The Spiders may be the most renowned 1960s Japanese vocal rock group, certainly among collectors outside of Japan. Like many non-English-speaking nations, Japan generated many bands playing in the British Invasion style, and the Spiders were among the first and foremost. In the last half of the 1960s, they had some Japanese hits, cut about half a dozen albums, and even made some attempts to breach the English and American market. Singing in both Japanese and fractured English, their sound was heavily imitative of American and particularly British groups, mixing in some California vocal group harmony and psychedelic influences. Mixing original material and covers of overseas rock hits, the songwriting and musicianship was frankly not on the level of the outstanding groups from other countries. What attracts cultists to their records these days is a peculiar manic intensity found in much of their work, as well as odd mixtures of styles and fractured song structures that, to Western ears at least, can sometimes sound like an off-the-wall mangling of familiar forms.
The Spiders had been playing for about half a decade before reaching their acknowledged peak. Drummer Shochi Tanabe formed the band in 1961, and at the outset they played in an American country music style, at one time also including a female singer. Their first recordings were instrumental guitar rock; some of these, such as their cover of "Wipeout," are included on the Big Beat anthology GS I Love You: Japanese Garage Bands of the 1960s. By 1966, however, they were recording in a vocal beat group style reflecting the influence of bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Animals. Signed with Philips, they cranked out half a dozen albums and numerous singles between 1966-1970.
Although their biggest Japanese hits were far more ballad- and pop-driven than much of their original material, they did branch out from the basic mid-1960s R&B-pop-British Invasion style on some of their outings. They used a cheap-sounding sitar and Association-derived harmonies on "Kuroyuri No Uta," mimicked Jimi Hendrix on "End of Love," and showed a Beach Boys influence in "Summer Girl." The best of their recordings are collected on Big Beat's compilation Let's Go Spiders!, which only draws from the years 1966-1968.
The Spiders did actually tour Europe in late 1966 and made an attempt to crack the Western market, issuing a British single, appearing on England's Ready Steady Go pop music television show, and playing the legendary Star Club in Hamburg. They also did a show in Hawaii in mid-1967 and released a couple of singles in America. They made no commercial impression overseas, however, though they continued to enjoy success at home. In early 1971 they broke up, although beginning in the early 1980s they occasionally re-formed for reunions. ~ Richie Unterberger