1971: Happy End - “Haikara Hakuchi”

Trace back the process by which you come to hear a song and it will tell a story. Whether you pluck favorites from critically lauded albums or you scan the radio for Top 40 hits, there is an origin, distinct and personal, to the music you consume. And, beyond the source of your discovery, it is also worth examining the historical context in which you are listening to a song. This narrative, beginning with what you hear, is vastly complex if you care to investigate. But if you simply wish to tune in to your music and tune out the background noise, not much is lost in the way of listening pleasure. You’ll still enjoy the sounds, that won’t change. However, stories enrich our understanding of ourselves as well as those around us, so it seems particularly worthwhile to share one about Happy End, a little-known Japanese folk rock band from the 1970s. How I came to hear and, now, appreciate them interests me, as it may well interest you.

While I’m sure I don’t need to tell this to readers of TMT, mix tapes are a fantastic means to explore music. A collection of songs can communicate a number of messages, from sentimental mixes for loved ones to compilations for the seasons, and it is also a statement about the creator of the mix tape as much as the creation. The latter, I believe, is true of the hour-long Spring mix tape from Austin’s White Denim, posted on the Texas based music blog Gorilla vs. Bear. White Denim blends a number of influences to create their unique yet vaguely familiar form of rock. Their muses, Hank Williams Jr and Little Feat to name a couple of the featured artists, connect the band’s sound back to its roots. The mix tape, which I highly recommend listening to, is diverse, but mostly centers around folk rock iterations. On the second track of the mix I paused after hearing “Haikara Hakuchi” by Happy End, a song and group foreign to my ears.

What is so startling about “Haikara Hakuchi” is that it sounds unmistakably familiar. Save for the singer opening the song by saying, in English, “Hi, this is Bannai Tarao. Haikara (translated as “High-collar” or “Western fashion”) is…Beautiful,” the subsequent Vox-channeled guitar chords paired with interspersed harmonies is vintage 70s rock, somewhere in between aggressive Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and softer The Guess Who. Additionally, with an impressive yet brief drum solo at 2:10 and thick bass riffs, the groove feels stronger than their peers’ works while being just as melodic. It is, without question, influenced by Western rock. However, it is also a classic rock gem, sang in Japanese but finely sculpted in the borrowed tradition. So, why hadn’t I heard of “Haikara Hakuchi” or Happy End?

Any internet research on Happy End is sure to turn up many unwanted search results. The name is vague by internet term standards and I quickly came to the conclusion that Happy End never was very popular in the US. Their Wikipedia page is a good start and from there I learned that Rolling Stone Japan rated Kazemachi Roman, the album which “Haikara Hakuchi” is on, #1 on the list of the 100 greatest Japanese rock albums of all time. This is, however, insufficient to learn about the history of Happy End. So, with some more digging, I found out that Julian Cope , a noted British music critic, wrote Japrocksampler, the definitive text on Japan’s post-war rock scene. On the website for the book, Cope provides an encyclopedic index of artists from the time period. There, finally, I found substantial biographical and historical information on Happy End, considered to be “in the Japanese pantheon of rock divinities.”

And so, from my ears back to the history of Happy End, I came to know and appreciate something new, a formerly unfamiliar band and an inescapably catchy song. It is this process of discovery, unearthing old tunes and learning about their origins, which makes our history of recorded music perpetually fascinating.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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