While I was working on an overdue restaurant blog, I realized that today was not going to be the day for that post to air. Today is a special day as it marks the 50th year that our one true lord and savior has graced us with His presence. Yes, folks. I am talking about none other than legendary rock legend, Yoshiki.
The photos you see above are the first photos I ever saw of Yoshiki; they’re both 2×3 paper print outs from 1999 when I was sent, among other sundry, four mix tapes containing the music that became the soundtrack for my teenage years and young adulthood. I was going into the hospital, you see, and had to take my final examines one week earlier than every other student because of it. I failed – or nearly failed – World History, despite my best efforts. Goddamn it, Reagan, why didn’t you offer me tutoring? I would have taken you up on it; you were one of the few teachers at SPHS that I respected and liked. I drew a manga based on the Romanov assassination and the end of WWI and you gave me a D. What the fuck.
I digress. Clearly, you can see that my sixteen year old self was riddled with angst and the stigma of being the weird sickly kid. I needed an anthem…a rallying cry to cling to when I felt cornered and alone. That rallying cry was X Japan:
Back to my stay in the hospital. I was alone, secluded in a corner room by myself. The hospital was over two hours away from home, and for the first time in my life, I let my mom stay home most nights because I was staying during the week and she had work. It was tough to make that choice, to tell my only parent that it’s OK to not keep me company every night. I wanted her by my side, of course, but I had to realize that she cannot be with me forever. All I had to keep me company was a pile of books, comic books, the occasional visit from the communal Super NES and my Walkman with my mix tapes. I listened to the compilation of Malice Mizer (the other band my soul sings to) and X Japan over and over again, trying to commit favorite songs to memory as best I could with my limited grasp on Japanese pronunciation.
I didn’t feel as lonely when I listened to my tapes. Toshi was there, in that horrible sterile white room with the soul-sucking fluorescent lights, crooning that he has nothing to loose except my heart (Week End); hide was at my bedside, making those famously silly faces as his guitared wailed, encouraging me to swing my heart! sing a song! (Celebration); the stoic Pata, ever serious, keeping my strength steadfast to see me this this latest health ordeal as his rhythmic guitar blares You don’t have to hesitate; X! get yourself out X! you know you are the best! X! Let’s go crazy! (X); Yoshiki at his glorious piano, giving me the life lesson all humanity ought to take to heart: Let me forget all of the hate, all of the sadness (Endless Rain).
With X Japan, take one element out and the rest doesn’t feel right. Toshi’s passionate screeches and emotive keening paired beautifully with Yoshiki’s cerebral lyrics and complex melodies that it makes even the staunchest non-believer wonder if there truly is Kismet. There isn’t a doubt in my mind these two were meant to befriend one another and form the greatest rock band known to Japan. Or the world, as far as I am concerned.
In a nutshell, X Japan is a Japanese heavy metal band, formed in 1982 by drummer and songwriter Yoshiki and his BFF/lead vocalist Toshi. All of the members of X Japan are big time in their own right, but Yoshiki stands out for his incomparable genius in both business and the creative. Were it not for his workaholic perfectionist zeal, X Japan could have easily slipped into mediocrity novelty. But they didn’t. Their music reached all across Japan into the hearts of many youths seeking for the melody that bumped along with their rebellious hearts. X became that melody, and in good rock ‘n’ roll fashion, the industry of the time loathed them and did their best to ignore them. But 20 million records can’t be wrong, nor ignored for long, and the mainstream was forced to reckon with them.
After the untimely death of the lovable guitarist hide just one year after X Japan disbanded, an X Japan reunion seemed unlikely. Then, in 2007, a decade since they last talked, Toshi reached out to his estranged best friend and by 2009, I was standing behind a crowd of clamoring fans watching the rock gods of my teenage years bring the mother fucking house down at the Wiltern.
I cannot adequately describe that night, try as I might. All but hide was there (in his stead, dear friend and legendary musician in his own right from the band Luna Sea, Sugizo). These men, demigods by my admission, whom I had resigned myself to never conceivably seeing in the flesh, let alone performing, went from these photos – not even real photos but printer paper with their names using the English alphabet for my benefit to being a mere twenty feet away from me, wailing as they can only wail. I remember feeling like I was in a dream, that anything is possible, and friendship transcends everything. Even time. Even death.
I still own those mix tapes which first brought the wonderful world of Japanese rock and roll to my ears. I will never get rid of them, or forget the circumstances in which they were given to me. They are among my most prized possessions, and no rare limited edition piece of official merchandise can ever trump them.
What this near 1000 word diatribe from an aging rock fan is desperately (and poorly) trying to say is thank you for all of the music, Yoshiki. May you have the happiest of birthdays.