Rommel (ロンメル) – セクシー スマイル b/w 甘いキッス 7″ (BLR-021)
Tokyo’s Rommel was formed in 1976 by brothers Taku and Hiro on guitar/vocals and drums, respectively, as a way to channel their love of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They wanted to name their rock ‘n’ roll group after their favorite childhood toy, a model tank named Rommel. They felt the deep rumbling of their bass tone was akin to that of the infamous Panzer…all the while being completely unaware of the namesake of their band.
The brothers were joined in 1977 by Non on bass and in 1978 by Julie on guitar. Soon after, with plans to play their first-ever show at the small concert hall of Toshiba Ginza Seven, the band began recording their debut single セクシー スマイル (“Sexy Smile”) b/w 甘いキッス (“Sweet Kiss”, an homage to pop star Kenji Sawada whose nickname “Julie” directly inspired that of the Rommel member’s moniker) on a 4-track at Studio Yamaha in Dogenzaka, Shibuya.
The recording did not go as smoothly as the band had hoped. Julie and Non both quit immediately with the latter stating “I want to have a normal job”. Taku was not originally supposed to sing lead vocals, but he was forced to after their departure. The brothers were able to find replacements in time for their debut show, but, as covers were already printed, the two recently departed members remained on the cover.
Fortunately, the band was able to replace everyone in time for their debut gig and, on April 7th, 1978, performed to a small crowd of friends, family, and music industry scouts. The band released their lone single in a limited pressing of only one hundred copies, which reflected both their meager budget and almost non-existent fanbase. Half of the pressing was sold that night while the rest were given away to loved ones shortly after.
Following their fateful debut, the brothers persevered through lineup changes and small gigs in musical instrument retailers and department stores before landing a record deal with Columbia Records in 1980. Under “strong recommendation” from the major label, the band changed their name to the more appropriate Whoopee and released two singles that year before disbanding.
As such, Rommel’s forgotten single is an infectious and truly cult piece of lost Japanese power pop history that deserves to see the light of day, which is why we are profoundly honored to present this record to you in a pressing of 300 copies. This masterful piece of rock ‘n’ roll is also a landmark for Bitter Lake Recordings, as it is our first reissue from the unwitting 1970’s Japanese underground.