"Fujiyama Mama" is a song written by Jack Hammer. It was recorded by rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson and released in 1957 on the Capitol label. It did not chart in the United States, but it became a No. 1 hit in Japan for several months in 1958.
|Single by Wanda Jackson|
|B-side||"No Wedding Bells for Joe"|
The song was written in 1954 by Jack Hammer, best known as the co-writer of "Great Balls of Fire". Jack Hammer was a pseudonym used by Earl Solomon Burroughs. Hammer wrote the song from the perspective of a Japanese woman. She says she has drunk a quart of sake and is about to "blow my top". The lyrics assert that "when I start you up, there ain't nobody gonna make me stop," and compare the woman's energy to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the iconic Japanese volcano, Mount Fuji.
Recording history and reception in the USAEdit
The song was first recorded by Annisteen Allen, an African American R&B singer, for Capitol Records in early 1955. It featured an instrumental and vocal group accompaniment by African American arranger Howard Biggs. The song and recording received favorable reviews from The Indianapolis News, The Pittsburgh Press, and the Los Angeles Mirror-News. Billboard magazine credited the record's "clever lyrics and Oriental sound gimmicks", but predicted that many disc jockeys would not play it due to its "off-beat lyric." Despite the "off-beat lyric", the song was listed on Billboard's "Coming Up Fast" chart in March and April 1955.
Jackson recorded the song in 1957 for the Capitol label. In her autobiography, she recalled that she had wanted to record it since hearing Annisteen Allen's version. She suggested it to producer Ken Nelson, but he was "a little worried about me singing those words." She persuaded Nelson to let her record it, and it "has become a classic and is the one I think of as the start of the fully unbridled rockabilly version of Wanda Jackson that fans know me for today."
One music writer called it Jackson's “most lyrically and musically daring recording," as she added "growls, shrieks, and soft deep-voiced interludes to the song."
Jackson's version did not chart in the United States. In a 2009 interview, Jackson recalled: "Nobody would play it. They barely had accepted Elvis and the other ones, and they weren't too sure about accepting a teenage girl singing this kind of music." Others have suggested that the song's sexually charged lyrics were too controversial for an American audience in the 1950s. One author observed: "Wanda Jackson offers us the ultimate Virile Female metaphor here. [Jackson] did volcanic Rockabilly. Only a few female rock and rollers . . . have ever blasted Wanda’s incredible energy."
Reception in JapanEdit
Despite the lack of chart success in the United States, the song was a major hit in Japan, reaching No. 1 in 1958. It held the No. 1 spot in Japan for six months and was the first rock and roll song to become a big hit in Japan. An earlier recording was also a hit in Japan in 1955 under the title "I'm a Fujiyama Mama & I'm About to Blow My Top".
With the song's popularity, Jackson toured Japan in February and March 1959. The tour was "a sensation" among Japanese fans. During her tour of Japan, she played at theatres, clubs, and military bases, and was booked for three shows a day, seven days a week, over several weeks. Jackson remained popular in Japan and later recorded songs in Japanese.
Some have questioned how an American song that explicitly referenced the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan could have become a major pop hit in Japan. One author attributes the success of the song in Japan to its embodiment of the desire for female empowerment in post-war Japan. Another author cited the song's provocative sexuality and even suggested that Jackson, a white singer, was engaged in "appropriation of the sexual allure of an oriental woman."
- Leah Branstetter. "The Hidden Histories of "Fujiyama Mama"". The Women in Rock Project. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
- Christopher T. Keaveney (2020). Western Rock Artists, Madame Butterfly, and the Allure of Japan. Lexington Books. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9781793625250.
- "Fujiyama Mama". Musixmatch. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
- Trulock, Harold (February 17, 1955). "What's Tops In Pops". The Indianapolis News. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
- Trosene, W. K. (February 20, 1955). "Record Corner". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 10 (Section 4) – via Newspapers.com.
- Beck, Roger (February 19, 1955). "Off the Records". Los Angeles Mirror-News. p. 7 (Section III) – via Newspapers.com.
- Record Reviews, Billboard, February 19, 1955.
- "Coming Up Fast". The Billboard. March 19, 1955. p. 33.
- "Coming Up Fast". The Billboard. April 30, 1955. p. 25.
- "Advertisement by Coral Records for Eileen Barton's Fujiyama Mama". The Billboard. March 19, 1955. p. 28.
- Wanda Jackson with Scott Bomar (2017). Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl's Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. BMG. ISBN 9781947026018.
- Peter La Chapelle (2004). Country Music and Domesticity in Cold War Los Angeles. University Press of Mississippi. p. 40.
- Maury Dean (2003). Rock ’n’ Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia. Algora. p. 139.
- Mina Carson; Tisa Lewis; Susan M. Shaw (2004). Girls Rock! Fifty Years of Women Making Music. University Press of Kentucky. p. 2. ISBN 9780813123103.
- Andrew Hickey. "A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs". Retrieved December 21, 2020.("Fujiyama Mama" by Wanda Jackson, and the first rock and roller to become "big in Japan")
- Harlan Miller (April 14, 1955). "Over the Coffee". The Des Moines Register. p. 26 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kurosawa Susumu (1995). Roots of Japanese Pops, 1955–1970. Shinko Music. pp. 68–71, 248.
- "Wanda Jackson Plans To Tour Japan". Maud Enterprise. January 29, 1959. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- H. Byron Earhart (2015). Icon of Japan: Mount Fuji. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781611171112.
- Palmer, Robert. "Pearl Harbour Returns". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2021.