Monday, 13 October 2008

Japan: The Definitive History of

Japan were a British pop/rock group, formed in 1974 in Lewisham, southeast London. The band achieved success in the early 1980s, when they were often associated with the burgeoning New Romantic movement.
1 History
1.1 Early years
1.2 Mid-career
1.3 Final years
2 Discography
2.1 Singles and EP's
2.2 Albums
2.2.1 Compilations
2.3 Video/DVD
2.4 Remasters
2.5 Rare material
2.5.1 Tribute Album
3 See also
4 External links

[edit] History

[edit] Early years
Original members:
David Sylvian (original name David Batt): vocals, guitar, keyboards
Mick Karn (original name Anthony Michaelides): bass guitar, saxophone, oboe
Rob Dean: guitar
Steve Jansen (Sylvian's brother, Steve Batt): drums and percussion
Richard Barbieri: keyboards
The band debuted on record with 1978's Adolescent Sex and subsequently Obscure Alternatives, which both sold well in Japan and the Netherlands where the single "Adolescent Sex" was a Top 30 hit, they also gained some popularity in Canada. However in their natal Britain those albums were ignored.
Though influenced by artists such as The New York Dolls, Roxy Music and David Bowie, both albums were widely dismissed by the British music press as being distinctly outmoded at a time when punk and New Wave bands were in ascendence. However, tracks such as "Suburban Berlin", "State Line" and "...Rhodesia" suggested a creative depth and sense of melody to the band's output which would hint at their future direction. They were managed by Simon Napier-Bell who also managed The Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, London and Wham!.

[edit] Mid-career
Their third album, 1979's Quiet Life, heralded a significant change in musical style from the earlier largely guitar-based music to a more electronic sound, with more emphasis on Barbieri's synthesisers, Sylvian's svelte baritone style of singing, Karn's distinctive fretless bass sound and Steve Jansen's odd-timbered and intricate percussion work with Dean's guitar playing becoming increasingly sparse and atmospheric. Quiet Life was their last studio album for Hansa-Ariola, though the label would later issue a compilation album ("Assemblage") featuring highlights from the band's tenure on the label, followed by a series of remixed and re-released singles.

[edit] Final years
Their final two studio albums, Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980) and Tin Drum (1981) were released on the Virgin label, and continued to expand their audience as the band refined its new sound and, somewhat unintentionally, became associated with the early-1980s New Romantic movement. Tin Drum in particular is critically regarded as one of the most innovative albums of the 1980s, with its startlingly original fusion of occidental and oriental sounds, and was a UK Top 12 album. Its unconventional single "Ghosts" reached #5 on the UK charts, becoming Japan's biggest domestic hit and one of only a very few such 'minimalist' songs to achieve such heights.
Tin Drum was to be the band's final studio album as personality conflicts led to rising tensions between band members, long-simmering differences among the bandmembers came to a head when Karn's girlfriend moved in with Sylvian and the individual members forged ahead with their projects. Rob Dean had already departed towards the end of the Gentlemen Take Polaroids sessions, as his electric guitar work was increasingly regarded as superfluous. During this period, Japanese multi-instrumentalist and experimental keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto was briefly implanted into the band's set-up to work directly alongside Sylvian on tracks such as "Taking Islands In Africa".
The group's final UK performance came in November 1982 culminating in a six-night sell-out stint at London's Hammersmith Apollo. Japan's last ever performance was on 16th December 1982 in Nagoya, Japan. The band's final Hammersmith concerts were recorded to produce Oil On Canvas, a live album and video released in June 1983. Ironically, the band decided to split just as they were beginning to obtain long-overdue commercial success both in their native UK and internationally, with Oil On Canvas becoming their highest charting British album, reaching #5.
All of the band members went on to work on other projects, with varying degrees of success. A reformation of the band members in 1989-1990 under the name Rain Tree Crow produced only one eponymously-titled album, released in April 1991. Once again, the band dissolved following frictions between Sylvian and the other members. The project was nevertheless a critical success.

[edit] Discography

[edit] Singles and EP's
"Don't Rain On My Parade"/"Stateline" (UK, Germany, Australia, Italy) 1978
"Adolescent Sex"/"Don't Rain On My Parade" (Spain) 1978
"The Unconventional"/"Lovers On Main Street" (Japan) 1978
"The Unconventional"/"Adolescent Sex (re-recorded version)" (UK) 1978
"Adolescent Sex (re-recorded version)"/"Transmission" (Italy) 1979
"Adolescent Sex (re-recorded version)"/"Sometimes I Feel So Low" (Germany, Holland, France) 1978
"Sometimes I Feel So Low"/"Love Is Infectious" (UK, USA, Japan) 1978
"Deviation"/"Suburban Berlin" (Holland) 1979
"Life In Tokyo"/"Life In Tokyo (Part Two)" (UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Italy) 1979
"Quiet Life"/"Halloween" (Japan) 1979
"I Second That Emotion"/"European Son" (Japan) 1980
"I Second That Emotion"/"Quiet Life" (UK, Germany, Holland) 1980
"Special Edition EP" (Canada) 1980
"Live In Japan EP" (Germany, Holland, Belgium) 1980
"Gentlemen Take Polaroids EP" (UK #60, Germany, Japan) 1980
"The Singles EP" (Japan) 1981
"The Art of Parties"/"Life Without Buildings" (UK #48) 1981 - also Canadian EP with two tracks from the "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" EP
"The Art of Parties"/"My New Career" (Australia, Japan) 1981
"Life In Tokyo"/"European Son" (UK, Germany) 1981
"Quiet Life"/"A Foreign Place" (UK #19) 1981
"Visions Of China"/"Taking Islands In Africa" (UK #32, Australia) 1981
"European Son (remix)"/"Alien" (UK #31, Germany) 1981
"Ghosts"/"The Art Of Parties (live version)" (UK #5 and most other countries except Japan) 1982
"Cantonese Boy"/"Burning Bridges" (UK #24) 1982 - also a double pack version with extra tracks
"I Second That Emotion (remix)"/"Halloween" (UK #9, Germany) 1982
"Life In Tokyo (remix)" (UK #28) 1982
"Nightporter"/"Ain't That Peculiar" (UK #29, Germany) 1982
"Nightporter EP" (Japan) 1982 - includes b sides from UK releases
"All Tomorrow's Parties"/"In Vogue" (UK #38) 1983
"Canton"/"Visions Of China" (live versions) (UK #42) 1983

[edit] Albums
Adolescent Sex, 1978
Obscure Alternatives, November 1978
Quiet Life, 1979 (UK #53) — [Certified Gold in March 1984]
Gentlemen Take Polaroids, November 1980 (UK #45) — [Certified Gold in November 1986]
Tin Drum, November 1981 (UK #12) — [Certified Gold in March 1982]

[edit] Compilations
A bewildering number of Japan compilation albums have been released. The following albums were compiled in consultation with group members and include some non-album and previously unavailable material.
Assemblage (UK, European countries, Japan) 1981 (UK #26) — [Certified Gold in January 1983] - earlier material (1978-80) including several non album singles.
Oil on Canvas, June 1983 (UK #5) — [Certified Gold in February 1988] (mainly live double album, featuring some new solo instrumental pieces).
Exorcising Ghosts (UK, European countries, Japan) 1984 (UK #45) — [Certified Gold in February 1997] - material the Virgin Records (1980-82) era of the band's career.
The Very Best of Japan (Worldwide release) 2006 - remastered compilation including songs from both the Hansa-Ariola and Virgin eras of the band's history.
For completists, the Japanese 2-CD set "The Singles" is worth finding as it includes several single edits and remixes that are not available in the UK.

[edit] Video/DVD
"Oil On Canvas" 1983 (VHS, Beta, LD) - live material filmed at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982
"Instant Pictures" 1984 (VHS, Beta, LD) - video clips and alternate versions of live tracks
"Video Hits" 1999 (DVD), Japan only - early video clips
"The Very Best of Japan" - a 2006 DVD compilation including most of the above

[edit] Remasters
In 2003, Virgin Records re-issued remastered editions of Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Tin Drum and Oil on Canvas. BMG followed suit next year, and re-issued Adolescent Sex, Obscure Alternatives, Quiet Life, and Assemblage. All of these re-releases came in the 'digipak' format, collecting many bonus tracks. In 2006 all were repackaged in jewel cases to allow sale at a lower price point.
The Tin Drum digipak re-issue was of special interest, as it was packed in a cardboard box, contained a bonus 5-inch single The Art of Parties, carrying 4 tracks not included on Tin Drum itself or any other Japan album released on Virgin, plus a booklet with black-and-white photos of the band members.

[edit] Rare material
The following Japan tracks appeared on vinyl but have not yet been released on CD:
"Quiet Life" (Japanese single version)
"Burning Bridges" (from the "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" EP) - an alternate version produced by David Sylvian
"Ain't That Peculiar" (version from the compilation album "Cash Cows" and b-side of "Nightporter, different from the version on the 'Polaroids' album)
"Nightporter" (Steve Nye remixed single and radio edit versions)

[edit] Tribute Album
"Life In Tokyo - A Tribute to Japan" (BMG Japan) 1996

[edit] See also
Rain Tree Crow

[edit] External links
Japan Nightporter - Fan Site
Japan Life in Tokyo - Fan Site - Fan Site for Japan and band members
David Sylvian · Mick Karn · Steve Jansen · Richard Barbieri · Rob Dean
Studio albums
Adolescent Sex · Obscure Alternatives · Quiet Life · Gentlemen Take Polaroids · Tin Drum · Japan · Rain Tree Crow
Live album
Oil on Canvas
Assemblage · Exorcising Ghosts · The Very Best of Japan
Related articles
Simon Napier-Bell · John Punter · Steve Nye · Ray Singer · Ryuichi Sakamoto · Masami Tsuchiya · The Dolphin Brothers · Nine Horses · Porcupine Tree · Virgin Records · New Romantic · Hansa Records · Japan (country)

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