Alice's（アリス）"Tohku de Kiteki wo Kikinagara" (Listening to the Steam Whistle in the Distance) only got as high as No. 51 on the Oricon weeklies after its release in September 1976, and the group was still more than a year away from their first Top 10 hit, "Fuyu no Inazuma"（冬の稲妻）. However, I really like this song by Shinji Tanimura and Takao Horiuchi（谷村新司・堀内孝雄）. There's something with the guitar and that piano that really gives this folk tune some anthemic oomph.
Tanimura's lyrics about trying to live through the trials and tribulations of each day and survive seem to be speaking to something that we can all relate to. The steam whistle that the band refers to makes me wonder whether Alice was trying to evoke that image of that manly man standing not too far away from a railroad track going to his small hometown as he remembered the good and bad times. The lyrics and delivery (with Horiuchi as the lead vocal) almost sound enka-like.
"Tohku de Kiteki wo Kikinagara" (Alice's 9th single) may have only done modestly on the charts originally, but some twenty years following its release, Horiuchi was able to perform it at the 1996 Kohaku Utagassen. And nine years after that, Alice was able to do it all again as part of a medley at the 2005 edition. By the way, the song is also on their 1976 release, "ALICE V" which peaked at No. 3.
If I ever end up drinking a beer outside on a hill when the sun is coming down, I know what the scene's theme song will be.