Music History

The bizarre story of the rock star who defected to North Korea

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

The 1960s were a turbulent time. Assassinations, riots, civil rights protests, and angry opposition to the war in Vietnam. This unrest wasn’t confined to North America, either. It seemed that the whole world was about to come apart at the seams.

Japan had its own issues. There was the Anpo struggle, an on-again, off-again series of protests against the post-WWII treaty that allowed the U.S. to maintain military bases in the country. Thousands were involved across the country, sometimes resulting in violent clashes with police. Along with university students around the world in 1968-69, Japan saw daigaku funsō (“university troubles”) that took on everything from the construction of Narita Airport to the management of post-secondary schools.

One of the most dangerous challenges to the status quo came from the Communist League, the precursor to the Japanese Red Army, a violent militant communist group that was eventually rightly branded a terrorist organization.

This leads us back to Les Rallizes Dénudés, a psychedelic and experimental rock band formed at Doshisha University in Kyoto in 1967. The group, a merger between the artistic ambitions of vocalist Takashi Mizutani and a radical theatre group known as Gendai Gekijo, itself wasn’t staunchly political, although they did perform for protestors and students during the late ’60s, including an event known as the Barricades A Go-Go concert in 1968. Individual members were also sympathetic to and participated in both the Anpo struggle and daigaku funsō, no one more so than bass player Moriaki Wakabayashi.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38553 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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