Category Archives: 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
“The Scent Of Magnolia”
2000 Virgin Records Ltd (UK)
01. The Scent Of Magnolia (Edit)
02. The Blinding Light Of Heaven
03. The Scent Of Magnolia (Portobello Mix)
04. Brilliant Trees (Version 2000)
INFO > This may have been intended as a proper single to promote Sylvian’s “Everything And Nothing” retrospective, but was ultimately appended to a limited edition issue of the compilation.
The Scent Of Magnolia
1999 Venture/Virgin Records Ltd (UK)
01. GodMan (Album Version)
03. GodMan (Wagon Christ Mix)
04. Shadowland (Northfield)
05. GodMan (Guy Sigsworth Remix)
INFO > Today sees the release of “A Victim Of Stars”, a career-spanning retrospective of David Sylvian’s post-Japan solo work. The chronologically arranged collection includes material from Sylvian’s years with Virgin, as well as more recent releases from his Samadhisound imprint. Though far from comprehensive, the compilation does include most of Sylvian’s singles. Here’s one that didn’t make the cut: 1999’s “GodMan” EP features remixes by Luke Vibert and Guy Sigsworth, as well as an illuminating short film, “Time Spent”, made by Sylvian and his then-wife, Ingrid Chavez.
“Life In Tokyo”
1979 Ariola Hansa Records / 1982 Hansa Records (UK)
AHA 540 / HANSA 17
01. Life In Tokyo (Short Version) 03:30
02. Life In Tokyo (Part 2) 03:17
03. Life In Tokyo (Long Version) 07:08
04. Life In Tokyo (Special Remix) 04:03
05. Life In Tokyo (Theme) 03:55
06. Life In Tokyo (Extended Remix) 07:05
07. Life In Tokyo (‘Assemblage’ Remix) 06:15
08. Life In Tokyo (‘Souvenir’ Remix) 04:01
INFO > Released in 1979, “Life In Tokyo” marked a dramatic turning point in Japan’s career. Produced by Giorgio Moroder, the song’s Eurodisco style began the London quintet’s evolution from glam rockers into New Romantics. Although the original single and a subsequent 1981 reissue failed to chart, a remixed version of “Life In Tokyo” finally broke the UK Top 40 in 1982.
Life In Tokyo
David Sylvian and Robert Fripp
1993 Virgin Records Ltd (UK)
01. Darshan (Translucent Remix By The Grid)
02. Darshana (Re-constructed by The Future Sound Of London)
03. Darshan (The Road To Graceland)
04. Darshan (The Road To Graceland – Edit)*
*Bonus track, from US promo CD DPRO-14125
INFO > Prog rock meets prog house on this single from Sylvian and Fripp’s 1993 studio collaboration, “The First Day.” Virgin enlisted The Grid and FSOL to rework the album’s epic 17-minute jam, “Darshan.” Norris and Ball minimize Fripp’s searing guitar, play up the electronics, and smooth out the original track’s shuffling beat; while Dougans and Cobain earned writing credits for their atmospheric dub excursion.
In the wake of a massive earthquake, a major tsunami, and nuclear reactor breaches, the country of Japan is contending with a crisis of unparalleled proportions. The devastating effects of these catastrophes have taken a tremendous toll on Japan’s people, animals, and cities. The estimated death toll is already staggering, and now the threat of widespread radioactive contamination is imminently looming. Japan will need a tremendous amount of relief assistance to recover and rebuild; with the world’s help, the sun will again rise over that great land. Somewhat fittingly, today’s post is a solemn ballad created by collaboration between artists from East and West.
David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto
1991 Virgin Records (JP)
01. Forbidden Colours
02. Bamboo Houses
03. Bamboo Music
04. Forbidden Colours (Version II)
1, 4 > 1983 National Trustee Film Company Ltd/Virgin Records Ltd
2, 3 > 1982 Virgin Records Ltd
INFO > Sylvian and Sakamoto first worked together in 1980, producing a track for Japan’s fourth album, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids.” Two years later, the duo released the Eastern-tinged single “Bamboo Houses/Bamboo Music.” In 1983, Sakamoto scored and starred in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” an intriguing character study set in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Sylvian’s lyrics beautifully accompany Sakamoto’s haunting main theme, which has become a signature piece for the award-winning Japanese composer.
Yukihiro Takahashi and Steve Jansen
1986 Canyon Records / 1991 Pony Canyon (JP)
01. Stay Close 08:11
02. Betsu-Ni 05:07
03. Stay Close (Weirder World) 02:59
INFO > While on tour in their namesake country in 1980, UK band Japan met Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yukihiro Takahashi of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Later that year, Sakamoto co-wrote and played on “Taking Islands In Africa,” the closing track to Japan’s fourth album, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids.” It was the first of many collaborations to come between members of the two groups, including this upbeat single by YMO and Japan’s respective drummers.
“Medium Label Sampler”
1999 Medium Productions Limited (UK)
01. Jansen Barbieri Takemura – Spaced
02. Yoshihiro Hanno meets Mick Karn – Traveller’s Diary
03. JBK – The Shallow Pool
04. Takahashi Jansen – The Choice (Reinforced Mix)
05. Jansen Barbieri – A Disturbed Sense Of Distance
06. Jansen Barbieri – Mother London
07. Indigo Falls – Only Forward
08. JBK – Beginning To Melt
09. Takahashi Jansen – Life’s Like That (featuring Zoe Niblett)
10. JBK Band – Life Without Buildings (Live)
INFO > In 1993, former Japan bandmates Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, and Mick Karn founded Medium Productions as a distribution outlet for their creative and collaborative output. Ever since Japan’s “Tin Drum”, the three instrumentalists have been pushing the boundaries of mainstream music, with their recordings becoming increasingly experimental. This sampler collects tracks from the label’s releases to 1999, along with a live recording of Japan B-side “Life Without Buildings.” Unfortunately, after only 15 releases, Medium Productions closed up shop in 2002.
Distinguished for his unique fretless bass style, Mick Karn was an immensely talented artist, his abilities extending beyond the realm of music to include sculpture, painting, and photography. Born Andonis Michaelides on 24 July 1958 in Nicosia, Cyprus, Karn and his family emigrated to England in 1961. While attending school in London, he met brothers David and Steve Batt, and Richard Barbieri, who collectively formed the band Japan in 1974.
Following rough beginnings as a glam rock ensemble recording for the German Hansa label, Japan changed their sound and image, signed with Virgin Records, and found greater success spearheading the New Romantic movement in the early 1980s. In May 1986, I first heard Japan’s “Tin Drum” – it was a revelatory listening experience which completely changed my perspective and appreciation for music as an art form.
Karn’s subsequent solo material, session work, and collaborations were no less captivating; his distinctive bass sound can be heard on recordings by Gary Numan, Bill Nelson, Midge Ure, Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, Mark Isham, and David Torn, among others. After Japan disintegrated in 1983, Karn formed the short-lived Dalis Car with Peter Murphy, whose band Bauhaus had also recently parted ways. Karn would continue collaborating with former bandmates Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri; a reunion including singer David Sylvian produced a one-off album as Rain Tree Crow in 1991. Karn, Jansen, and Barbieri founded Medium Productions Ltd in 1993, providing an outlet for the trio’s avant-garde soundscapes and sonic experiments.
Karn returned to his Cyprus homeland in 2004, and continued working on various projects. In June 2010, he made the grave announcement that he had been diagnosed with an advanced stage cancer. Struggling financially, Karn received generous support from fellow artists and fans, enabling him to return to London for treatment later in the year. Unfortunately, Mick Karn lost his fight on 4 January 2011 at the age of 52. He is survived by his wife and son.
Mick Karn’s creative legacy will continue to entertain and inspire, and he will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Mick.