Ten artists who have performed on Soul Train, but one is a lie: Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Sugarhill Gang, Stevie Wonder, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin. The natural assumption would be to guess YMO, but you would be mistaken. Otis Redding passed away four years prior to the show’s premiere. And as odd as it sounds, YMO were on Soul Train!
Originally airing on November 29th, 1980, the Yellow Magic Orchestra feature on Soul Train was well out of the ordinary; but in no way was it out of place. Playing to an enthusiastic crowd (including their manager dressed as a camera-festooned Japanese tourist), the electronic music pioneers opened with their suitable rendition of Archie Bell & the Drells’ classic 1968 R&B funk track “Tighten Up” followed by their own hit, “Firecracker.”
Having released their first record two years prior, the Yellow Magic Orchestra were the biggest band in Japan by the time they appeared on Soul Train. An even more gratifying accomplishment was YMO’s lasting contribution to the music world as early innovators of the electronic dance music genre. During the brief interview that follows the performance, Don Cornelius asks drummer Yukihiro Takahashi what current sound YMO best resembles? He pauses for a long time before answering. There really was nothing else like the group at that time except, perhaps, for Kraftwerk (who Cornelius was clearly not familiar with).
Watch Yellow Magic Orchestra on ‘Soul Train’ after the jump…