Rediscovering Japan’s ‘lost generation’ and Tokyo Beatles
Life magazine has dug into its vault and recently released a treasure trove of photos that photojournalist Michael Rougier took for a Life special issue on Japan, published in September 1964. Many of them have never been published before. Rougier contrasted the outer appearance of “youth who seem as wholesome and happy as a hot fudge sundae” with the subcultures he found hanging out in jazz clubs and taking drugs at all-night beach parties. In text that accompanied the photos, correspondent Robert Morse wrote:
Having sliced the ties that bind them to the home, in desperation they form their own miniature societies with rules of their own. The young people in these groups are are bound to one another not out of mutual affection — in many cases the “lost ones” are incapable of affection — but from the need to belong, to be part of something.
Morse and Rougier documented the kids who rebelled against their parents through pill popping, motorcycle riding, swigging booze — and gyrating to the sounds of the Tokyo Beatles. The band was a relatively short-lived phenomenon, with only one album to show for its three years in existence. The music is covers of Beatles’ songs rendered in a mix of Japanese and English. It sounds at once like a straight copy and like something completely new. Judging from the photographs, it hit the right chords with the teens of Tokyo. We strongly recommend that you see the full gallery of photos and read more at LIFE.com. It won’t be time wasted.