July 18th, 2009 18:02:00


In 1966 the Beatles visited Japan to perform at Tokyo's famous Budokan Hall, and Japanese teenagers would never be the same. They sported mop-tops and strapped-on Stratocasters, with garage bands forming all over the country in an attempt to imitate their idols. Because they had a hard time pronouncing 'Rock n' Roll' , they invented their own name for this new national youth music: Group Sounds.

GS WONDERLAND is a fun, spirited story of a fictional Group Sounds band called The Tightsmen, whose female keyboard player is a closely-guarded secret. Forced by their record company to wear matching Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits in order to stay ahead of the quickly changing fashion fads, they overcome their goofy aesthetic to woo the youth of Japan in a short-lived career brimming with melodious pop songs.

Although the bands who play a major part in GS WONDERLAND are fictional, many of the other bands referred to - The Spiders, The Tigers, The Blue Comets, the Tempters, The Jaguars - were a real part of the Japanese Group Sounds explosion of the late 60s. Group sounds bands tended toward sweet love songs inspired by the Beatles early period, but with a hint of the psychedelia and fuzz guitar that were more prominent by that time. Many of the GS bands - like the Beatles, or probably more accurately, The Monkees - had their own Richard Lester-inspired films and TV specials, where wacky 60s hijinx are spurred on by the swingin' soundtrack of bands like The Spiders, The Tigers and The Jaguars. The Spiders were most popular onscreen, their films including WILD SCHEME A GO-GO (1967), BIG COMMOTION! (1968), and THE ROAD TO BALI (1968). The Tigers appeared in HI! LONDON (1969) and the Jaguars in a film called HEY YOU, GO! (1968). As depicted in GS WONDERLAND, the GS bands were greeted with hysteric female fans who chased them through the streets and fainted at concerts.

GS WONDERLAND is not a history lesson, although its context in the GS boom makes it of significant historical interest to Western music fans who may not have heard of the Group Sounds phenomena. Although coloured by lighthearted humour, it's fascinating to see the flipside of how these bands came to be, and how they equally quickly faded into obscurity, making way for the heavy 70s sounds of Japanese bands like The Flower Travellin' Band, Murasaki and others.

- Kier-La Janisse


GS WONDERLAND plays Saturday July 18th at Midnight in the Salle JA de Seve.

More details on the film including description, images, trailer and more the GS WONDERLAND FILM PAGE HERE

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