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.
Issue 6 from 1985 carried pictures of David Sylvian taken on 7 July that year; he’s wearing large shades, a designer white shirt with bold black design and has a portfolio case tucked under his arm. The photographs are accompanied by the following news: ‘It’s been over a year since the release of Brilliant Trees and the wait for another LP continues. David’s second album provisionally titled The Holy Blood of Saints and Sheep was due for release in September but has now been delayed until November when the video Preparations for a Journey will also be released.. ..Side One of the album is an instrumental piece entitled ‘Explosion of Faith in a Cathedral’. Side Two consists of three or four songs.’ Continue reading “Wave”
Sat in the Reading Room for Rare Books and Music at the British Library in London, I don the headphones provided. I’ve come to this hushed space to listen to a conversation recorded with photographer Angus McBean in 1989, just months before his passing. Hearing the excited tones of the sprightly octogenarian it’s impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm for life and his sheer joy at recounting tales from a career in which he captured portraits of the stars of stage, screen and literary arts – Audrey Hepburn, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Ivor Novello, Vivien Leigh, the Beatles, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Margot Fonteyn, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Britten, the list is truly incredible. If a glint in the eye can be caught on audio tape then surely it is captured here. It’s the same playful energy that comes over in the settings created for his subjects, influenced as they were by his early career as a mask-maker and scenery designer for stage productions and by the impact of the Surrealist movement. Continue reading “Red Guitar”
‘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”
I find it amazing how listening to a piece of music can take you back to a specific time and place. I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard ‘Let the Happiness In’. It was my first year in work after university, which involved taking a number of one week courses in Birmingham (UK), staying away from home. September 1987, Sylvian’s new single was coming out and I would be in Birmingham. I had to get my hands on a copy so, when the classes had finished on the day of release, I headed straight for one of the large record stores in town. As I climbed to the first floor, that introduction came over the powerful sound system.. ..it caught my attention although I didn’t know what it was until the vocal started. Realising this was the new song I stood and listened to it for the first time, then grabbed my copy of the 12″ single (still an absolute favourite with the ‘Buoy’ remix and gem ‘Blue of Noon’ on the b-side) and headed out, prize in hand. Continue reading “Let the Happiness In”
When David Sylvian entered Berlin’s Hansa studios in the summer of 1983 to start putting together his debut solo album, Brilliant Trees, amongst his top priorities was returning to the recent chart success ‘Forbidden Colours’, in which his vocal melody was interweaved with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack theme for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The intent of this was not to lend some familiarity and commercial impetus to the new release, but rather to re-work the composition from a new musical palette. It was also recognition that in this song, Sylvian found his voice for the new chapter. Continue reading “Forbidden Colours (version)”