The origin of Mr.Children begins in 1987, when lead singer Kazutoshi Sakurai was just seventeen years old. Tahara Kenichi and Nakagawa Keisuke were attending the same school and decided to form a band. They invited Kazutoshi Sakurai to join their group and it was during this time the group created their new, and soon to be, temporary band name. Originally called The WALLS, the name was influenced by the Japanese band ‘Echoes’ and political activist Tsugi Jinsei. After having the name for not even a year, they decided to change it as they felt their music had become political and dry. While talking at a diner they decided to change their name to Mr.Children. The group thought the word "children" had a nice ring to it, but because they were no longer children themselves they decided to add Mr. in front of it (Uta-net). The group would later go on to explain that they felt that by calling themselves 'The WALLS' they were pretending to act like someone they weren't and noted by changing their name it help broaden their horizons and also changed their attitude towards the group as a whole. Their one and only attempt to turn The WALLS into a professional artist was a demo tape titled ‘Ticket’ that was recorded on December 3, 1987 and sent it to various record labels. Their attempt failed and the group received no interests. It was also between the transition from 'The WALLS' to Mr.Children that the three members went on the search for a drummer to complete the band. Up to this point Kazutoshi had been playing the drums for the band, so Kazutoshi and Tahara invited Suzuki Hideya to join the group as the new drummer. However, at the time Suzuki was auditioning for the drummer role in Yui Asaka's band and was waiting for a response from them. He told them to “wait until the result comes back, since I have received an audition now". Suzuki ended up not getting a part in the band, and thus he agreed to join Kazutoshi's and Tahara's new band.
Mr.Children during their early years
1988 - 1991:
After changing their name to Mr.Children, they auditioned to play at the club joint ‘La Mama’, where they failed to make into the first time they auditioned, but made it on the line-up when they re-auditioned. During their time at La Mama they were asked by club visitors and fans to debut as professionals. The first demo tape to be sent out was for a CBS/SONY audition in December 1988 in which lead singer Kazutoshi Sakurai penned the tracks ‘CHU CHU CHU’ and ‘LOST CHILD’. They lost the audition, and a second attempt was made in August 1989 titled ‘Hello, I Love You’, where once again Kazutoshi Sakurai penned the tracks ‘Kono Ame Agare’, ‘Berlin no Kabe’, ‘Kimi Dake no Ichi-nichi’, and re-included the track ‘CHU CHU CHU’ This attempt also failed and persistently a third attempt was made in May 1990 titled ‘Soyokaze no Uta’ in which the Kazutoshi penned songs ‘Tom Sawyer no Uta’, ‘Mr. Sunshine’, ‘Oh My God’, and ‘Kaze’ were sent out to record labels. The group, determined to make it into the industry also recorded tracks to be included in the album ‘MAGIC MELODIES ~TURN TO THE POP II~’ that was recorded on September 21, 1990 and contained two tracks by the group: ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’. These attempts once again they failed to generate any interest. A fourth attempt was again made on December 24, 1990 in which they recorded a live demo with a Christmas theme titled ‘19:00 Hatsu, X'mas Train ni Tobinore!’. The demo tape included the tracks ‘Merry Merry Christmas’, ‘Jen's Christmas’ (named after Suzuki Hideya), and ‘Futsuka Okure no Christmas’. Once again the demo tape failed, and the group created their last attempt in 1991 on July 07, 1991 with their self-titled and fifth demo tape ‘Mr.Children’. It contained the tracks ‘CHILDREN'S WORLD’, ‘Kuruma no naka de kakurete kiss wo shiyou’, and ‘Tomodachi no mama-de’. This demo tape also failed to generate any interest from record labels and it was during this time the group decided to take 3 months off to recharge. Drummer Suzuki Hideya recalled on the March 16th, 2007 TV interview on MUSIC STATION that it was during this time he worked as a receptionist at an economy hotel, while Kazutoshi Sakurai worked with his father who owned a construction company. When they went back to play at 'La Mama' after their time off they played with a more mature sound which led to many old fans disliking them.
As the year rolled into 1992, Mr.Children tried one last time to generate interest from a record label and made their sixth and final demo tape entitled ‘Chokuzen Tape’. The demo included old songs such as ‘CHILDREN'S WORLD’, ‘Tomodachi no mama-de’, and a live version of ‘Tom Sawyer no uta’, but also included two new songs; ‘Yurikago no aru oka kara’ and ‘Chikara ~Power~’. They sent the demo out to various labels once again and this time caught the attention from music label TOY’S FACTORY. The label felt the band had potential and signed them up with 'Bad Music'. They played as the opening act for the artist Jun Sky Walkers and got their first dose of what it felt like to be a professional artist. It was also around this time that they were introduced to their current producer and now long time friend Kobayashi Takeshi. Kobayashi was already known as a music composer for artists such as Kuwata Keisuke and Koizumi Kyoko, and when he began working with Mr.Children, they started working at his house. Because Kobayashi had been in the industry for some time, he served as a guide for Kazutoshi Sakurai by helping direct him with compositions and lyrics and letting him know when they were and were not good. In 1992, Mr.Children's debut album, 'EVERYTHING', was released and represented the long journey they had taken to get to this point. After the release of the album the group held two tours for the album. The first, called ''92 EVERYTHING TOUR', was held from September 23, 1992 till November 05, 1992 where the group did 10 performances. Along with this tour, their second tour, ''92 Your EVERYTHING TOUR', was held at the same time from September 26, 1992 till November 22, 1992 and had the group holding 12 performances. To cap off the year and lead them into the next, Mr.Children released their second album 'KIND OF LOVE', and second single 'Dakishimetai', on December 1, 1992 and began a new tour called ''92-93 Kind of Love Tour', from December 07, 1992 till January 25, 1993. The song 'Dakishimetai' would later be used as an insert song for the 1996 Japanese drama 'Pure' (ピュア).
Original logo of TOY'S FACTORY on the bottom right corner.
'Atomic Heart' was the last original album that used the logo.
With the completion of the band's tour, the group began working on their third album. The single 'Replay' was released on July 1, 1993 and used as the promotional aong for 'Guriko Pokkii' (グリコポッキー) commercials. On September 09, 1993 their third album, 'versus', was released but failed to bring the group into the spotlight. They continued on and held a new tour, ''93 Versus TOUR', that lasted from September 23, 1993 till November 05, 1993, and had the band holding 9 performances. Shortly after, 'CROSS ROAD' was released on November 10, 1993, which was used to promote the Japanese drama 'Dousoukai' (同窓会). The single was not a hit, but through word of mouth 'CROSS ROAD' gained popularity and after 22 weeks sold over a million copies and later, though it was released in 1993, managed to become the fifteenth best selling single in Oricon's 1994 yearly chart (Oricon). It was due to the failure of the third album and initial failure of the single 'CROSS ROAD' that Kazutoshi Sakurai confessed years later that he had considered leaving the group and following in his father's footsteps as a carpenter. In the April 1997 Vol.176 issue of BACKSTAGE PASS magazine Kazutoshi also confessed as to not liking his works up to this point because according to him "I thought I had to be like Mr.Children's pop music star. That's why I tried my best to play the role."
The group remained quiet for the first half of 1994, but it was during this time that their music career began to change for the better. With the help of fans 'CROSS ROAD' managed to sell one million copies after spending 22 weeks on the Oricon chart. On June 1, 1994 a new single entitled 'innocent world' was released and used a promotional song for Aquaerius 'Ioshisu' (アクエリアス・イオシス) (of which the ‘Ioshisu’ line of the soft drink has been discontinued). It was the first song in which Kazutoshi Sakurai said revealed his actual thoughts. The single solidified the groups popularity by becoming the #1 selling single in Oricon's 1994 yearly chart (Oricon). Afterwards work began on their 4th original album titled 'Atomic Heart', a title which was inspired by Pink Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother'. It ended up being a hard process for the lead writer and composer: "When I was writing the lyrics for 'Atomic Heart', I felt my worst". (PATi PATi - 07/1996 - Vol.139) Kazutoshi had problems writing new songs and felt that due to the success they had accomplished he was now suppose to be a genius and thus a "genius shouldn't be in slumps". The album was released on September 1, 1994 and became a hit with fans, becoming the bands highest selling album to date. Thanks to the massive success of the album and 'innocent world' single, Mr.Children's popularity exploded and became known as the 'Misuchiru Phenomenon' (ミスチル現象) (Oricon). During this time, the band also switched their production label to 'Oorong-Sha' and had their producer Kobayashi Takeshi, produce two new tours for them. The first tour, ''94 tour innocent world', was held from September 18, 1994 through December 18, 1994, visiting 24 places and holding 27 shows, which included the groups first Budokan performance. It was during this time that the band also released their 6th single 'Tomorrow never knows' on November 10, 1994, which was written while the group was on tour and used as the theme song to the Japanese drama Wakamono no subete (‘若者のすべて’ ). The title track would later be voted 12 years later as fans #1 all-time favorite song on the October 13, 2006 airing of Music Station's 20th Anniversary Special and would also become the third highest selling drama tie-in single in Japan (Oricon). Released next was the group's 7th single 'Everybody goes -chitsujo no nai gendai ni drop-kick-' on December 12, 1994. The song was originally suppose to be the b-side track to 'Tomorrow never knows', but after discussions it was decided the song would be released as its own single. 'Everybody goes -chitsujo no nai gendai ni drop-kick-' would also be the last song producer Kobayashi Takeshi would co-write with Kazutoshi Sakurai for Mr.Children. The year ended with Mr.Children's song ‘innocent world’ winning 'Song of the Year' at the 36th annual Japan Record Awards (Jacompa).
With the new year, the second half of the Kobayashi Takeshi produced tour started. Self titled ''95 Tour Atomic Heart', the tour lasted from January 1, 1995 through February 2, 1995. It was also during this time that a joint single with Southern All Stars leader singer Kuwata Keisuke was released. Titled 'Kiseki no hoshi', the single was a charity release for the Act Against AIDS campaign, a program that Kuwata Keisuke was a huge supporter of. The single was produced by Mr.Children, but written by Kuwata Keisuke. To promote the single and the AIDS awareness campaign, the two artists held a one month tour from April 18, 1995 through May 14, 1995, titled 'LIVE UFO '95 Kuwata Keisuke & Mr.Children "Acoustic Revolution with Orchestra" Kiseki no hoshi’. During this one month tour, the singers sang cover songs from English speaking artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, and Pink Floyd. During their tours and promotional activities the group was also working on a document called '【es】~Mr.Children in FILM~'. The document/live was released in theaters on June 3, 1995 and was 112 minutes long. The song used to promote the movie was Mr.Children's 8th single '【es】~Theme of es~', which was released almost a month prior to on May 10, 1995. In the April 1997 Vol.176 issue of BACKSTAGE PASS magazine Kazutoshi Sakurai confessed to having never seen the movie as he felt it was too commercial: "It wasn't fiction, but I regret that in the movie, I showed my private life. It became exposed. I shouldn't have accepted it. The only scene where I feel that that's the real me is the scene where I was drinking alcohol. At that time, I couldn't balance myself and the other me, the pop music star." Two months later the group held an outdoor concert titled '-Hounen Mansaku- natsu matsuri 1995 sora [ku:]' from July 16,1995 through September 10,1995. During the concert, Mr.Children released their 9th and last single for the year. 'See-Saw Game ~yuukan na koi no uta~' was releases on August 10, 1995 with the band poking fun at the English musician Elvis Costello.
Mr.Children during '-Hounen Mansaku- natsu matsuri 1995 sora [ku:]' tour.
1996 was another busy year for Mr.Children. They released their 10th single 'Namonaki uta' on February 5, 1996, which was used as the theme song to the Japanese drama 'Pure' (ピュア) and later used as the 'Elleair' commercial promotional song in 2003. The single went on to become Japan's highest first week selling single of all time (Oricon) and also became one of Kazutoshi Sakurai's most surprising moments as he admitted to spending the least amount of time writing this song. Two months later on April 5, 1996 the group's 11th single 'Hana-Memento-Mori-' was released, followed two months later by their 5th original album 'Shinkai' on June 24th, 1996. "I always care about pretending to be the characters in the songs; depending on the song and lyrics, I change my character to match the song. Compared to my past, I've mastered this technique, and how to change my voice tone, and the various ways of singing. I think there are some parts where you can catch my words. At first I heard what I want to say. As for singles and albums, the scene changes, the story changes, because the single has a massive audience on the radio; my audience is required to listen to it. But in my albums, they can read my lyrics card, so it's not necessary for me to pronounce it clearly." (PATi PATi - 07/1996 - Vol.139). Two months following the release of the 'Shinkai', Mr.Children released their 12th single 'Machine gun o buppanase -Mr.Children Bootleg-' on August 8, 1996. The single was released on a 12cm CD, which at the time was unusual for a single and was also the first single to be released in this format from them. Mr.Children ended 1996 by going on the 'regress or progress '96-'97' which started and lasted from August 24, 1996 through March 28, 1997. The group visited 14 cities and held 55 concerts.
During the regress or progress '96-'97 tour, Mr.Children's 13th single, 'Everything (it's you)', was released on February 5, 1997 and used as the theme song to the Japanese drama 'Koi no bakansu' (恋のバカンス). The temporary title for the song was 'Aero', with the lyrics to the b-side song 'Derumo', being based on a female point of view in the model industry. One month later on March 5, 1997, Mr.Children's 6th original album 'BOLERO' was released. Kazutoshi Sakurai: "I felt as if I had spent three years on this album. Although I spent a lot of energy and devoted myself to producing this album, once that process was complete, I felt as if another person; it doesn't belong to me anymore" (BACKSTAGE PASS - April 1997 Vol.176 issue). Following the album Mr.Children' held a second mini-tour 'regress or progress '96-'97 tour FINAL', that would last from March 23, 1997 through March 28, 1997, encompass only 3 shows, and include their first dome performance. Rumors started to spread of the group disbanding to which they denied a break up, but did announce they would be going on hiatus twenty-three days after the release of BOLERO. Reasons where never given, but Kazutoshi would later express in interviews his struggle with dealing with his and Mr.Children's popularity. On March 31, 1997, they held a 'Secret Live' at Ebisu Garden Hall for 1,000 fans and played 10 songs. The final song played was 'Mata aeru kana' (see you again someday). Nakagawa Keisuke and Suzuki Hideya started a side band called 'Hayashi Hideo' and toured at live houses. They were joined by Fujii Kenji from 'My Little Lover' and Yamanaka Sawao from 'the pillows'. Kazutoshi Sakurai would spend his days surfing and watching TV, and also producing a demo tape for some friends. Tahara Kenichi spent his time with family and friends.
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