“1900 Yesterday”: Bye White Whale

Liz Damon and the Orient Express Band were once the house band at the Hilton Hawaiian Village whose debut album, At the Garden Bar, Hilton Hawaiian Village, was originally issued on local label, Makaha, in 1970.  Enter White Whale, the indie label that likely released surf music’s final first-wave recording (i.e., “Surfer Dan” by The Turtles).  As Billboard would write in its piece – “White Whale Gets Express Product” – for the December 12, 1970 edition:

“White Whale Records has acquired the worldwide rights to the product of Liz Damon’s Orient Express on the Makaha label.  Makaha Records is a Hawaii-based firm.  White Whale is rushing into release a single titled ‘1900 Yesterday’ and an album titled Liz Damon’s Orient Express.”

“1900 Yesterday”     Liz Damon’s Orient Express     1970

“1900 Yesterday” – which hit #33 on the US pop chart in 1971 – would also enjoy release in Spain, Australia & New Zealand.  Liz Damon, tragically, would sign with White Whale at the end of its commercial run and thus serve history for being the label’s last 45 & LP.

Interestingly enough, Betty Everett had already released “1900 Yesterday” the year before as the B-side to a single (“Maybe”) that bubbled under at #116 in September, 1969.

Aside from anchor act, The Turtles, White Whale’s early releases would include influential UK band, John’s Children (“Smashed, Blocked“), New Orleans Public Library (“Trippin’ Down the Street”), Nino Tempo & April Stevens (“All Strung Out“), and guitarist, Jan Davis (“Lost in Space“).

1973 LP = Title track by Bacharach-David

Liz Damon LP

Tokyo Happy Coats: Japanese Pop on King Records

There is, interestingly enough, a Japanese label that shares the name King RecordsJapan’s King Records even predates Cincinnati’s King Records by twelve years or so.

But back in 1970, it was Cincinnati’s King Records who released two LPs and exactly three 45s by an “all-girl” Japanese pop group, The Tokyo Happy Coats, who are five sisters, we are told — Eiko, Keiko, Shoko, Tomiko & Ruriko Hakomori.   This would make at least three prominent family acts vying for dominance on the pop chart at the dawn of the 70s:   The Jackson 5, The Osmonds & The Hakomori Sisters of Tokyo Happy Coats.

Ed Sullivan Show – February 27, 1966   (source: William Bickel)

Tokyo Happy Coats b&w

I confess I am still bewildered by the fact that I only just now found out about these “guys.”  Did any of the local stores in my Cincinnati hometown stock The Tokyo Happy Coats in the early 1970s, I wonder — back when Ultraman, the Japanese space superhero television series, was broadcast regularly on Cincinnati’s local independent station, WXIX (channel 19 in Roman numerals)?   Check out the gals’ take on Sonny & Cher’s “Beat Goes On” from their 1970 live club performance LP, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live:

“The Beat Goes On”     The Tokyo Happy Coats     1970

Music writer, Ken Shimamoto (The Stash Dauber) writes a fascinating first-person essay that leads into a review of and “appreciation” for The Tokyo Happy Coats from which we learn that “they were a lounge act that toured the states pretty extensively from the mid-’60s on, playing Las Vegas and The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as dives in Pittsburgh and Detroit.  Between ’em, those Happy Coats played a whopping 26 instruments.”  Shimamoto perfectly captures the oddball element in this real-life transcontinental story when he observes, “incredibly, they used to record for King Records, the same label as James Brown.”  Even more revealing are the heartfelt and enthusiastic comments attached to this blog piece that attest to the group’s magnetism, as well as magnanimity.

Tokyo Happy Coats LP Starday-King (the King label having been consolidated with Starday upon the death of founder, Syd Nathan in 1968) actually leased these recordings from another label — the discography does not indicate where.  What’s odd, however, especially in light of their popularity, is the complete absence of Tokyo Happy Coats recordings in either 45Cat or Discogs apart from these five Starday-King releases.

“An Astro Sonic Production” – distributed by Starday-King

Tokyo Happy Coats 45

Tokyo Happy Coats Starday-King Discography

King 45 #6296 “Forevermore” b/w “Harlem Nocturne” 1970

King 45 #6337 “Tea A-Wanna Whistle” b/w “Here Is Happiness” 1970

King 45 #6419 “Forevermore” b/w “Here is Happiness” 1970

King LP #1096 The Tokyo Happy Coats Live 1970

King LP #1125 Forevermore 1970