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.

“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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Midge Ure vs. Mad World: A LIVE Event! 0

A Mad World Conversation With Midge Ure:

Ultravox, Visage, Band Aid & Beyond

Midge Ure is immortalized in Mad World as the Zelig of pop. He’s the star of, not one, but two chapters —  Ultravox! Band Aid! (There would have been a third if we had been able to extract enough info from Steve Strange on the two occasions that we got him on the phone for an interview re: Visage.)

Now, the very special relationship between Midge Ure, OBE, Duke of Ultravox, and Mad World reaches a new level of intimacy in the form of a live event at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade store.

Come and witness our fearless Mad World co-author and long-time Ure-ologist Lori Majewski as she interviews the prolific Scot about his lengthy career — including Visage (have you heard him singing his rendition of “Fade to Grey” on the Retro Futura tour?!). She’ll also ask him about co-writing and producing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” — which turns 30 this November — and his first solo album in eons, Fragile. There will also be time for YOU to ask him a few questions, and straight after, there will be a Mad World book signing/meet-and-greet.

Memorize these details:

Date: Sunday, Sept. 14

Address: Rough Trade,  64 N 9th St, New York, NY 11249

Time: 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Admission: Free!

DJ: The Big PA spinning an all-Midge-all-the-time soundtrack

Please help to spread the word to fellow fans by sharing our Facebook event page and tweeting about it tagging @madworldbook and @midgeure1.

Then all you have to do is come along and meet the man responsible for all of this:



 And this:

 And this:



 And even this:

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Mixtape: A.K.A. Stage Names, Pseudonyms and Alter Egos 0

Charli XCX. Ty Dolla $ign. Zedd. Bobby Shmurda. We certainly don’t lack for creative stage names these days. Just creativity. Unlike the eighties, when we had artists whose music was as fascinating as their alter egos.

“Goody Two Shoes,” Adam Ant

What a malleable stage-name-for-all-seasons the young Stuart Goddard chose for himself. Adam Ant seemed all creepy and netherworldy when he was an underground icon, then when he was a mainstream favorite, it was exciting and alliterative. I wonder if Marvel will use this song on the soundtrack on the Ant-Man movie.

“Electric Co,” U2

It is easier for a camel to crawl through the eye of a needle than it is for me to find a U2 song I can halfway tolerate. However, we are here to celebrate the wise choice made by Paul Hewson when he renamed himself Bon O’Vox. And then O’Vo. And finally, Bono. Yes, he made himself a target for people like Bernard Sumner to refer to him as Bongo and for me to call him Bonio, after a once-popular brand of dog food, but its is also a name that crosses national boundaries.

“Miss Me Blind,” Culture Club

The roads of the record industry are built on the broken bones of unmemorable artists. George O’Dowd was not one of those. His look, his voice, his songs all stood out and so did his choice of moniker. Smartly anticipating the reaction of the nation’s parents who would be forced by their offspring sit through Top Of The Pops, his name was an answer to the UK’s– and soon the world’s– outraged mums and dads demanding of their TV screen, “Is that a boy or a girl?”

“Calling Your Name,” Marilyn

And after the world’s mums and dads were miraculously unaffected by their exposure to Boy George, there was a brief record company gold rush for another gender-ambiguous popstar. The resulted: long time George frenemy Peter Robinson aka Marilyn– a notorious figure –who, if the BBC biopic ‘Worried About The Boy’ is to be be believed, turned aan entire city of straight men gay– wound up in the UK Top 5 with this slice of fake Motown which predates the auto-tune era but comes smack-dab in the middle of the time when producers swamped thin voices with masses of backing vocals.

“Never Ending Story,” Limahl

If there’s been one sour note struck during the whole, generally positive Mad World:The Book experience, it’s...me! Some readers have taken issue with my sullen attitude and lack of blanket approval regarding every single act we covered over 36 chapters. To which I say, fair enough. You can’t please everyone. However. If I have one regret about my cynical nature, it’s perhaps over my commentary about the Limahl chapter in which I made a flip remark about shitting on his band. Now, I’m not a Kajagoogoo fan and I never presented myself as one, but Limahl gave me one of the best and most unexpected interviews in the book, which is why the chapter is so insanely long. I didn’t have to build a statue to his greatness but I also didn’t need to direct quite so much snark in his direction. So, I will take this opportunity to apologize to the former Chris Hamill and applaud this song which, I imagine he will agree, is the finest melody he ever sung.

“Imagination,” Belouis Some

I would like to see the list of names Neville Keighley rejected before deciding Belouis Some was the pseudonym that was going to rocket him to international stardom. I have to think that his choice is one of the main reasons “Imagination,” which was a hot record then and remains a hot record now, never took off. Bonus points to anyone who can make it all the way through this extended, uncensored, ridiculous video.

“Just An Illusion,” Imagination

See what I did there? Imagination’s lead singer John Leslie McGregor made what might have seemed an even more ruinous choice than Neville Keighley when selecting his stage name. He went with Leee John, the extra E completing the acronym, “Extra Erotic Energy”. Despite this, Imagination were a huuuuge influence on the British pop scene of the early eighties. In MW:TB, Gary Kemp talks of hearing them and seeking out their producers, Jolley & Swain, for the True album. Alison Moyet and Bananarama also used Jolley & Swain’s services. Imagination don’t benefit a whole lot from eighties nostalgia but they were the one of the premier UK r&b acts that wasn’t attempting to xerox what they bought from the US import bins, and for that they deserve that extra e in their singer’s name.

“One Better Day,” Madness

Graham McPherson probably didn’t think he was going to be lead singer of Madness for life when he called himself Suggs but it seems like it’s going to work out that way. The name is evocative of a kind of minor Dickensian villain which is appropriate seeing as the band have come to embody a timeless London seediness.

“When You Were Mine,” Bette Bright & The Illuminations

We couldn’t feature Suggs and not shout out his wife, could we? Bette Bright, born Anne Martin, was one of the focal points of Liverpool’s Deaf School, a highly-touted art-pop band who were utterly annihilated by the rise of punk. Regrouping as Bette Bright & The Illuminations, she banged out a series of cover songs, all of which were awesome and none of which came close to being hits. This is her version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” which–and I might be wrong here– predates the Cyndi Lauper cover.

“Ashes and Diamonds,” Zaine Griff

Known to his parents as Glenn Mikkelson, this Bowie imitator obviously had a bunch of people convinced of his star potential because he kept pumping out records. He came closes to a hit with this one, produced by Bowie’s frequent right-hand man, Tony Visconti.

“Can’t Stop Running,” Space Monkey

Okay, Paul Goodchild, the awesome news is, the guy who discovered and signed both Wham! and ABC thinks you’ve got what it takes to go the distance. the less awesome news: he thinks you should rename yourself Space Monkey. (It probably didn’t go down like that at all. It probably happened more like Dirk Diggler coming up with his porn name in Boogie Nights.)

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