Cowboy Bebop – Kanno Yoko OST Commentary (The Jazz Messengers)

 

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(here’s hoping this hasn’t been translated yet)

I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I bought the book, so here we go: Yoko Kanno’s commentary on the series’ soundtrack, more precisely, OST I and Vitaminless.

Her comments are actually really, really interesting, because they show us a glimpse at a Bebop with a different ending song, a (now) very familiar battle theme and some iconic songs that almost never were. She also reveals the inspirations behind many of her compositions, ranging from taxi companies to lack of sleep, as well as some initial character details.

Note: the ‘extra songs’ Kanno keeps mentioning are the ones she composed without being asked to by the director (she explains more below).

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Cowboy Bebop OST I

 

  1. Tank!

[Opening Theme]

This was originally supposed to be a battle theme, but I figured it would sound nice as the opening song.

  1. Rush

[Honky Tonk Women] Spike confronts Faye on top of Gordon’s spaceship.

This was also a battle theme, but with a rather cool, speedy and dry air about it.

  1. Spokey Dokey

[Asteroid Blues] Spike’s training scene.

A song I composed for the guest character of the episode ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. I wanted it to emphasise sorrow and the experience of age.

  1. Bad Dog No Biscuits

[Stray Dog Strut] Chasing Ein.

I was messing around, as you can see by the title (laughs). A good song for chase scenes, with a rather wild feeling. Also, Ein’s theme song.

  1. Cat Blues

[Stray Dog Strut] Spike drags Ein along, followed by Hakim and the scientists.

[Ganymede Elegy] In the opening part, Ed approaches the bounty.

I thought it would be nice to have a song with that sneaky, ‘Pink Panther’ feeling. It was created in the middle stage, like ‘Tank!’ and a few others.

Bebop’s music can be split into three main stages, the first one being comprised of compositions that include African percussion, as well as standard jazz compositions. These were made at the director’s request. The middle stage had brass rock or band songs like ‘Tank!’, while the last stage had all kinds of mixed styles. No one asked me to compose those, but I still did it (laughs).

  1. Cosmos

A song I composed in the very beginning. It was originally Gren’s song, who was supposed to play either the trumpet or the saxophone. I decided on the trumpet and wrote this.

  1. Space Lion

[Jupiter Jazz I] The song Gren plays at the bar. Used three more times.

[Jupiter Jazz II] From the moment a wounded Gren departs for space to the end.

Also has a music box version.

This is an extra song. Truth be told, it wasn’t intended to be a song that would make people cry, not to mention that this time I was told we wouldn’t need a song that would symbolise ‘space’. Still, I thought having this type of tune would end up useful at some point, so I composed one melody in my own image of space. It actually ended up used in such a great scene! The progression of the song works perfectly and it fits so well, I can’t help but wonder whether that scene was written based on the song.

  1. Waltz For Zizi

[Ganymede Elegy] The last scene where Jet leaves. Used two more times.

[Bohemian Rhapsody] The last scene, as Hex silently closes his eyes.

I love those strange three old men who show up from time to time, so I composed a song for them even though no one asked me to. Hence the title (laughs).* Drunk old men reminiscing about good old times. One of the extra songs.

  1. Piano Black

[Honky Tonk Women] Faye escapes from the casino.

[Bohemian Rhapsody] Spike and Faye head towards the scrapyard. Used two more times.

The sound in the background is not percussion, but a looped sample of a kick that starts the bike engine. The type of club, not acoustic, jazz.

  1. Pot City

[Stray Dog Strut] Spike and the scientists look for Ein.

[Bohemian Rhapsody] The toll booth is hacked.

A feeling of intoxication I actually yearn for a little (laughs). I can’t drink alcohol, so I obviously can’t get drunk either, but I imagined it would feel like that state of mind you get when you can’t fall asleep, but up to eleven.

  1. Too Good Too Bad

[Gateway Shuffle] Missiles fired in hyperspace.

Battle theme in the style of New Orleans funk, with tuba as the base, continuing with the roll of the snare drum. I personally love this kind of rhythm, so I’ve been using it for a long time.

  1. Car24

[Jamming with Edward] Ed remotely controls the Bebop.

When we went to New York to record music for Bebop, I hopped into a sightseeing taxi that belonged to a company named ‘Car24’. The driver, an old black man, was a very nice person, so I’m dedicating this song to him…well, this has nothing to do with Bebop (laughs). Still, it’s got this bubbly feeling, this excitement you feel when exploring an unknown city.

  1. The Egg and I

[Heavy Metal Queen] Faye is waiting in the restaurant.

[Jamming with Edward] Jet is trying to get information about Ed.

[Speak Like a Child] Spike and Jet are heading towards the video maniac’s place.

Spike was originally supposed to be a huge glutton, so I gave it a light feeling of just loving food and being unable to stop eating.

  1. Felt Tip Pen

[Waltz For Venus] Rocco asks Spike to train him.

A song meant to resemble an old country tune that can be heard from the jukebox in Session 01. I also wrote it to be used for the moments when the crew of the Bebop realises another day has passed and they still haven’t earned anything, since there weren’t enough songs to evoke this kind of ‘mellow’ mood.

  1. Rain

[Ballad of Fallen Angels] Spike heads towards the church.

I actually composed this song specifically to be the ending theme. I thought that since the story is not particularly serious, the ending sounding very hardboiled, and even rather progressive, would be cool. Obviously, the Hammond organ you hear didn’t actually have anything to do with the church scene (Session 05). I was the one who requested the lyrics and if you read them, you can tell that they are inspired by the Vietnam War. They’re quite deep; I love them!

  1. Digging My Potato

[Sympathy for the Devil] The initial flashback scene.

This is like sort of taking a breather (laughs). It almost sounds like a commercial BGM.

  1. Memory

[Asteroid Blues] First flashback scene.

One of the extra songs. This melody also has a properly sung full version, which sounds like a really standard song. It’s a nice tune (laughs).

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Cowboy Bebop Vitaminless

 

1.The Real Folk Blues

[Ending Theme]

I originally created this as an insert song, but director Watanabe loved it and wanted to use it as an ending. I didn’t think it was good enough, so I was opposed to the idea, but polished it off as he told me and the end result wasn’t bad at all.

At first I wanted it to be sung by a foreign artist in English, but all the other songs were in English as well, so I figured if there were one track sung in Japanese, then this should be the one. The lyrics written by Iwasato Yuho, ‘A life steeped in a river of mud isn’t that bad either/If it ends once.’ reflect her own view on the series. I really like the way it touches upon the deeper and more serious parts of the story. I also looked for a male vocalist in the beginning, but there was no one who could sing better than Yamane Mai. We were already acquainted, so I am really happy she accepted to work with me again.

  1. Odd Ones

[My Funny Valentine] Dog fight between Faye and Spike.

A tune I wanted to breathe jazz. It wouldn’t have sounded so cool had I recorded it in Japan.

  1. Doggy Dog

[Heavy Metal Queen] Spike fights VT. Used two more times.

[Bohemian Rhapsody] The corporation executive grumbles from behind the stacks of complaints.

This might as well be the theme song of the ‘Bad Dog Army Corps’, headed by Ein and including Spike and Jet (laughs). I asked an African friend to sing for me and he passed on the melody and rhythm by mouth. This is also one of the extra songs.

  1. Cats on Mars

[Jamming With Edward] Ed talks to MPU. Used two more times.

Ed’s theme. She’s a computer maniac, so I wanted it to show the blip blops going on inside her head. The lyrics mimic French and the song is performed by our Gabriela Robin.

  1. Spy

[Honky Tonk Women] The conversation in the beginning between Gordon and Faye.

This speaks for itself. I composed this in the first or middle stage, what we call a spy style song. I think it’s a great success of Bebop that this type of composition didn’t end up used in a cliched setting.

  1. Fantaisie Sign

Drum and bass. I’m going to digress a little, but I didn’t know about the term ‘drum and bass’ two years ago, when I composed this song. Well, I wasn’t familiar at all with the names of musical genres in the first place. Anyway, I composed this song and showed it to the director who told me ‘Oh, this is drum and bass!’ and I panicked, because I thought he was talking about a band (laughs). Still, I couldn’t actually ask him what he was talking about, so I just agreed and immediately after ran to the record store for research. But there was no band with such name (laughs), so I figured the director was very well-informed and didn’t say anything anymore. I was so nervous for about a year (laughs). I still haven’t told him anything about this (laughs).

  1. Piano Bar I

[Honky Tonk Women] Last scene, Spike and Jet return to the casino. Used once more.

[Heavy Metal Queen] The last conversation between Spike and VT.

[Jamming With Edward] Spike and Jet are at the police station to get their money.

[Jupiter Jazz I] Gren approaches Faye at the bar.

[My Funny Valentine] The first conversation between Faye and Whitney at the hospital. Also used in the last scene.

[Speak Like a Child] The BGM of the soap opera the video maniac is watching.

This was a request from the director: ‘a song for a useless day with no earnings’. I wanted to be the one to perform this and did end up doing it, but I wanted to give it that unsteady feeling of a real jazz player, so someone from New York ended up playing it at my request.

  1. (Secret Track) Black Coffee

[Honky Tonk Women] The deal between Spike and Gordon.

There really wasn’t a reason for this to be a secret track, but the staff requested it, so here it is. I didn’t even intend to put it on the CD in the first place. The context of the conversation is that one night, a man and woman living together have a fight. The woman is French, the man is American. The next morning, both are uncomfortable sharing the cramped tiled kitchen, and the man keeps asking the woman if she wants some coffee, while she keeps on refusing him. If you’re wondering what this has to do with Bebop (laughs), well, basically, it’s the jazzy atmosphere, or, how should I put it, what feels like jazz to me. Like the subtleties between men and women.

This was recorded in New York, but I only needed to explain the context to Rudy*, and he separated the sound to the left and right and gave instructions for almost everything, all by himself. The role of the man was given to a pianist who happened to be there.


 

* in case you ever wondered who Zizi was (like me). It’s jiji (‘old man/men’).

*Rudy Van Gelder

About dijeh

I translate things, mainly almost everything that has to do with gods screwing with humans' lives and getting their asses kicked in return.
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