So far away from the garden we love
She is what moves in the soul of a dove
Soon I shall see just how black was my night
When we're alone in her city of light
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Tokyo street scene H Brothers Inc
(used with permission)
In the United States, Japanese culture is seen with a bemused, but smirking, lack of comprehension. We really don't get any of it: the TV game shows where you play human Tetris
or have four girls in Playboy bunny costumes trying to hold their wee, the Domo-kun
mascot that looks like a chocolate brownie on a rampage, Hello Kitty
, those compact motels where you sleep in a dog kennel, the bonkers monster movies, the porn involving squid and octopus, or the bizarre fashion trends which all look like you're trying to wear the entire toy store.
But we have to love it. Because the Japanese are just so gosh-darned good at everything! They practically invented the compact car and Asian electronics markets. Every now and then, we get an anime like Akira
, a manga like DeathNote
, a video game system like Nintendo, a cuisine genre like sushi, and we just have to shrug and admit that while we never would have thought of anything like this ourselves in a million years, now that we see it, it's got some appeal.
And Tokyo! Tokyo itself is like Japan in general with the weirdness turned up to 11, just like Texas is America with the redneck cowboy part on steroids. But nevertheless, Deep Purple was obviously deeply impressed with the place when they toured it in 1972, and that's where the song "Woman From Tokyo" comes from. Contrary to the fan chatter, this is not about any specific girlfriend anybody had, nor is it about opium or some other drug. It's about Tokyo itself, with the woman being just a metaphor for the spirit of Japan.
This concept makes more sense in Japanese, of course, since they have the concept of a "moe." This is the idea of signifying non-human beings, objects, concepts, or phenomena by anthropomorphizing a female figure to be its mascot. So the "women from Tokyo" is actually properly called "Tokyo-tan" in this context, using the typically-applied honorific. We would go farther with this cute concept, but it would just get weirder and weirder and we'd soon find ourselves swamped in mecha-woman-tanks and a family of cigarette girls, all hosted in a cosplay cafe.
Although "Woman From Tokyo" is hailed as one of the greatest guitar rock classics ever and is the sole track from the album Who Do We Think We Are
to actually go anywhere, Deep Purple fans look on it with a kind of melancholy, because this song marked the point at which the "Mark II" line-up broke up. The legendary feud between Gillan and Blackmore started here, and ironically, after Gillan left, he commented that stress and pressure from the constant touring and recording workload was to blame for the tension as much as anything else.
The song itself is a sunny, upbeat number, filled with Gillan's soaring vocals, Blackmore's solid guitar chords, Ian Paice's razor-tight drum work, Roger Glover's grinding bass, and even an idyllic keyboard solo from Jon Lord. Perhaps the band knew that it was time for a break and they'd better make this one a song to remember.
~ "Penguin" Pete Trbovich
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