With the impending release of B’z COMPLETE SINGLE BOX and its massive 53-disc set on the horizon, it seemed only fitting that we take a look back at the very first time that B’z attempted such a collection, all the way back in 2005.
Apple’s iTunes service has long been known as the for-bearer and industry leader in the digital marketplace for music, television, and movies. The innovation of the iPod brought with it a revolution in how we listen to music and was undoubtedly the catalyst for many abandoning physical media in favor of the convenience and capacity allowed by digital. At the time, iTunes had already captured 80% of the U.S. and UK digital markets with 1.8 million songs being purchased per day. As one of the world’s most dependably successful music markets, rumors swirled as to when Japan would enter the fray—especially given the country had long solidified its reputation for being on the cutting edge of most types of technology. It seemed only natural they, too, would get a similar push as did the rest of the world. And on August 4, 2005, they did.
One of the hot topics leading into the event in Tokyo that August was song pricing. Convincing the Japanese record labels to adopt the standard pricing of roughly $1 USD per song had not been easy given the profit margins they enjoyed on physical sales. Indeed, Japan was and remains one of the few markets in which physical singles still move hundreds of thousands of copies every week. Jeopardizing that meant cutting into their marketing machines, so their trepidation was understandable. Despite its technologically-advanced reputation, most Japanese artists had not placed their back catalogues online in digital form just yet and there was no guarantee that many were exactly lining up to do so. After all, their physical albums and singles were still selling at a rate disproportionate with the rest of the world and changing that seemed unnecessarily risky. Thus, when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs took the stage that day, there was a great deal of curiosity in Japan about the long-term ramifications of such a prospect.
With a career spanning three decades as of next year and nearly 350 of their own songs released to date, B’z have had a long career in music by any measure. Their long-term success has led to its vocalist Koshi Inaba and guitarist Tak Matsumoto to occasionally be propositioned to create songs for other artists—many of whom were beginning their careers.
Kodoku no Runaway
The first of these collaborations was “Kodoku no RUNAWAY” (Lonely Runaway, 孤独のRUNAWAY). The artist in question was female guitarist Ataka Miharu who would soon be best known as the guitarist of girl rock duo KIX-S. Although not explicitly advertised as much, this version of the song actually features B’z outright. For the sessions, Tak wrote all-new music and Koshi provides chorus vocals that are now familiar to any long-time B’z fan.
One year later, B’z would do a self-cover of the song and develop it into the one that would become an early live staple for the band: “Kodoku no Runaway” from their third mini album MARS. Many of the same guitar licks and vocal hooks are present, but it is expanded into a vocal showcase for Koshi. The most prominent showing for the song was in a featured slot for B’z LIVE-GYM Pleasure 2008 -GLORY DAYS-, when it was played more in its revised, hard rock “Mixture style” reversion from B’z The “Mixture”.
The Storied History of B’z and Aerosmith:
When the Top Rock Bands in Japan and America Come Together
A very special acknowledgment goes out to Keen for the archive of materials that contributed to this article. A great debt is owed to her not only for this article but for supporting international B’z fandom from its infancy.
Aerosmith formed nearly two full decades before B’z and, by the time Tak Matsumoto and Koshi Inaba made their joint debut on September 21, 1988, had already sold well over 25 million records worldwide. “Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Walk This Way”, “Mama Kin”, “Back in the Saddle”, and “Draw the Line” had all long been released. Already commonly hailed as both the “Bad Boys from Boston” and the definitive American rock band, Aerosmith had by then already toured the world, broken up and spent a half-decade without its core line-up, reunited, battled drug addiction, and earned a reputation as both the hardest rocking and most volatile band around. The group’s biggest personalities and likewise its brightest stars—vocalist Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry—earned the joint moniker “the Toxic Twins” as a result.
So distant were these two bands in age that B’z guitarist Tak Matsumoto spent his high school years playing Aerosmith songs in his bedroom, whilst a young Koshi Inaba considered Steven Tyler a top vocalist whose ability and stage presence were to be striven toward. What the two acts undoubtedly have in common is success: both topped their respective music industries, both established themselves as definitive rock icons whose staying power is long beyond reproach.
What’s more, despite the different eras from which they hailed and the ages that separate them, the divergent paths of B’z and Aerosmith would later intersect in a way that would make rock history and prove an indelible moment for fans of both bands.
One of the more curious oddities in B’z lore and its accompanying fandom is the origin of the name “B’z“. A great many explanations have been proffered over the years (including both competing and supporting explanations by Tak and Koshi themselves in various interviews after being asked the question innumerable times). As many now no doubt know, “B’z” is pronounced the same as “bees” and occasionally as “bi-zu” (ビーズ) as a phonetic replacement by fans in Japan though the band use the former.
In 2012, as part of the B’z LIVE-GYM 2012 -Into Free- tour that saw the band play both coasts of the U.S. and Canada, a camera crew from WOWOW followed the action and recounted it in the documentary Only Two. The title of which originates from Tak, who stated when asked about the founding of the band:
“In the beginning, I wanted to found a band with four members, but… [after meeting Koshi] I thought, ‘Only two is enough.'”
Later, when asked if he had a clear vision of the path B’z would follow, he added:
“I had a clear vision from the start: I wanted to form a band that could succeed in making hit songs, you know. That’s why I started a band with just two. In general, every member of a band is egotistic. I didn’t think it’d be well organized with so many opinions.”
As for the name they later took as their own, the most prominent explanation over the years became that B’z wanted to be an “A to Z” sort of band, a band from which you could expect any sort of music. This was shortened to “A~Z” and then “A’z“, but the poor connotations quickly made it an unfavorable candidate, which led to “B’z”. Tak also mentioned in a 1989 interview that the idea of having a “Z” at the end was the result of a casual remark by a staff member whilst they were recording their earliest demos. Another article quoted Tak as saying he liked the idea of using a “Z” in the name and thought having a “B” would be appropriately masculine, with the number of associated B” rock artists out there. Thus, adding the two together formed “B’z“. Another related rationale that emerged in the press was that the band wanted to be inclusive of their favorite rock artists, and thus the name “B’z” included “B” for The Beatles and “Z” for Led Zeppelin.
As it turns out, there’s an element of truth to most of the popular explanations out there. From the aforementioned documentary, in their own words, here is an English-subtitled account of the band explaining the way the name came about:
All sample videos contained in this article are publicly sourced and are reproduced here only for accessibility.
Following the immense success that was the rebooted 2006 LIVE-GYM—one that would set the tone for all B’z shows that followed—and its accompanying album, expectations were high in 2007. It was already presumed the band would have big plans for 2008 given it was their twentieth anniversary year, but what would precede it was still relatively unknown at the time. Fans speculated that the previous year’s live premiere of the English verison of “HOME” would possibly see a release in some form, but it was not there that the year began.
Instead, the first sighting of B’z activity was the announcement of their first international tie-in. The PlayStation 2 racing video game Burnout Dominator was released worldwide in March and featured an all-new B’z song in every territory entitled “FRICTION“. The song was included as a means of promoting the game primarily in Japan, but it would later be included the next year in the sequel game Burnout Paradise that was likewise released globally. The song was also published worldwide on iTunes at the same time as part of the soundtrack.
Given the rising popularity of lyric videos in today’s internet music culture, we decided to try our hand at creating one featuring a B’z song. The song we decided to work with was the English tune “Love Bomb“, itself being a new rendition of the 2005 Japanese single “Ai no Bakudan“.
(Update for 2017—This edition of the song was previously released in 2012 as part of the band’s debut English album but was recently delisted from international iTunes stores with the coming of the new year. A similar delisting followed after five years of availability for the band’s 2007 International EP. It bears noting that “Into Free -Dangan-” remains available worldwide as a single.)
As a bonus: You can also now download a collection of eight custom wallpapers inspired by this project right here. Each wallpaper was created for a resolution of 1920×1080 but should scale nicely to any widescreen resolution.