The Golden Cups: Blues are for old people

Probably the oldest group at this year’s festival is The Golden Cups, a band that to most Japanese belongs to that hallowed “group sounds” fad that overran Japanese pop in the 1960s in the wake of the Beatles. However, the Golden Cups were slightly outside that manufactured genre. A real bar band influenced by the British blues of the Yardbirds, Cream, and John Mayall, they played the circuit in the ’60s, including a lot of American military bases (their name came from the Golden Cup discotheque in Yokosuka, where they often played), where they honed their English along with their chops. Such an education gave them a sort of bad boy cachet that didn’t sit well with the authorities, but nonetheless attracted record companies who were looking for anyone with real ability to play pre-sold compositions. Reportedly, the band hated the bland, predigested pop they were forced to release as A-sides (B-sides were the blues and garage rock they loved).

The men who hobbled out on the Field of Heaven stage in front of a motley bunch of skeptical punters during a steady drizzle didn’t look like the kind of punks the Golden Cups legend sells, and several songs into their set, leader and guitarist Eddie Ban made it clear that they weren’t going to play any of their Group Sounds hits. They stuck mainly to the blues, interspersed with the occasional hard rock original, the kind of song that got them banned in some places in Japan because of the subject matter (usually, loose women). But while they were obviously cruising during the set, their chops remained in tact, and by the end of the 50 minutes, the audience was in their hand, regardless of what they’d come to expect. When they hobbled off the stage at the end, the ovation was sustained and sincere. But they didn’t come back.