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The Carnabeats

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The Carnabeats (ザ・カーナビーツ) are one of the better known “group sounds” bands, known to foreigners largely for their Japanese language versions of Zombies hits. While they will perhaps forever be known as the “Japanese Zombies”, the group had a string of hits beyond their covers, and the members cite The Who and The Lovin’ Spoonful as other influences.

The nucleus of the band, drummer Ai Takano, then just sixteen years old, and his slightly older guitarist friend Jiro Kitamura, first started playing together in early 1967. Takano was the son of a jazz sax player, and while still in his mid-teens, had already been playing in local clubs in Yokohama for a couple of years. He was approached about joining a professional group, but when it didn’t work out he decided to form his own group with Kitamura, who had been playing in a band called Swing West. Kitamura in turn called in his pals guitarist Hiroshi Koshikawa and singer Keichi Usui from Nagoya. Tadao Oka on bass rounded out the group, which initially called themselves Robin Hood. The group adopted the Carnabeats name, inspired by London’s famed Carnaby Street. The band’s repertoire at this point was mostly covers.

They began recording just a week after forming, including what became their first single, a Japanese language version of the Zombies hit “I Love You”, which they re-named “Sukisa, Sukisa, Sukisa (I Love You)”.

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