Following the release of Happy End’s final studio album, Haruomi Hosono and Shigeru Suzuki teamed up with Tatsuo Hayashi to form the short-lived group Tin Pan Alley. Yellow Magic Carnival comes off the groups studio debut though there is a necessary disclaimer needed when discussing these groups. The rock scene in Japan was highly collaborative so drawing firm boundaries between particular groups can be fraught. For example, the three members of Tin Pan Alley released material as Caramel Mama a few years before their self-titled debut. Hosono is certainly well known to fans of Yellow Magic Orchestra, and I’d encourage exploration of the material from the early 70s, especially for fans of the California folk rock scene active around the same time.
While Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto had long and productive solo careers, exploring the members’ pre-YMO work shows just how rich and collaborative this scene was. As an example, Hayashi contributed percussion to Hosono and Takahashi’s solo releases and if I had any understanding of Japanese I could probably find more examples. If you dig this release and haven’t heard Kazemachi Roman by Happy End be sure to check that out because it’s been hugely influential on Japanese rock music. I did a short-run radio show about the context of YMO and while licensing seems to have wiped out some of the episodes, the episode about the pre-YMO stuff seems to be still available on Mixcloud and gives a broader sample of this scene.