Fujiyama added that "the girls leave because of their day jobs or because a new boyfriend pressures them to leave the band."
In 1991 the band recorded and released its first full-length album, The 5,6,7,8's Can't Help It!. Au Go-Go released it originally, and it was reissued by Rockville in the United States in 1993. Scattered among originals like "Fruit Bubble Love" and "Ah-So" were covers of garage band anthems "Wooly Bully" and "Wild Thing." "We wanted to deconstruct that Chuck Berry-style rock 'n' roll into punk music by using noise and distortion and screaming," Fujiyama explained in an interview with The Age. "We're also inspired by girl groups such as the Ronettes and the Shangri-La's, and wanted to incorporate elements of that into our music." The follow up, also eventually distributed in the United States, was a self-titled full-length album, whose tracks included the catchy and sexy "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield" and the punk-cathartic "Scream." Among the covers on this release was "Long Tall Sally."
In 1996 the group released Bomb the Twist, which was distributed by Sympathy for the Record Industry. The selections included a cover of "Whoo Hoo." The cut would eventually get them unexpected attention and catapult them to fame beyond the cult following they enjoyed among Japanophiles and garage rock aficionados
City Paper 's Brian Howard wrote that the band was noted for taking "a form that is repetitive by nature and, by mishmashing influences from '50s greaser chic and '60s psychedelia to surf-rockabilly, transform old standards like 'Wooly Bully' and 'The Twist' into enchanting Far East exotica." He added, "They've gone from doing primarily covers to churning out sassy originals like the bombshell-esque 'I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield' and the sultry 'I Was a Teenage Cave Woman.'"
The band was noticed by American film director Quentin Tarantino. He was shopping Tokyo during meetings for an upcoming film, when he heard The 5,6,7,8's playing. At this time, the band consisted of the Fujiyama sisters with Yoshiko Yamaguchi playing bass. The clerk was a fan, and was playing her own CD in the store.
The tale is that Tarantino loved the sound, was about to leave the country, and begged the clerk "to sell him her copy of the record but she refused and told him to get his own copy," said Ronnie Fujiyama. It is also a story Tarantino related on the bonus material for Kill Bill: Volume 1, the film that had brought him to Tokyo. "In the end she gave him it—but charged him twice the price. He really liked the album and asked us to be in the film," Ronnie Fujiyama related in the London Daily Record. "I couldn't believe it when the offer came," Fujiyama said in an interview in the London Evening Mail. "I thought we'd just be in the background. I couldn't imagine that we'd be playing a song in the final scene."
The band's cover of "Whoo Hoo" was used during a martial arts scene in Kill Bill: Volume 1, and Fujiyama explained that "Tarantino gave us a credit at the beginning and end, and he really helped us out, helped our band's name to get around."
For the Record . . .
Members include Sashiko Fujiyama (original member, sister of Yoshiko "Ronnie" Fujiyama), drums; Yoshiko "Ronnie" Fujiyama (founding member), guitar, vocals; Saki Hori (joined group, 2003), bass, vocals; Eddie Legend (joined group, c. 1995-96), guitar; "Omo" Chellio Panther (left group, c. 1997), bass, vocals; Yoshiko Yamaguchi (left group, 2003), bass, vocals.
Founded in Toyko, Japan, by Yoshiko "Ronnie" Fujiyama as quartet, 1986; core of group are sisters Sashiko and Yoshiko Fujiyama; appeared on television program "Ikasu Bando Tengoku," late 1980s; released first full-length recording, The 5,6,7,8's Can't Help It!, 1991; self-titled project released, 1994; Bomb theTwist, 1996; "discovered" by Quentin Tarantino, c. 2002; band appeared in Kill Bill: Volume 1, 2002; Yoshiko Yamaguchi left the band after filming and was replaced by Saki Hori, 2003; compilation Bomb theRocks released, 2003; "Whoo Hoo" used in film and several advertisements, becomes top 30 hit in United Kingdom, 2004.
Addresses: Record company—Time Bomb Records, Sun-Ball B1, 2-9-28 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-Ku, Osaka 542-0086 Japan, website: http://www.timebomb.co.jp/label/label.html. Website—The 5,6, 7,8's Official Website: http://www.the5678s.net/.
The band gained even more notoriety after appearing in an advertisement for Carling Beer in the United Kingdom. This and other advertisements have also used "Whoo Hoo." The song gave The 5,6,7,8's their first top 30 hit in the United Kingdom. "I'm Blue" charted a month later, at number 71.
On the heels of their cameo in Kill Bill and their successes in the United Kingdom, the band began touring extensively. Bomb the Rocks, a compilation of singles recorded between 1989 and 1996, was released in 2003. Bass player Yoshiko Yamaguchi left the band shortly after appearing in Kill Bill, and was replaced by Saki Hori.
Unlike other Japanese musical exports, The 5,6,7,8's have developed a loyal fan base. Noted Chris Mugan in London's Independent, "Shonen Knife ... could never inspire the devotion that is already flowing the way of The 5,6,7,8's." Other critics appeared less favorable. Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post felt that the band relied "on three gimmicks: gender, nationality and costume." He added that should the band "ever decide to park the campiness in the closet with the gowns, they just might render their gimmicks irrelevant."
The band said it had been besieged with requests for interviews since the release of Kill Bill: Volume 1, but that language barriers had been an impediment. "We've received an avalanche of offers from abroad," Fukiyama told the Japan Times. "Italian Vogue have even tried contacting us. But I don't speak English so we're having a hard time." Although the band has found a measure of international fame, members expect to remain a cult or underground phenomenon in Japan. "We think that there's no chance that we're going to make it big in this country, but the important thing for us is to get out there and keep playing rock 'n' roll. It's a cliche, but that's it," she said in the same interview.
"We have always done what we do and we're never going to change," she told the London Daily Record. "We are happy and it's exciting. As long as we have fun playing old fashioned rock 'n' roll we will still be here."
The 5,6,7,8's Can't Help It!, Au Go-Go, 1991; reissued, Rockville, 1992 and 1993.
The 5,6,7,8's, Time Bomb Records, 1994; reissued, Au-Go-Go, 1994 and 1997.
Bomb the Twist, Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1995 and 1996.
Pin Heel Stomp, Time Bomb Records, 1997.
Teenage Mojo Workout, Time Bomb Records, 2002.
Bomb the Rocks: Early Days Singles, Time Bomb Records, 2003.
Golden Hits of the 5,6,7,8's, Hara, 2003.
(Contributor) Kill Bill: Volume 1 (soundtrack), Maverick, 2003; reissued, Warner, 2003.
Daily Record (London, England), July 30, 2004; August 13, 2004.
Evening Mail (London, England), August 17, 2004.
Sunday Mail (London, England), August 15, 2004.
Independent (London, England), August 17, 2004.
Independent on Sunday (London, England), August 22, 2004.
Washington Post, October 7, 2004.
"Discography: The 5,6,7,8's," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 9, 2005).
The 5, 6, 7, 8's Official Website, http://www.the5678s.net/ (June 9, 2005).
"The 5,6,7,8's: The new house band chez Tarantino," JapanTimes,http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/makeprfy.pl5?fm20031116sb.htm (June 27, 2005).
"Rock by numbers," The Age,http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/04/23/1082616314612.html?from=storyrhs (June 27, 2005).
"Six Pick: the 5,6,7,8's," City Paper,http://www.citypaper.net/articles/100297/sixpick6.shtml (June 27, 2005).
Time Bomb Records Website, http://www.timebomb.co.jp/label/label.html (June 9, 2005).
—Linda Dailey Paulson
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