Two days ago commenter Duncan Watson brought it to our attention that Anthony Reynolds’ book on JAPAN was now back in print at Burning Shed, and since we had missed the limited hardcover edition, this represents a great second chance that deserved a posting on it’s own. I recall seeing the news somewhere that Anthony Reynolds had written the coffee table book on JAPAN we’d all been waiting for for decades. The hardcover was not cripplingly expensive [thankfully] but at the time the cash wasn’t there for an immediate purchase. It was my bad luck that the hardcover sold out in just two months; curtailing my ability to purchase.
Reynolds had taken their story from their schoolboy origins to just after the dissolution of the band on a rarefied plane none could have predicted just four years earlier. Their journey from a third-rate New York Dolls pastiche band to Roxy Music’s peers was a developmental arc with clearly the widest range ever experienced by this listener. Sure, sure. You all probably know how I’ll pontificate for days on the stylistic distance between the first and second Simple Minds album as being a huge artistic leap, but that’s got nothing on what occurred between “Adolescent Sex” and “Quiet Life.” Then they continued on their stratospheric trajectory for two more albums before ultimately eclipsing their influences.
Long-time readers may know that I consider “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” as thr finest album Roxy Music never made. The fact of the matter was that in JAPAN, the group had a rhythm section that was so far ahead of what Roxy Music was ever capable in that department, that I’m sure Ferry looked on them with some amount of rueful envy. Ferry had auditioned for the King Crimson vocalist slot following Greg Lake’s departure, and was politely turned down at the dawn on the seventies. But out of the select club populated only by Bryan Ferry and David Sylvian; just one of them was asked by Robert Fripp to be the new King Crimson vocalist in the 90s… and his initials were not BF.
So this year has seen many substantial book about my favorite bands proliferate. While this tome was published in 2016, this will hopefully be the year when I have it on the bookshelf. The book was also made with the full cooperation of Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, and Rob Dean. Obviously Mick Karn [r.i.p] was unable to participate and we would be shocked if Sylvian would even entertain such a thing. The book itself is 212 pages with 260 photos and a compact 8.25″ square format. This makes me happy since I am running out of space in my Record Cell/media empire room and I welcome the trend of smaller books. They’re easier to read in bed, too. This one is going for just $22.60 but is currently on sale for an even better $18.61 by clicking here.
But that book only takes the reader to the dawn of JAPAN’s solo/split era. There was a lot of solo and group water under the bridge in the next few years, and Reynolds has written the next step in his biographical program.
Currently available in hardcover at Burning shed is “Cries + Whispers 1983-1991” which takes a look at the band’s aftermath. Knowing full well how badly the Raintree Crow project went for the band attempting to form anew [even with a different name], the magnifying lens on this period would be a gripping page turner, I suspect. Even so, I’d buy it just for the goods on Karn’s brilliant “Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters” album!
Reynolds has also cast his net to interview artists close to the band member’s careers such as Bill Nelson, Johnny Marr, Bill Bruford, Simon Raymonde, Ivo, Martin Fry, Paul Morley, Thomas Dolby, and even the late Colin Vearncombe [?!]. The foil debossed hardcover is otherwise made to the same specs as volume one in the series. It will cost a bit more. You may purchase it here currently at $53.20 – not an unreasonable price but act fast. The first volume did not stick around for very long before becoming OOP.
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As Burning Shed operate from the same city I live in I bought this the moment it was announced. It gives some nice insights but for me it dwells too much on the ‘gossip’ about relationships and gives surprisingly very little detail about the actual recordings. A good example is it mentions about how badly the Bamboo Music/Houses single sold but doesn’t mention a thing about its actual recording despite it involving 3 of the band members. There is more detail about Mick’s first solo album which he was originally planning to do after GTP but Steve and Richard talked him out of it. It also mentions in passing that he wrote and demoed a second solo album for Virgin but they declined it. Whether the tracks become DORPM or he gave them to Peter Murphy to sing over for Dali’s Car I don’t know as there is no detail. As ever leaves you wanting more…
Richard Anvil – As a JAPAN fanatic, I’ll still buy it, but now I’m glad I didn’t pop for the hardcover. We hate it when rock books are not what we want from them! Is that a M*rr*ss*y title waiting to happen or what? In a similar fashion, I am a Visage fanatic but I’ll be damned if I ever buy “Blitzed!” as I am certain it will dwell on anything but what I am interested in about the band! Hell, even Midge Ure’s autobio concerned itself with far more things on the periphery of music than I was interested in and he’s a “muso.”
On the other hand, early glimpses over the lovely new OMD book reveal an eminently readable and re-readable tome that will delight for years to come and not only because they included both of the anecdotes that I sent in [though that certainly surprised and delighted]. Report coming once I actually read it.
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“Blitzed!” is, of course, mainly concerned with Steve’s personal demons – but it does provide a few interesting details like Visage split with the original management team and an ill-fated new venture (described in detail as Steve viewed that decision as a turning point for worse in the project’s development). But these are only several pages, other than that – not much in a way of music and stuff (not that Steve actually had much input in this area).
As for Japan’s musical endeavours, you’d be advised to get Mick Karn’s memoir – it’s all there in detail. An interesting reading overall, by the way, quite sad as Mick appears a deeply troubled individual, somehow doomed considering his untimely demise. By the way, if I’m not mistaken, money goes straight to Mick’s family if you get that through Lulu.com. Be careful reading it, though, my copy had pages flying out before I finished it.
Vlad – That’s more than I expected from Steve, at any rate! I guess that Lulu.com are a “print-on-demand” company. So perfect [glued pages with no signatures] binding isn’t that great when it’s being done on the industrial scale. I guess a one-off printing like with Lulu is even worse in that regard. I guess an e-book [shudders] might be inevitable.
I appreciate the capsule review here. It sounds too iffy for me for $50. I’d love to read about the nuts and bolts of Sylvian’s 1980’s recordings but this sounds like it’s not the book that I am looking for.
By the way, the vinyl reissues are being done with new art, apparently the old stuff is gone.
They’re actually not bad but the last image I have in my head when I listen to Gone to Earth is someone sitting in the door of a car.
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Tim – I can’t believe that “Gone To Earth” has swapped Russell Mills for photos! I guess I really am not the audience for this campaign! But if I’m not, then who is?
They say that the original art is gone and they don’t want to go the route of hi res scans of people’s old lp covers cleaned up in photoshop. Generally they work, I was never a huge fan of the art for Alchemy and the new one is a nice black and white photo of DS sitting on a mountain top looking at a valley. Gone to Earth, on the other hand, I am totally married to everything about that one and a photo of him sitting in the door of the car….REJECT….please try again.
I mentioned via email that I found some Sylvian tracks on Amazon that are him guesting on others work. I grabbed two from Steve Jansen’s SLOPE and listened to them and rushed back and bought the whole album. Holy buckets there’s some real Rain Tree Crow textures happening here and I know this has got the thrill of the new happening but if you are into the whole Japan family tree thing you really need to buy SLOPE.
Tim – I guaran-damn-tee that Russell Mills has slides of the “Gone To Earth” art, which was, yes… stunning. I remember hearing good things about “Slope” somewhere along the line… somewhere.
I understand Richard’s comments but still think this is a very worthwhile book and design wise is a thing of beauty. For me it’s well worth the money.
I bought the paperback edition of AFP a few months ago,when it was first offered at £13.99,an irresistible price.I could not afford the original hardback and will also sit it out with the newer tome.
I have read it AFP through and have to say it is superb in my opinion.Lovely format,great photos and some fascinating insight.
No music biog is ever going to satisfy everyone.I agree about Blitzed and Midge’s book,both of which I have and was disappointed by to an extent.
The Sylvian biograohy “The Last Romantic” by Martin Power is quite an interesting read,if you can find it.
Gavin – Good to hear your thoughts. It was gratifying to see a lower priced edition of this. If I get the 2nd volume (not certain now) I will probably opt for softcover.
I was fortunate that Cardiff library had a copy of Mick’s autobiography but sadly not the JAPAN book so I am still waiting to read it, ho hum. Also on my blog for those interested… https://kelvinhayesofficial.wordpress.com/2018/12/15/japan-david-sylvian-vinyl-reissues/
PPM: if I were to only recommend one disc each for Japan and Visage, what would they be?
Comps are fair game here. Eyeing “very best of Japan”… thoughts on that vs the US exorcising ghosts? Are there any Visage comps which are > than their first album?
TB – Good question! There is no “perfect” JAPAN comp in my eyes. I am super partial to all of the excellent late Hansa period non-LP single mixes on
but it lacks critical material from “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and “Tin Drum” so that’s a big problem that points to
as the one, go-to JAPAN compilation. Plus, the latter is probably easier to source at this point. And the 2xCD of “The Singles” is sourced from vinyl; albeit impeccably.
As far as Visage, I really like the late period singles and only the CD of this title
has critical albums number 1, 2, and 4 material that is mandatory to my ears. Almost any of the earlier Visage comps are fair game but not hearing “Never Enough” on them is a huge loss for me. But the formats other than the CD of “The Wild Life (The Best Of, 1978 To 2015)” feature re-recordings of the stuff from albums 1 and 2 due to licensing issues, so caveat emptor. As a Visage fanatic, I was thrilled by this [new versions!] but I was in the minority.
Thanks! Like many, I’ve recently rediscovered vinyl and have been enjoying albums (vs comps) more in that format, with CD preferred for comps and boxes. This isn’t a hard and fast rule and there are always exceptions. Yet for 80s music and especially synth pop, it’s been my preferred way of curating my collection.
TB – I’m still running away from vinyl. I listen to my vinyl once, when played into my interface for digitizing. But the time for this is scarce. So unlike a CD I can listen to immediately [even in the car after purchase], the vinyl I buy sits on my racks unheard for years until that fateful night when I have the time to listen.