Assembling Ghosts

Japan

01 Gentlemen Take Polaroids (7″ Edit) 03:29
02 The Art Of Parties (7″ Version) 03:51
03 Quiet Life (7″ Edit) 03:37
04 Visions Of China 03:41
05 European Son (Remix) 03:49
06 Ghosts (Single Version) 03:59
07 Cantonese Boy 03:49
08 I Second That Emotion (Remix) 03:54
09 Life In Tokyo (Remix) 04:02
10 Nightporter (Single Version) 05:04
11 All Tomorrow’s Parties (Remix) 03:34
12 Canton (Live) 05:30

INFO > Many longtime Japan fans were disappointed with the 2006 release of “The Very Best Of Japan.” On a positive note, the compilation was the first to feature singles from both of the band’s labels, Hansa and Virgin. But an early promise for the inclusion of hard-to-find edits was ultimately unfulfilled. Presented here is my attempt to rectify that failure.

While my beef with “The Very Best Of Japan” dates back seven years, this project has been on my to-do list for far longer. As a teenager in the mid-1980s, Japan expanded my listening habits beyond conventional pop, and forever changed my appreciation for music as art. For that, I have John Taylor and Nick Rhodes to thank—the Duran Duran founders listed “Tin Drum” among their favorite albums, circa 1984. I logically deduced that if I liked DD, and they liked “Tin Drum”, then I too would appreciate Japan. Amusingly, after seeing a photo of the band in an early edition of The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock, I assumed Japan to be Duran Duran imitators—I would later discover the reverse to be the case.

Transposed from the Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles, the list below formed the blueprint for “Assembling Ghosts”:

Release date > High chart position > Single

1980-10-18 > UK Singles No. 60 > “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”
1981-05-09 > UK Singles No. 48 > “The Art Of Parties”
1981-09-19 > UK Singles No. 19 > “Quiet Life”
1981-11-07 > UK Singles No. 32 > “Visions Of China”
1982-01-23 > UK Singles No. 31 > “European Son”
1982-03-20 > UK Singles No. 05 > “Ghosts”
1982-05-22 > UK Singles No. 24 > “Cantonese Boy”
1982-07-03 > UK Singles No. 09 > “I Second That Emotion”
1982-10-09 > UK Singles No. 28 > “Life In Tokyo”
1982-11-20 > UK Singles No. 29 > “Nightporter”
1983-03-12 > UK Singles No. 38 > “All Tomorrow’s Parties”
1983-05-21 > UK Singles No. 42 > “Canton” (Live)

I took one liberty in my tracklistings, replacing the ‘Special Remix’ of “Life In Tokyo” that charted in 1982 with a less common remix from the 1989 collection, “Souvenir From Japan.”

> ASSEMBLING GHOSTS
PW: Dachshund

Posted on January 13, 2013, in David Sylvian, Japan, Mick Karn. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. believe it or not, but that 2006 the very best compilation was my first introduction to japan :-) prior to that i only heard “ghosts” on “everything and nothing”

    thank you chris

  2. WOW! What a great work! This is the way is should have been…Thank you very much!

  3. great post, thanks

  4. SUPERB selection! I, too, was a big fan of Japan – I discovered them in 1979 when Life In Tokyo first came out and when they got parcelled into the New Romantic movement alongside Spandau Ballet, Duran et al. (though Adolescent Sex owed more to glam/trash rock, Bowie and Lou Reed than synth pop). Back in 1980/81, Sylvian was such a cult figure, that you’d often see guys dressing like him at clubs where they played that kind of stuff. I still have all my original Twelve Inch and 7 inch releases of all their singles. I saw them live 7 times (they were excellent musicians) and I stuck with them all the way through til they disbanded. I also loved David Sylvian’s first solo album, Brilliant Trees. Although Tin Drum was their biggest album, it’s the Quiet Life album I’ve revisited most over the years.I still think it sounds wonderful. Thanks for reminding people how good they were. I must go and dig out the 12″-ers now to listen to the extended mixes again!

    • Quite a pleasure to hear that you’re a fellow fan of Japan! And you saw them perform live seven times?! I can’t begin to express how envious I am right now. They only played a few US dates in 1978, during the glam rock phase. What’s your take on that period of the band’s career? in my opinion, the first two albums are fairly wretched, although there is the occasional glimmer of better things to come.

      “Tin Drum” was the first Japan album I experienced, but I’d have to pick “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” as my favorite – the title track is in my top 10 tunes of all time. But I’ll agree with you on the brilliance of “Quiet Life” – that album and the “Life In Tokyo” single heavily contributed to creating the New Romantic sound. But Japan transcended that narrow tag, to be sure. Shame the band wasn’t more prolific – they issued so few singles and B-sides. Wonderful that you held onto all that old vinyl – wish I still had some of my old record collection :-(

      I have equal appreciation for all the solo and later collaborative work – Sylvian especially, of course, although Karn, Jansen, and Barbieri have produced some incredible music as well. Terrible shame about Karn’s passing two years ago now.

      Thanks for sharing those memories, David.

  5. Not quite your man-on-the-street pop groups, or as accessible as their New Romantic peers, but they really created a strong niche back in the turn of the 80s.
    Wouldn’t call myself a die-hard, but I appreciate that they had their own unique sound, and loved quite a few of their singles, Life In Tokyo, I Second That Emotion, Quiet Life and Ghosts.

    • I still find it extraordinary that a song like “Ghosts” – essentially experimental electronica – could get to number 5 in the UK charts and was their biggest single hit.

      • Yes, I too was surprised by the success of Ghost, but then that’s what I used to love about the eclectic UK charts.
        You can get Japan sandwiched between Chas N Dave and Roxy Music in the Top 10! Anything goes!

  6. To be honest Shelf, I can take or leave the first 2 albums -I didn’t like that much about them – kind of reminded me of a poor man’s New York Dolls. Quiet Life was the one that got me into them – I still absolutely love that album , but then I also love Moroder, so it’s not surprising. GTP comes a very very close second, and both albums remind me of my first year at University as I hammered them to death, night after night. What your compilation proves though is that they were a really good singles band.

    • Yeah, those early albums are total shit – very fitting NYD comparison. But Moroder was definitely a man ahead of his time – how many producers have nicked the rhythm from “I Feel Love”? And I’m still amazed by the high chart placement of “Ghosts” – Japan has to be one of the most underrated acts of all time.

  7. Any Chance of a re-uo please

  8. My Japan experience is the same as yours. I was a Duran Duran fan and thought, “gee, David Sylvian looks a lot like Nick Rhodes” when I should have thought the opposite. Of course, I am a greater Japan and David Sylvian fan since then. It was a lot harder to find any Japan albums in the record stores in those 80s days as well. Thanks for the upload

    • I find it interesting that Nick Rhodes more or less stuck with the look, while Sylvian consciously sought to abandon it. And yes, imports could certainly be difficult to find here in the US back in the 80s, but there were also more record stores back then, which I greatly miss, despite the internet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)

  9. I know it is some years on from this original upload but there are some really nice mixes on here that I wouldn’t mind listening to. So to that end – any chance of a re-up please.

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