Japan band 1979

Japan ca. 1979. l-r: Jansen, Barbieri, Sylvian, Karn, Dean.

Japan were a British rock group formed in the mid-seventies in Catford, London. Initially inspired by the glam-rock movement, as shown by extravagant use of make up, clothes and hairstyles, the group later moved towards a more mellow sound incorporating electronics and ultimately aspects of oriental music. Founder members Mick Karn, Richard Barbieri and brothers David Sylvian and Steve Jansen (real names David and Stephen Batt), all school friends, were later joined by guitarist Rob Dean and in 1977 signed to German label Ariola.

Their first two albums appropriately gained some success in Japan and to a lesser extent in Europe although failed to make a mark in their native UK. Third album Quiet Life (1979) showed a more active use of synthesizers and electronic percussion and effects (after working with disco producer Giorgio Moroder) while the 1980 follow-up Gentleman Take Polaroids (their first on Virgin records) saw them gain favour from critics and followers of the upcoming 'New Romantic' movement who identified with the European ennui of their songs, as well as their striking visual appearance.

Their final album Tin Drum (1981) borrowed heavily from minimalist oriental music and saw them reach the height of their commercial success with a string of hit singles coupled with the public's belated interest in previous albums. Despite their long-awaited and hard-earned success, the group split at the end of their 1982 tour, which had included a six-night sell-out run at London's Hammersmith Odeon in November. Individual members, most notably David Sylvian, all pursued solo careers afterwards. The four-piece reunited in 1989 and 1990 under the name of Rain Tree Crow and released an eponymous album of 'improvised' studio recordings in 1991.

Bassist Mick Karn died from cancer in 2011.

Significant dates

  • 07 February 1981 - BBC Radio One In Concert
  •  ?? April 1981 - Life in Tokyo b/w European Son single re-released
  • 29 April 1981 - new single The Art of Parties released. Reaches no.48 in UK Charts.
  • 11 September 1981: Ariola compilation album Assemblage released.
  • 24 September 1981: the group appear on TOTP for the first time to perform Quiet Life, a two-year old track that is now at no.39 in the UK charts.
  • 08 October 1981: repeat performance of Quiet Life on TOTP with the single at peak no.19 position.
  •  ?? October 1981: Visions of China single released and reaches no.32 in the UK charts. Not featured on TOTP.
  • 29 October 1981: Smash Hits feature/interview 'Japanese Boys'.
  • 13 November 1981 - Tin Drum album released, entering the UK album charts at no.12 (peak position).
  • 20 November 1981: Oxford Road Show: Quiet Life / Visions of China / Cantonese Boy.
  • 07 December 1981: "Visions of China" tour kicks off in St. Austell, Cornwall.
David Sylvian interview Smash Hits, February 04, 1982 - p.01
  • 04 February 1982: Smash Hits David Sylvian cover and interview/feature 'Say Hello. Wave goodbye?' deals with the 'break', "just when the four-piece finally look set for fireside acceptance".
  • 04 March 1982: OGWT live performance of Ghosts and Cantonese Boy (with Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Rhodes)
  • 12 March 1982 (?): an edit of the album track Ghosts is released as a single.
  • 18 March 1982: iconic performance of Ghosts on TOTP when the single is at no.42. It shoots up to no.16 the week after.
  • 01 April 1982: repeat perfomance of TOTP performance for Ghosts, now at no.9. The single will reach a peak position of no.5 the week after.
  • 27 May 1982: performance of new single Cantonese Boy on TOTP when the single is at no.24, its peak position.
  •  ?? July 1982: Re-release of I Second That Emotion enters Top 30, peaking at no.9. The Assemblage album reaches its peak position of no.26, almost a year after its release.
  • 01 October 1982: The "Sons of Pioneers" tour, the group's last, begins in Stockholm.
  • 22 October 1982: live performance on OGWT of The Art of Parties and Nightporter.
  •  ?? November 1982: Nightporter from the by now two-year old album Gentlemen Take Polaroids released as a single. Reaches no.29 in the UK charts.
  • 06 November 1982: NME cover and feature 'Still Life in Japan', Paul Morley.
  • 16 December 1982: Japan's final concert at Nagoya Shi Kohkaido, Japan.
  •  ?? June 1983: 'posthumous' live album Oil On Canvas released.


in my collection


  • Quiet Life (CD)
  • Gentlemen Take Polaroids (CD)
  • Tin Drum (cassette, 1981)
  • Assemblage (CD, 1981)
  • Oil On Canvas (CD, 1983)


  • The Art of Parties (7", 1981)

seen live

External links

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