Japan (band)

Japan (band)

Infobox musical artist
Name = Japan

Img_capt = Rob Dean, Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Rich Barbieri, and guest Masami Tsuchiya (1982)

Img_size =
Background = group_or_band
Origin = United Kingdom
Genre = New Wave
Glam rock (early)
Years_active = 1974-1982, 1991
Label = Hansa Virgin
Associated_acts = The Dolphin Brothers Nine Horses Porcupine Tree
Current_members =
Past_members = Mick Karn Richard Barbieri Rob Dean Steve Jansen David Sylvian
Notable_instruments =

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.


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!.


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.

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.


ingles 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


* "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]


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.


*"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


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.

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)

Tribute Album

"Life In Tokyo - A Tribute to Japan" (BMG Japan) 1996

See also

* Rain Tree Crow

External links

* [http://www.nightporter.co.uk Japan Nightporter - Fan Site]
* [http://www.lifeintokyo.net Japan Life in Tokyo - Fan Site]
* [http://www.orpheus.me.uk Orpheus.me.uk - Fan Site for Japan and band members]

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