Vodka Collins is a Tokyo based Japanese-American rock band, formed in 1971. The core band members are drummer Hiroshi Oguchi (formerly of The Tempters), singer-guitarist Alan Merrill, singer-guitarist Hiroshi “Monsieur” Kamayatsu (formerly of The Spiders) and bassist Take Yokouchi(formerly of the Four Leaves backing band, High Society). In later reunion recordings in the 1990s, Yokouchi was replaced by Masayoshi “Mabo” Kabe (formerly of The Golden Cups) on bass guitar.
All of the band’s released works are original compositions by lead singer Alan Merrill. The band have made 5 albums, the most well known being the glam rock album “Tokyo - New York” released in 1973 on EMI records. Other album titles are “Chemical Reaction”, “Pink Soup”, “Boy’s Life” and ’“Boys In The Band”.
Alan Merrill performs his composition “Motor Running” (A.Merrill / T.Taylor) live in Japan in 1990. The band is a fabulous unit, featuring Hiroshi Oguchi on drums, Robin LeMesurier on lead guitar, Donnie Kisselbach on bass, The Coconuts on backing vocals (Adriana Kaegi, Janique Svedberg, Cheryl Lee Poirier), Shinohara Nobuhiko on keyboards, The Upskirt Horns (Toshi, Yohan and Hiro) on brass. Alan Merrill sings lead vocal and plays rhythm guitar in this clip.
Under the covert name Practice Of Silence, this was secretly the first of a series of reunions of the band Vodka Collins. The venue is club Ink Stick in Shibaura Tokyo.
I feel my motor running I hear my engine humming I feel the hot blood flowing I need some white kicks to get me going Oh, my knees are weak My tongue’s tired And I can’t speak I know what’s in it for me Got to kick down the door If you can’t find the key!
I feel my motor running I hear my engine humming I feel the hot blood flowing I need some white kicks to get me going
So hot! I can’t even think I need just one last drink Walk a tightrope It’s the finest line I’m all shagged out What’d she say? She said “do it one more time” Do it do it!
I feel my motor running I hear my engine humming I feel the hot blood flowing I need some white kicks to get me going I feel my motor running
The double A-side hit single “Sands Of Time” & “Automatic Pilot” by Vodka Collins released in 1972 Japan, from the album Tokyo New York, although the single mix is a bit different than the album. Vodka Collins was Alan Merrill and Hiroshi Oguchi.
It’s raining in Tokyo, practically flooding in fact, so I’m stuck in my hotel room. I don’t have proper Wellington boots here, so I don’t dare venture out. I thought it was about time to add a new entry to this journal and the rain made for a perfect space in time to do just that. I have been in Tokyo one week today and I have finally adjusted to the time change. It’s 14 hours ahead of New York time here, so I’m now, technically speaking, in the future. I’m staying in Hiroo, a section of Tokyo which is densely populated by foreigners.
There is the National Azabu Supermarket nearby, a place that caters to foreigners, so I can get items that I like without wondering what it is. I can speak Japanese fairly well, but I can’t read it, so shopping can be a mysterious experience. Especially at the late night convenience stores. It’s conceivable that instead of buying eyedrops one might buy superglue. If drunk, using superglue as eyedrops by mistake could lead to a trip to the hospital. So, I prefer to shop with things labeled in both English and Japanese and the National Azabu Supermarket does just that. I have shopped there over the years since the summer of 1968, so it’s a familiar place, with many fond memories attached.
At Pub Cardinal, Roppongi Tokyo, from a page in Fukuso magazine 1970 with the popular model Tomoko Hino. (above photo)-
My 1971 solo album cover “Merrill 1” (below photo) outside the front of Pub Cardinal. Photo by Ken Kageoka.
In my late teen days in Japan I spent most of my time in the Akasaka district of Tokyo. I was dating the top go-go girl in Japan, a girl named Michi Nakao, who danced at the most trendy discotheque, Mugen, in Akasaka.
Alan and Michi, 1969 in Roppongi (photo below)-
Next door to Mugen was Byblos, the show business hang out place for late night carousing. I played my first show in Japan at the Akasaka Space Capsule club in 1968. Akasaka is a nightime entertainment district. The main place I go in Tokyo now though is an area called Roppongi. There really is no other place quite like it in the world. I have to say it’s been on the decline since my first visit in ‘68 and I have watched amused as it has slipped further and further into depravity. A step down with each trip I make to Japan. In the mid 1990s the scene there still had some class and elegance, even at the strip clubs that dot the area. Toward the end of the 1990s there were even street vendors from the middle east there, selling Kebabs and cheap jewelry, something I never thought I’d see anywhere in Japan.
Off the top of my head I can remember in 1970 having tea with Bjorn Andersson and his press agent in Roppongi, doing some publicity photos together for a Japanese teen magazine. Bjorn was the star of the popular film “Death In Venice" and we talked about pop music at Pub Cardinal, a bar which is no longer there. It was a truly amazing room upstairs at Pub Cardinal. Beautiful leather chairs, gold fixtures, and lots of smoked mirrors. I did a lot of business meetings at Pub Cardinal, including my final meeting in '73 with my manager, ending phase one of my band Vodka Collins. A meeting ending in an impasse, with me jetting off to London the next day to start the Arrows.
It’s alarming how Roppongi has changed. Like a once beautiful whore, the Roppongi district has now descended to new depths, I suppose simply as a matter of fiscal survival. Chinese girls far from home, probably fleeing some impoverished village, wander the Roppongi streets in packs offering massages for money. "Massagi massagi” they say, persistent and smiling fake frozen smiles. They are young, thin, have bleached blond hair and are actually so blatantly mercenary that they are both cute and repulsively scary at the same time.
However, there is still some class and elegance in Roppongi. You just have to know where to look. The area of Roppongi is an adult playground, a sector for late night play and there are some legendary bars there. Roaring 20s and Seventh Heaven are the obvious high profile expensive stripper bars.
My friend Jiro’s place Castillo’s is my regular bar and Stuart’s place Mogambo’s and Geronimo’s Shot Bar are fun. Another friend, Bernd, owns a German pub named Bernd's (what else?) near the Roppongi crossing.
Walk in and you feel you’re actually in Bavaria.
Bernd’s pub Tokyo, 2010. Me with my friend Bernd and staffers.
I wrote a song about the area Roppongi that appears on the new Vodka Collins complilation reissue album “Boys In The Band”. The song first appeared on the 1997 Vodka Collins “Pink Soup” album. "Roppongi Roppongi / Honky Tonky / Heart of Tokyo Soul / Roppongi Roppongi / Let your hair down / And get in while the good times roll".
Of course it was a word game I played with the children’s story, you know, "Rapunsel Rapunsel, let down your hair". I’m not sure why, but it just seemed right at the time.
It doesn’t always have to make sense.
Singing at my friend (Golden Cups lead singer) the late Dave Hirao’s club Bold in Roppongi, Oct. 14, 2004. (above)