|BIG IN JAPAN
Any Japanese old enough to remember the late 1970s remembers Pink Lady. From
mid-1976 to the end of 1978, Mii-chan and Kei-chan dominated the television airwaves (both
programming and commercials), the free time of young Japanese girls (who learned their
complex and athletic dance steps from detailed instructions in magazines), and the bedroom
walls of adolescent boys.
Shizuoka natives Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda met in 1973, when both were 15, at an
audition for Yamaha music school. In February 1976, performing together in bib overalls,
they charmed the judges on the TV show Sutaa Tanjou! ("Birth of a
Star!") and soon had a record deal.
Six months later, they burst onto the TV music show circuit as Pink Lady, promoting their
first single, "Peppa Keibu" - not in overalls, but in sexier, skimpier costumes,
and with peppy dance routines for each and every song. This contrasted sharply with the
girl-next-door types, swaying back and forth as they sang, that Japanese TV viewers were
used to. The nation soon became enthralled with Pink Lady; "Peppa Keibu" hit
number four, and their next nine singles went to number one.
These songs were quite different from the restrained pop ditty they had sung on Sutaa
Tanjou. Their new material was bouncier, almost disco-but cute disco, with titles
like "Monster," "Chameleon Army" and "UFO." Indeed, part of
their appeal was that, although their clothes were sexy, the songs were almost never
suggestive, and thus their image remained wholesome, clean - safe.
The Pink Lady boom peaked in 1978, with several awards and a two-night gig at the
Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. All of this must have convinced the girls and their
management that they could do no wrong: they turned down an invitation to appear on NHK'
ever-popular New Year's Eve music extravaganza, Kohaku Uta Gassen, in favor of
doing their own special on NTV, Pink Lady's 150 Minutes of Sweat and Tears on New
Year's Eve. Naturally, Kohaku clobbered them in the ratings, but worse yet, the
special prompted controversy for their inviting blind children to make up the studio
audience. Though Mii and Kei appeared moved to tears as they shook hands with the children
during the show, they were criticized for appearing to use blind kids to draw attention to
In 1979, they began their downward slide; although their singles still made the top ten,
they stopped reaching number one. Attempts to replicate their success in the US (recording
English songs, appearing in their own TV show) were a mere flash in the pan; anyone who
watched Pink Lady and Jeff in March 1980 remembers it only for how bad it was.
It soon became clear that the party was over, and Pink Lady gave a televised farewell
concert on March 31, 1981, at Korakuen Stadium. Thirty thousand people turned out in the
rain to see Mii and Kei perform atop a mock steam locomotive as it chugged along the
perimeter of the stadium. They tearfully bid their fans goodbye, but continued to make
occasional TV appearances individually. And in 1988, they reunited for a New Year's Eve
performance - on Kohaku Uta Gassen. More recently, they have become something of a
nostalgia item, as thirtysomethings relive the music of their youth. Perhaps this staying
power attests to the fact that, just as no one had seen anything like Pink Lady before,
nor have they seen anything like them since.