Ghosts – live

‘some sense of nostalgia’

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember why you made a particular decision. Especially one that you wish you could change afterwards… It was late 1982 and I was in the final year at school. Important exams were looming the following year which would determine whether I would achieve my ambition of going to university, and if so, which one I might attend. My fascination with Japan had developed in the preceding months as the singles ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Cantonese Boy’ had been lifted from Tin Drum, catching my attention and drawing me to the album. The plethora of Hansa singles had got me exploring the back catalogue, and I was guided through by an enthusiastic friend.

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New Moon at Red Deer Wallow

‘One of the strangest tracks’

Following their excursion into commercial pop territory with The Dolphin Brothers, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri’s next joint project was set to take a very different direction. ‘We try to alternate our recordings in terms of types of album,’ explained Jansen. ‘Our first album [Worlds in a Small Room] was instrumental, the next vocal; so this should have been instrumental. Also, the record company weren’t budgeting enough for a vocal album, which requires studio time. If they had said, “do another vocal album, here’s the budget,” we’d have done it. But we were quite happy not to.’

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In Vogue

Realising possibilities

Tin Drum was my introduction to the music of Japan, and from there I explored the previous releases. These were my final years at school and it was an exciting time with a world of music opening up to me that I just hadn’t been aware of before. A friend encouraged me to listen, passing me C90 cassette tapes of his favourite music which I would lose myself in, then saving my Saturday job money so I could visit the local record shop to buy the vinyl. The skull-and-cross-bones symbols may have said that home taping was killing music, but it also helped to foster a life-long appreciation of some incredible recordings – many of which I now own in multiple copies: vinyl, cd, re-releases, remasters… Continue reading “In Vogue”

Wave

from ‘Saints and Sheep’

I was at university in London in the mid-1980s, and my primary connection to what was happening in the world of the ex-members of Japan was the fanzine Bamboo. I would eagerly anticipate each new issue, taking a walk after lectures to the Virgin megastore on Tottenham Court Road to check whether they might have a new issue in stock. If in luck, I’d hop on the bus back to Denmark Hill, make a coffee and sit in the one easy chair in my student accommodation to devour the content from cover to cover. The full set of these A5 volumes still sits proudly in my music cabinet at home – and if any of the dedicated band of instigators and contributors should read this, then please accept grateful thanks for being a lifeline to fans in those days before the information superhighway. Continue reading “Wave”

Taking Islands in Africa

‘a masterclass in synth programming’

In March 1980 Japan headed for the country of their band-name, embarking on a tour to support the Quiet Life album. Mick Karn later recalled how their travel was, ‘more often than not, by Shinkansen, the luxuriously smooth bullet train.. ..It was on one such journey I heard a cassette that was being circulated amongst the band, on my Walkman, the latest invention from Sony. Electronic music was the future, Kraftwerk were already a favourite, but there was something different about this band. YMO were the perfect accompaniment to the speeding scenery outside, it was one of those moments when music and visuals became one, quite by accident, and somehow captured the very spirit of Japan. We couldn’t believe that no-one had heard of them abroad.’ (2009) Continue reading “Taking Islands in Africa”