Rest in Peace, Sawada Taiji-san

In 2008, I got to see my favorite band in the world, X Japan, live for their reunion concerts in Japan.  The only thing that could have made those concerts more amazing was if their original bassist, Taiji, had been a part of the concert.  While that was not to be, a year later a different opportunity appeared.  Taiji came to L.A. with The Killing Red Addiction, a band of Japanese hard rock legends who commanded the stage of the Whisky-a-Go-Go.  I remember tearing up when the roadies brought out Taiji’s beautiful black bass with the phoenix mother-of-pearl inlay.  That moment made everything real, and watching Taiji play bass was the final moment in seeing all the living members of X live in concert.

There was always hope, as X Japan resumed activities, that Taiji would make a guest appearance and fans would get to see him with X.  For two concerts in Japan, fans got their wish and Taiji joined X Japan for performances of their song “X” and everyone got to hear Toshi shout, “On bass:  TAIJI!” along with the rest of the band.  Even though Taiji had said that he was never a member of X Japan (his departure from the band coincided with their name change from X to X Japan) he was important to the band’s history and evolution, and their early success.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I admire Yoshiki, so consider this next statement.  Taiji was just as important to X as Yoshiki.  Taiji was the one willing to argue with Yoshiki and announced his creative differences.  Towards the end of his time in X, Taiji’s contract was even different than the rest of the members’.  Fans always debate over whether the better bassist for the band is Heath or Taiji.  In the end, it would turn to an “agree to disagree” moment, as the two bassists’ styles are different and not really meant to be compared.

Taiji was both an amazing bass player and guitar player, as well as a great songwriter.  Here are the songs he wrote for X:

“Dear Loser” the opening instrumental for their first album, Vanishing Vision, here as their entrance to day two of their three-day Tokyo Dome concerts in 1992, also Taiji’s last concerts with the band.  Taiji’s the one in the cowboy hat.

“Phantom of Guilt” also from Vanishing Vision, and #7 of my top 10 favorite X Japan songs.  I wanted to orchestrate this song in college for Orchestration class but was assigned Bartok instead.  Both Taiji and hide sing harmonies with Toshi.

“Desperate Angel” from 1991’s Jealousy, which is a favorite of mine to karaoke.  Also one of the three X songs to use a cowbell.

“Voiceless Screaming”, also from Jealousy, is #3 on my top 10 X Japan songs list, and my favorite X Japan ballad.  Ironic because it’s the one ballad Yoshiki, my idol, had absolutely nothing to do with.  Taiji plays guitar here, and sings harmony again.  This is my favorite performance of this song.

Then there are moments of bass bad-assery, like in “Give Me the Pleasure”, from Vanishing Vision:

the PV for “Week End” (a single off of Blue Blood) where he dances in splits (see 2:41)

and, of course, his legendary bass solo from the Rose and Blood Tour – notice he’s missing part of his middle finger on his right hand:

Last, but certainly not least, Taiji’s guest appearance with X Japan in 2010, Yokohama, Japan:

“Just like the people who have found an interest in music for the first time, I wanted to make music like the music which was able to influence me.”

~Taiji Sawada (7/12/1966 – 7/17/2011)

R.I.P.

 

 

~ by violarockstar on July 18, 2011.

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