Alphaville – Big In Japan
1984 was probably the most musically beautiful year of all the 80s. It is the period with the best music and with an unprecedented offer, and it continued seamlessly until the Summer of 1985, that is, until the generational change represented by Live Aid. And during this period it often happened that on the same day two or three songs were released, that would remain in history.
The first of these magical days in 1984 was definitely January 12, when two fantastic songs came out. One was from a well-known group, “Here comes the rain” by Eurythmics. The other was the debut single by an unknown group, but one that would become one of the icons of the 1980s.
The first amazing thing about this group was their sound. Certainly electronic and created with synthesizer notes, but always with very particular sounds. This song, for example, is literally recognizable from the first note, with a type of sound that recalls the oriental bells, up to the last, the sound of a gong.
Then, this group had an astonishing look. All three members, but above all the singer, Marian Gold, with uncommon traits, clothes absolutely out of the ordinary, exceptional voice. With the launch of “Big in Japan” Alphaville were born.
Along with Gold were Bernhard Lloyd and Frank Mertens, who left the group the following year and was replaced. It must be said that these are all art names anyway. The three boys came from the German town of Münster.
“Big in Japan” of course contributed to the unstoppable Alphaville career launch. The song is certainly catchy, with a freindly tune between the verses and a very catchy refrain, but it’s a pretty deep song, like many hits by Alphaville. Lyrics tell the story of a boy and a girl who would like to get out of the drugs and prostitution tunnels, symbolized in the text by the reference to the “Zoo” the famous Berlin underground stop that became a symbol of drug addiction.
The two boys would like a life without continuous meeting with unknown people, a life in which you decide what to do, and your time and actions are not decided by something else. Maybe a life in a far away place, where they could also become someone important. The term “Big in Japan” was no accident: in those years many stars who had absolutely disappeared from the scene in Europe or America continued to be very successful in Japan, a market that probably matured later than western markets. So being a “Big in Japan” meant pretending that you could prolong your success because anyway there was still a country, however far away, where you were still famous. Deceiving yourself that you still have a future, in short.
There’s one of the curious coincidences that made the 80s great. Marian Gold knew the term “Big in Japan” because there had been an English punk band with this name. They were never very successful, but Marian was impressed by the name, and in 1979 he wrote the song with this title. Years later, “Big in Japan” took Alphaville to the top of the charts in the UK, where they managed to overcome another famous song, “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. And here Marian Gold was sure to be at the center of a joke of fate, because in the old punk band “Big in Japan” the bass player was a certain Holly Johnson, the leader of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
“Big in Japan” opened Alphaville’s amazing career, and of course it was featured as the first track on one of the most beautiful albums of the 80s, which was to be released in September 1984. The album really contained a series of unforgettable songs, but even the so-called “minor” songs, which were never released as a single and never had a video, were really remarkable songs. Of course the album took the title of the most representative song, and this title coincided exactly with the original name of this group. Yes, because before they borrowed the name “Alphaville” from science fiction, the three had chosen the name “Forever young“… but this is another story from the ’80s!
Alphaville on Wikipedia