The music of Cowboy Bebop
This post is a guest post. Which is our way of saying a reader has sent in this article. (Hint: send in your articles! They’re always welcome). The author here is Mohit Karve.
Let me start off by saying that my knowledge of musical styles is limited. I cannot say with authority that a particular song is one genre or another. However, I do think I can distinguish between music that is brilliant and music that is not. It is with only that yardstick that I present to you Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop is an anime from the late 1990s. And a fantastic one at that. Cowboy Bebop is set in the 2070s, where space travel is commonplace, following the fortunes of four bounty hunters aboard a spaceship of the same name. You can accuse it of lacking a coherent story. In fact, rather than a very loose thread holding the series together, the episodes are mostly stand-alone, and generally end on a tragic note. Yet, what the series does get right is the feel. I cannot describe it properly. The series makes you feel for the characters. The series establishes a brilliant relationship between the viewer and the characters. But I digress. This post is for the music of Cowboy Bebop, and not the series.
The music then. CB draws heavily on American music of the 60s and the 70s. Most of the episode titles make references to musical styles or specific songs. The episodes themselves are called sessions. Music is intertwined into the very essence of CB. The music explores a rich palette of music- beat, arabic, lounge, swing, heavy metal and a lot more. However, most of it falls into jazz, rock and blues. The people behind the music are a Japanese band called the Seatbelts, and prominently the composer for the band, Yoko Kanno. What you are treated with is a mix of music- slow and fast, to suit every mood.
There’s the excellent starting credits music – “Tank!” It’s an instrumental piece, and features a long solo on a saxophone. It’s a fast paced and vibrant track, and the first thing that you’ll hear if you start to watch CB. Then there’s “Space Lion”, a laid back, slow track. It has a wonderful mix of the sax and tribal chants. It fits in perfectly at the end of Jupiter Jazz, in partial mourning of the death of a character. And talking of death- the series has no aversion to violence and blood. You’ll see a lot of both in most episodes, if not all. “Tank” and “Space Lion” are excellent indicators of the contrasting music that the Seatbelts have played for the CB soundtrack.
The end credits song, “The Real Folk Blues” is an out and out rock song, sung in Japanese, and is another of the memorable songs on the sound track. There’s “Call me, call me”, a soft rock song (in English), that comes in at the end of the soul shattering session 24 – “Hard Luck Woman”. If you’re a fan of the mouth organ, there are two tracks that you’ll love- “Spokey Dorkey” and “Don’t Bother None”. “Don’t Bother None” features a mouth organ/ piano solo that literally drowns you in a flood of sublime music.
Mention must also be made of “ELM”, a single musician song- there’s just a guitar and a vocalist, who’s singing nothing in particular. There’s also a lot music that falls in the category of “Random Japanese Stuff”, which is still great to listen to. I could go on and on about various individual songs, but this post grows too long. The entire soundtrack is a very good listen, but it’s probably better to invest a few hours watching the whole series. You will certainly not regret it. The music takes what is already an iconic series to soaring heights. Whatever sort of music you like, the sheer diversity of CB’s music will definitely have something for you.
I’ll post Youtube links, since these songs may not be easy to find.
Tank! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-TAxm00jOg
The Real Folk Blues – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BQs9onayvU
Space Lion – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKnVaDwUg5s
Don’t Bother None – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJaf1k_EdNg
ELM – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR4TDBXebWc
Green Bird – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9POYDoHXUX0
Gotta Knock a Little Harder – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdE1JCEKtg4
Happy listening, and I hope you watch this (almost) legendary anime at some point in the future!