This series highlights those masters of intestinal intensity and the tracks they do it on: The lion roars in rock, metal, and other genres of music; The bonecrushing Banshee screams, throat thunder, diaphragm hammers, and sonic salvos from the lungs of Zeus. We’re not down with PYT here…we’re down with PST, so let’s get on that ferocious Freudian couch and show me a Roar Face!!
Today’s appointment is with Dr. Ian Gillan, vocalist of Deep Purple and Jesus Christ Superstar alum, and his prescription is a certain unidentified “Woman From Tokyo.” This therapy was first originated and practiced in 1973 on the album Who Do We Think We Are. As a testament to it’s potency and efficacy, this therapy made Deep Purple the top selling musical act in the United States that year. Clients were lining up to buy the new Woman From Tokyo (WFT) prescription therapy like it was a midnight HDTV sale at Walmart or the latest weight loss supplement the Dr. Oz zombies were told about the previous day’s episode.
Years before David Bowie had a China Girl, Ian Gillian had a Woman From Tokyo and long before he was Knocking At Your Back Door, Ian was knocking at your eardrum. If memory lane isn’t all that foggy, I think I first heard “Woman From Tokyo” being played by my father’s brother one day when we went to visit him. Either that or while I hanging out at an older neighbor’s house and it’s a safe bet to guess it wasn’t Mister Rogers. I am clear however, that the first time I heard a woman from Tokyo was in a Godzilla movie.
“Woman From Tokyo” fascinated me with its arrangement, mixtures of style and tempo changes. Deep Purple pianist/keyboardist Jon Lord became one of my early keyboard heroes as I was a classical piano student and could hear the influence in his playing. Many times after completing my John Thompson’s Modern Piano Course lesson or lessons for the week, I’d have my music teacher show me some classic rock riffs and one fine day (a Thursday evening) he showed me Ritchie Blackmore’s opening guitar riff in E major.
What made Jon Lord appealing to me was he played several styles often within the same song more so than his other classically trained 70’s Dr. Terwillikers and virtuoso ivory ticklers like Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Keith Emerson (The E in ELP) whom I was also into. I loved Classical Piano yet also had loads of fun ripping up Ragtime and Jazz and Jon Lord seemed a kindred spirit in stylistic exploration and fusion of new musical stews.
Jon Lord’s classical flourishes and textures in the cantabile middle section of the song are like listening to a mini ballet or geisha performance where you can visualize a music box dancer version or bobble head of the unnamed mystery Woman From Tokyo. There’s chiffon and chaînés turns visually as it tapers off into the ether before Mr. Blackmore’s guitar alarm clock takes us out of our momentary reverie. Ian Gillan sings delicately here in a kind of rock aria, the calm of the storm before the Woman From Tokyo tsunami hits us a bit later. There’s some vocal preludes to the money earshot earlier in the song before the big kahuna scream makes earfall.
Where Jon Lord really earns his paycheck on Woman From Tokyo is with the euphoric celebratory pseudo southern Honky Tonk bluesy outro solo. I’ve always LOVED this part—it’s a jam that gives the song an injection of pure elation, infuses a nice “lift” as it ends like Chicago’s “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” which coincidentally also came out in 1973.
The money earshot happens around the 3:57 mark when Ian sings “I get high” and goes supersonic on the word high, then goes back to normal gritty burly muscular lead vocals. He goes from ballsy to blood–curdling in one word. When I first heard “Woman From Tokyo”, Ian Gillan’s scream made my hair stand and still does creating a psychic mohawk at the specific moment:
Over 4 decades later, that Woman From Tokyo still turns heads and plenty of dog ears. Hopefully she can help Ian with some Japanese lessons and get him to pronounce Tokyo in 2 syllables instead of 3. Perhaps she can even tutor Jon Bon Jovi as he grew up mispronouncing it on “Tokyo Road” off of 7800° Fahrenheit, the appetizer album before the megahit Slippery When Wet. Jon seemed too busy on tour for Japanese lessons and erred once again on the Slippery When Wet track “Raise Your Hands.” Thankfully we all learned to say “Bonsai” correctly thanks to The Karate Kid. Maybe we should watch Godzilla movies more often as well—then again, it didn’t seem to help Blue Öyster Cult either. But sometimes, it seems Bonsai’s does matter.
© Composer Yoga
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