2007   JUNE 19   #170

Hisao Shinagawa - More Money, More War

A Hisao Shinagawa - More Money, More War (3:37)
B Hisao Shinagawa - Human Computer (Long Version) (6:02)

People who live in Southern California may be familiar with Hisao Shinagawa. He's a street performer who regularly plays at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, and has a long, grey beard. He performs solo, strumming a guitar, and singing his heart out. It would be safe to assume that he's been playing like that during his entire "career" as a musician, but I've unearthed some evidence that reveals an interesting chapter in his two or three decades performing music.

In 1984, Hisao Shinagawa walked into a recording studio to record a full-blown version of one of his formerly acoustic-only songs, called "More Money, More War". Similar to Wild Man Fischer, another far-more famous street performer, the song at first listen sounds like a novelty song, and without doubt, that's what it was pushed as. There was even a very-cheaply produced video for it, that aired at least once on MTV. Looking at the (very silly) video, it's hard to tell whether or not Hisao is in on the joke or not; whether he knows his song sounds like a novelty tune, or whether he's serious about singing some twisted anthem that calls for a war to generate money during the height of Reaganomics.

I suspect the person who orchestrated this song's major label release was none other than "Weird Al" Yankovic. With a hit single out ("Eat It"), I'm sure his record label, Rock 'n' Roll (of which Scotti Bros. was a division of), would have been willing to let Hisao into the studio and cut at least one single for release. Alas, from what I can gather, the record was always marked as "promotional".

So enjoy this very danceable and catchy tune by Hisao Shinagawa. It seems nobody who knows him knows about this song either, and looking at his website (where a mislabeled MP3 of this song running at a speed that's a bit too slow is available for download, admittedly), there doesn't seem to be any mention of it or any photos from that era. Nevertheless, give it a listen, since when was the last time you heard some "Japanese reggae"? (as Weird Al calls it)

The B-side to the single is called "Human Computer", subtitled the Long Version. It's not as catchy as the A-side, and drags on and on for nearly twice its length, at six minutes. This song is probably also available in an acoustic version, which just might be the better of the two.

The photo enclosed was taken from Hisao's MySpace. (Who doesn't have one these days?) It's the only picture I could find that seems to be from the era this song came out, but that "Barefoot Records" logo and catalog number mystifies me. Perhaps it was released first on this independent label? An international release? Was it the first release on Hisao's own label, since the catalogue number is "1001"? Who knows?

I dug the video out for More Money, More War and posted it on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMePPSyQJuE

- Contributed by: The Swill Man

Image: Cover

Media: 33 1/3 rpm 12" single
Label: Rock 'n' Roll Records
Catalog: 4Z9-04970
Credits: Written by Hisao Shinagawa, produced by Gen Morita
Date: 1984