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Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK


Japan's 'punk' anthem shelved

Japan's new official anthem stirs protest in Taiwan

A punk version of Japan's controversial new national anthem will not be issued, says record giant Polydor.

The rock arrangement of Kimigayo - the nation's de facto anthem for decades - was withdrawn from release because the company feared being drawn into the furore over the song's new status.

Kimigayo, which translates as His Majesty's Reign, was adopted as the national anthem last week. The move came despite the song's associations with Japan's militarist past.

[ image: Kiyoshiro Imawano, rocker behind punk anthem]
Kiyoshiro Imawano, rocker behind punk anthem
This official recognition for the song, along with the Rising Sun Flag, has angered many across Asia, who see them as symbols of Japan's aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.

"Releasing it could give the impression we are taking sides on an important issue dividing public opinion," Polydor official Kenji Goto said.

The punk song was just one track on an album by flamboyant band Little Screaming Revue. The group are enraged at what they see as an attack on their artistic freedom.

"I created this arrangement as a musician," said the band's leader Kiyoshiro Imawano.

[ image: Jimi Hendrix took on The Star Spangled Banner]
Jimi Hendrix took on The Star Spangled Banner
The 48-year-old rocker has left the melody intact, but sings the lyrics to a punk arrangement, complete with frantic drumming.

Guitarist Shinji Miyake adds solos evoking Jimi Hendrix's famous Woodstock performance of The Star Spangled Banner, according to the band.

Such a modern treatment of the anthem was bound to displease conservatives in Japan.

"The song has no political ideology, and it is not a parody," said Satoru Koyama, the band's agent.

The group now plan to release the cancelled A Cross In Winter album through another record company.

[ image: Sex Pistols rebel Johnny Rotten]
Sex Pistols rebel Johnny Rotten
British punk band the Sex Pistols met similar resistance when they released God Save The Queen in 1977, to coincide with the monarch's Silver Jubilee.

The single, which borrowed the title though not the lyrics of the national anthem, was banned from daytime radio.

The ban did not stop the song rising to number two in the official chart. Many commentators have suggested the band were robbed of the top slot by skulduggery.

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