45 years ago this week – ‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ was released as a single in Japan

‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ was released as a single in Japan in December 1972

<Click on the photo to enlarge>


45 years ago this week, the ‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ single was released in Japan.

In fact, Japan was the only country where the song was released as a single. It featured on the cover the photos of the three brothers from their Japan tour which took place earlier that year: Barry and Maurice from their very first Tokyo concert in Shibuya and Robin from the second Tokyo show at Budokan.   The single came out on December 5, 1972 as a follow-up to ‘Run To Me’  from the album "To Whom It May Concern."

It’s not very difficult to see why Polydor Japan decided to release it.  Following their first ever Japanese tour consisting of two shows each in the two major cities of Tokyo and Osaka and the nationwide television broadcast of one of the Tokyo concerts, the Bee Gees were riding high in Japan that year.   

Although the song did not become a major commercial hit, it got quite a bit of airplay, especially on various local radio shows with their own "Top 10 hits of the week."  The song generally got into top 10 on these programs which provided the top 10 Western songs performed by overseas artists.  FYI, in Japan, back then and perhaps now more than ever, the domestic music by domestic artists tend to dominate the charts.  So, even if a song got into top 10 on one of those radio shows, it did not necessarily mean that it actually got into Japan’s national top 10.  ‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ did not enter the national chart back then, either, but it remains among the best-loved songs among the group’s Japanese fans.

A music magazine at around this time spoke of "To Whom It May Concern" in this manner:

This LP by the Bee Gees with its 15 songs including the smash hit ‘Run To Me’ came out in Japan earlier than it did in the U.S. or UK.  The photos on the cover shows the three brothers on the Japanese stage, and the illustrated images of Bee Gees will pop up to greet you when you open the sleeve.

The B-side of ‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ was ‘Please Don’t Turn Out the Lights.’  So Japan is the only country where the title track to the Gibb Collective album was released as a single.  During the months of October/November, to commemorate the anniversary of the release of the song on "To Whom It May Concern," Gibb Collective was doing a special promotion on their YouTube channel, going public with highly informative and often hilarious Q&A videos. 

The following are the comments about ‘Sea of Smiling Faces’ from Japanese music magazine Music Life at that time:

The new single by the Bee Gees following ‘Run To Me’ is another song written by the three Gibb brothers, from their latest album "To Whom It May Concern."

Kamebuchi: ‘Run To Me’ was excellent, but there is nothing really new about this song. Hopefully, it is good enough for the market.

Tanaka: You know you can always rely on the Bee Gees to deliver. That’s their one strength.
Togo:  It’s the same old Bee Gees.  But then that’s what you want from them.
Yagi:  They are a great group who always stick to their own unique way.

These comments were a part of "Monthly Top 10" column with the hits-to-be getting picked out by the reviewers consisting of famous Japanese DJs and critics.  The "Monthly Top 10" probably for December 1972 were:

1.Children of the Revolution (T Rex)
2.Crocodile Rock (Elton John)
3.Claire (Gilbert O’Sullivan)
4.Elected  (Alice Cooper)
5.Top of the World (Carpenters)
6.Jambalaya (Blue Ridge Rangers featuring John Fogerty)
7.Thunder and Lightning (Chi Coltrane)
8.Sea of Smiling Faces (Bee Gees)
9.I Am What I Am(Bill & Buster)
10.Ventura Highway (America)

Well, I can’t quite remember some of the songs, but most of them are now classics any way.  To rank at #8 among those well-known songs is such a remarakable feat for this relatively "obscure" song by the Bee Gees.

It’s interesting to note that most of the above comments refer to the "unchanging ("same old") quality" of the Bee Gees.  However, in less than three years, they were to surprise the world with "Main Course" which is usually associated with the beginning of their R&B period.  (I for one really love "Mr. Natural," the album immediately before "Main Course,"
and their first with Arif Mardin.)

{Bee Gees Days}

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