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Taking back a few liberties…

Peter Barakan

In Britain being able to laugh at yourself is extremely important, and someone who is incapable of doing this tends to be seen as a 'nerd.' However, the phrase 'self-deprecating,' though in daily use in Britain, is almost unknown in Japan, and the associations are quite different, with the result that I have been advised on several occasions not to use the word. Admittedly when applied to others the word 'deprecate' does have negative connotations, but when the object of the scorn is oneself the nuance becomes a positive one to an English speaker, at any rate if the speaker is British. Many years of living in Tokyo have made me increasingly aware of the cultural differences between Britain and Japan, and also of the fact that my own sense of humour is immutably British. It will probably benefit both writer and reader if you bear that in mind as you read this book.


One other thing I wanted to make mention of was the manner in which English record and song titles have been rendered in Japanese. This matter was the subject of some debate between myself and the editors of the book. The only criterion for inclusion was that the album in question be currently available in CD form, whether it be a Japanese domestic release or in some cases an import which might present a serious challenge to obtain. The problem is of course that a certain record might be released domestically for the first time only after publication of the book, or there might be changes in distribution at any time. We therefore opted not to differentiate between local and foreign releases. With regard to translated Japanese titles, my opposition to their inclusion was defeated, with the provision that we include a separate English index of titles at the back of the book. I hope this will be useful.


The names of all the musicians mentioned in the course of the book come from countries outside Japan, and their phonetic representation in Japanese was the biggest headache of all. The reason for this is that the generally used pronunciation is in many cases wrong; not only that, but the record companies involved often disregard advice to correct mistakes, on the grounds that the mistakes are already broadly accepted as the correct pronunciation of the name. My own feeling is that the effort to pronounce somone's name correctly is a non-negotiable sign of basic respect for that person, and I have therefore rendered all names as closely as possible to the original, which may lead to some confusion in the reader's mind. Please bear with me on this. Of course there are limits. For example the name 'Robertson' should be pronounced 'Ro-bu-tsun' rather than 'Ro-baa-to-son,' but I have decided to go along with Japanese convention in this kind of case. However, I have changed 'A-re-sa' to 'A-rii-sa' (Aretha) and the nonexistent 'Gu-ra-ha-mu' to 'Gu-re-a-mu' (Graham). I should also add that the word 'acoustic' is pronounced 'a-kuu-su-tikku,' not 'a-ko-o-su-tikku,' and that 'blues' is'bu-ruu-zu,' not 'bu-ruu-su.' It never ceases to amaze me how these words continue to be persistently mispronounced by the majority of people in the Japanese music industry, despite the existence of innumerable dictionaries which all give the correct pronunciation. Perhaps you may sympathise with my irritation when, over my repeated protestations and explanations, the Asahi newspaper still 'corrects' my pronunciation.


Finally, my idea for the title of this book was 'My Generation,' (with a tip of the hat to The Who, of course.) I felt that this title expressed, to the best of my ability, what I was trying to say in these pages. And having spent many months in the writing of it, I felt that I had a right to determine the name by which my creation should be known. Unfortunately that was not to be. I know this sounds like whingeing, but I would like my feelings on this to be public.


Copyright 1998 by Peter Barakan


An extract from the preface of a book by Peter Barakan, written in Japanese, published under the title "Boku ga aisuru rock meiban 240,” and translated into English by the author.

about Peter Barakan

Peter Barakan

Peter Barakan is a freelance broadcaster who has been resident in Tokyo since 1974. Born in 1951 in London, he holds a Japanese from the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. After several years spent in the areas of music copyright and artiste management, he decided to take up broadcasting full time, first in FM radio, and subsequently in television also. He currently co-hosts the Japanese edition of the renowned American news magazine programme "60 Minutes," as well as presenting a broad spectrum of popular music from a global perspective, on his characteristically eclectic radio shows in both English and Japanese.

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