Japan

MIXTAPE: SAY CHEESE! 0

Say Cheese! Make love to the camera! Smile! Watch the birdie! Hold still! I’m taking a selfie!

Photographs can capture a moment in time just like any memorable song can. Working hard in his darkroom, guest shutterbug Chris Rooney has edited the most lyrical snapshots from this photogenic mixtape.

(To listen to this or any of our other playlists via Spotify, click here.)

Duran Duran, “Girls On Film” (1981)
“…Lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling…”

Japan, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” (1980)
“…Gentlemen take polaroids / They fall in love they fall in love… Just a foreign town with a foreign mind / Why is everything so cut and dried?…”

Aztec Camera, “Oblivious” (1983)
“…They’re calling all the shots / They call and say they phoned / They’ll call us lonely when we’re really just alone / And like a funny film, it’s kinda cute
They bought the bullets and there’s no one left to shoot…”

The Cure,“Pictures Of You” (1990)
“…I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you / That I almost believe that they’re real…”

Bucks Fizz, “My Camera Never Lies” (1982)
“…My camera never lies / So I’ll put you in the picture and cut it down to size…”

A Flock of Seagulls, “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” (1982)
“…If I had a photograph of you / Or something to remind me / I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing…”

The Speedies, “Let Me Take Your Photo” (1979)
“…I went and colored all my hair / Let me take your photo / So my snapshot won’t be there / Let me take your photo / I don’t wanna see no Polaroid, no! / Let me take your photo / Because I just might get annoyed…”

The Lotus Eaters, “The First Picture Of You” (1983)
“…The first picture of you / The first picture of summer / Seeing the flowers scream their joy…”

Mission of Burma, “This Is Not A Photograph” (1981)
“…This is just a perpendicular line to the grain / This is not a photograph…”

Blondie, “Picture This” (1978)
“…All I want is a photo in my wallet / A small remembrance of something more solid…”

Depeche Mode, “Photographic” (1981)
“…I take pictures / Photographic pictures / Bright light, dark room / Bright light, dark room…”

The Fixx, “Cameras In Paris” (1982)
“… There’s cameras in Paris / Some papers are missing / Exposure’s automatic…”

Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Red Light” (1980)
“…That Kodak whore winking / ‘Til the aperture shuts / Too much exposure…”

The Buggles, “I Am A Camera” (1981)
“…There by the waterside / Here where the lens is wide / You and me by the sea…”

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Mixtape: People Who Died 0

Just like the Academy Awards has its In Memorium segment, Mad World guest mixtape-ologist Chris Rooney presents a somber look back at those we have lost from the new wave decade.

“Walk in silence/Don’t walk away, in silence…” Ian Curtis’ opening lyrics from Joy Division’s last single, “Atmosphere” is the perfect funeral hymn to remember the small number of singers and musicians that have passed on from this era. While drug and alcohol overdoses have been the main culprit of many musicians’ deaths in other genres, the following have been lost to other ravages of time. (To listen to this or follow any of Lori Majewski’s Spotify playlists, click here.)

01. Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) of Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
On the eve of their first American tour, troubled 22-year-old Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis took his life. The music video accompanying the song’s 1988 re-release was directed by Anton Corbijn who would later directed the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control.

02. Ricky Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985) of The B-52s, “Give Me Back My Man”
The backbone of The B-52s, Ricky’s distinctive open tuning surf guitar sound came from playing only four strings with the third and fourth ones missing. He is reportedly once said, “I just tune the strings till I hear something I like, and then something comes out. No, I don’t write anything down. I have no idea how the tunings go.” Wilson, 32, died from complications due to AIDS in 1985, just a month after the release of the fourth B-52’s album, Bouncing off the Satellites.

03. Jimmy McShane (23 May 1957 – 29 March 1995) of Baltimora, “Tarzan Boy”
What do you get when you mix a group of Italian musicians with an Northern Irish singer named Jimmy McShane? You get Baltimora, best known for the one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” that came swinging through the jungle back in 1985. Ten years later, McShane fell victim to the AIDS epidemic at age 37.

04. Patty Donahue (29 March 1956 – 9 December 1996) of The Waitresses, “Square Pegs”
Aside from “I Know What Boys Like” and ‘Christmas Wrapping”, The Waitresses might still be remembered for performing the theme song to the short-lived American high school sitcom, Square Pegs at the end of the pilot episode. Lead singer Patty Donahue wouldn’t pursue music after the band broke up in 1984 and later lost her battle to lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 40.

05. Michael Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) of INXS, “The One Thing”
Unlike the surviving members of Joy Division who remade themselves as New Order, the rest of INXS limped on after the 1997 suicide of their 37-year-old frontman Michael Hutchence with guest vocalists. In 2004, they even went so far as to audition a new lead singer on the American singing competition show, Rock Star: INXS.

06. Falco (19 February 1957 – 6 February 1998), “Der Kommissar”
It’s ironic that Austrian singer Falco is dancing in the street while being chased by the cops during his music video for “Der Kommissar” as he was later killed in an 1998 automobile accident. He was 40.

07. Ned “Ebn” Liben (1954 – 18 February 1998) of EBN-OZN, “AEIOU and Sometimes Y”
Recorded in 1981, EBN-OZN’s vowel-specific song has the distinction of being the first American commercial single ever recorded entirely on a Fairlight CMI synthesizer. After the duo split, Liben continued composing for others until he died from a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 44.

08. Rob Fisher (5 November 1956 – 25 August 1999) of Naked Eyes, “When The Lights Go Out”
Another two-man synth group employing the then-new Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer, Naked Eyes had more success in the US than in their native England at the beginning of the ‘80s. Rob Fisher re-emerged a few years later as one half of the pop duo, Climie Fisher. His life was cut short in 1999 at the age of 42 following bowel surgery related to cancer.

09. Benjamin Orr (September 8, 1947 – October 3, 2000) of The Cars, “Drive”

While frontman Ric Ocasek sang most of the group’s songs, bassist Orr had the distinction of doing the vocals on their biggest international hit, “Drive”. Orr died in 2000 from pancreatic cancer at age 53.

10. Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001) of Big Country “In A Big Country”
After leaving the art-punk band, The Skids he founded, Adamson had commercial success with his next group, Big Country, fueled by their 1983 international hit “In A Big Country” thanks in part to heavy rotation on MTV. In November 2001 he was reported missing after being estranged from his wife and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Three weeks later he was found dead in a Hawaiian hotel room from an apparent suicide. He was 43.

11. Robert Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003), “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”
Whether performing solo or fronting the short-lived supergroup, The Power Station, Robert Palmer always lent a touch of class with his sharp attire and distinctive voice. He died unexpectedly in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

12. Malcolm McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010), “Madame Butterfly”
The impresario/svengali behind The Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, McLaren also embarked on his own musical ventures with a few hits including this adaptation of the Puccini opera. McLaren lost his life to peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010 at the age of 64.

13. Mick Karn of Japan (24 July 1958 – 4 January 2011), “The Art of Parties”
Best known for his fretless bass playing in the group Japan, Mick Karn later formed Dalis Car with Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy on their only album in 1984. A few years ago, the two were working on new material when Karn’s health declined. He finally succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of 52.

14. Chrissy Amphlett (25 October 1959 – 21 April 2013) of DiVinyls, “Science Fiction”
While notorious for their 1990 eye-opening song, “I Touch Myself”, DiVinyls were already well-established in their native Australia since the early 80s with a string of hits like “Science Fiction”.
After a protracted battle with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, lead singer Chrissy Amphlett passed away in 2013.

15. Bob Casale (July 14, 1952 – February 17, 2014) of Devo, “Just The Girl You Want”
A fixture since the origin of the group back in the early 1970s, Devo guitarist and keyboardist Bob Casale passed away earlier this year from heart failure at age 61. Their hyperkinetic 1980 video “Girl U Want” which came at their height of popularity was inspired by The Knack’s hit “My Sharona” from the year before. Who knows if Bob was buried wearing his Energy Dome…

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Mixtape: Big In Japan! 0

Though the first part of the sixties was dominated by unabashed Anglophilia, the focus of popular music has always been America and the tone it set. The last time the gaze of the world moved away from the USA was the eighties when Europe rewrote the rules of the game.But, as much as every aspiring artist affected an English accent or, failing that, a bizarre hybrid between English and German, there was another cultural obsession. Japan. Every decade sees an attempt to market indigenous Japanese pop culture to a disinterested West but, during the eighties, the Japanese influence on new wave was strong enough that it–and by it, I mean the Yellow Magic Orchestra–almost happened. Here, then, is a mixture of Western artists influenced by Japan and a few Japanese new wave obscurities. (For this and our other Spotify playlists, click here.)

 

“Ghosts,” Japan

Yes, “Life In Tokyo” would have been the more obvious choice but THIS is the most beautiful record they ever made and the biggest hit they ever had. Any kind of appreciation in their own homeland was a long time coming for Japan and they split up not long after mainstream acceptance came knocking. I can’t think of a more elegant way to wrap up a career than “Ghosts”.

“Turning Japanese,” The Vapors

The Vapors had Japan’s problem in reverse. Managed by Paul Weller’s dad, they saw themselves as a junior Jam and had a sturdy set of songs which few ever heard because “Turning Japanese” was an instant hit and also instantly eclipsed anything else they had waiting in the wings. While some bands learn to live with and even love their “Safety Dance”-level of success, being known for a sole song about furtive masturbation did not sit well with The Vapors.

“Big In Japan,” Alphaville

One of our biggest regrets about Mad World: The Book is trying and continually failing to track down Alphaville. Talk about a band that sums up the essence of the entire book. I know Alphaville enthusiasts can argue about the incredible depth of their catalog but to the average dunderhead, today represented by me, they have maintained a comfortable multi-decade career on the backs of two classic songs, “Forever Young” and this, inspired by a long-running piece of music industry back-handed bitchery. If you wanted to disdain a rival artists’ success, you described them as being ‘big in Japan” aka: acceptable to a nation who accepted anything that came from the West, which is a brutal stereotype that has a lot of truth to it.

 

“Tokyo Joe,” Bryan Ferry

The internet thinks everything’s racist so it’s not hard to imagine the endless apologies the creator of this song with it’s references to inscrutable orientals and pliant geishas would have to weep his way through. And the clip with it’s gyrating Asian backup dancers cooing around the suave singer is Exhibit A for the prosecution. I can’t defend it in terms of taste– except that it’s meant to conjure up the wartime Tokyo of the 1940s– but this is the kind of Bryan Ferry I like. Not quite so smooth.

“Yellow Pearl,’ Phil Lynott ft. Midge Ure

Mad World’s own Lori Majewski is in conversation with Midge Ure on Sunday September 14th, 5:00-6:30 at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. So here to commemorate that event and stay with our theme is a record Ure made with his very brief Thin Lizzy bandmate, Phil Lynott. Brits of a certain age –ie: ancient — will recall this as the theme to the 1980s version of Top Of The Pops and, as such, will be very familiar with the first thirty seconds and less so with the remaining few minutes.

“Cyndi And The Barbie Dolls,” Big In Japan

Legendary in Liverpool, barely known outside, this band, who revolved around front woman Jayne Casey, would include Holly Johnson, Bill Drummond, Budgie and, front and center in this clip, Ian Broudie

“Firecracker,” Yellow Magic Orchestra

Bearing in mind their staggering output, I imagine it could be something of an irritant to the brainboxes behind they’re known in these quarters for a scant handful of records from the start of their career. Like this one.I’ve got a lot of digging to do in terms of making a dent in the vast YMO discography.(Sounds like too much work: I probably won’t do it)

“Top Secret Man,” Plastics

Island Records took a shot at launching the Plastics on a British audience who’d shown a vague liking for quirky, staccato, herky-jerky, Farfisa-and-twangy-guitar-dominated music. I remember the NME giving away a free flexidisc of their version of “Last Train To Clarksville.” Sadly, as with every other attempt to launch a Japanese combo, there were few takers.

“Tokyo Sue,” Susan

From “The Girl Can’t Help It”, an album I used to own and try pitifully hard to enjoy, here’s a YMO-produced singer with a tiny squeak of a voice that makes a lot more sense to me all these years later. Well done, Susan.

“Drip Dry Eyes,” Sandii

Another YMO production. They basically own the entire Japanese techno pop era of which I know next to nothing.

Hong Kong,” Pink Tank

Okay, I know absolutely nothing about this. I slipped into a You Tube k-hole in search of kore 1980s Japanese technopop and this is what I found. I like the name Pink Tank. It works on different levels: is it a pun on think tank or is an actual pink tank? This comes from an album titled Electric Cinderella so I’m going for an actual pink tank.

“Morning Time,” Targets

Again, I know nothing about this, plucked it from the swirling depths of You Tube. But if this is what Japan had going on in the eighties, I need to hear a lot more of it! (Maybe I will dig into that YMO mountain after all!)

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