CD-3 Files: David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours

Sylvian - Sakamoto - forbidden colours cover art

Virgin ‎| UK | CD-3 | 1988 | CDT 18

David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto: Forbidden Colours – UK – CD-3 – [1988]

  1. Forbidden Colours [1983 version] 4:42
  2. Bamboo Houses [12″ ver.] 5:26
  3. Bamboo Music [12″ ver.] 5:41

Today I was at a loss to pick a blog topic, so in those times, it may be time to revisit the CD-3 Files. I go to my box and pull a CD from it at random. We’re lucky today as it’s something that i have not heard in ages! In 1988 when the 3″ CD came [briefly] onto the scene, Virgin Records, was alone among the labels for really embracing the format vigorously. Not only did they release singles on the format, but even better, they also re-issued some of their classic 12″ single catalog on the plucky l’il discs! So my pre-CD-3 dream of finding my favorite 12″ singles now on the format actually came true.

“Forbidden Colours” is all over my Record Cell. I seem to have a performance of the song on about a third of my Sakamoto collection! All of the piano and instrumental albums seem to feature a performance of the stately melody. Then there’s the versions on Sylvian’s albums and singles. But this is the only place where I actually have the “hit single”version of the track! I must listen to the later version included as a bonus track on the sumptuous “Secrets Of The Beehive” as my primary version. So much so that this original version on this CD-3 now sounds exotic to me. The shimmering synths of the intro sound more crystalline than the pure strings or piano I’m used to on the other performances. And the percussion sounded much more sharp and echoic; being synthetic. The ending of the song was far more familiar as the strings began to swell into the arrangement. The pained grandeur of it all was an ideal fit for David Sylvian’s wheelhouse.

david sylvian + ryuichi sakamoto bamboo houses cover artThe two B-side on the original 12″ of “Forbidden Colours” were not included here, perhaps since they were Sakamoto only tracks from the “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” OST. Instead, Virgin wisely compiled the 12″ A/B sides to the first Sylvian/Sakamoto 12″ single, from 1982. “Bamboo Houses” was recorded and released the year after “Tin Drum” was JAPAN’s swan song, and wow did it sound it! Sylvian’s brother, Steve Jansen was still programming the percussion, and this slotted tightly into the zone that was still smoking hot from the previous year’s “Tin Drum.” The beats were complex as on that album, with off-meter accents that were startling, but quickly were normalized into a kind of jazzfunk. The rest was all synthesizers by the duo [and Jansen] and the only acoustic touch was the marimba from Sakamoto. The first third of the song was instrumental, followed by a middle movement where Sakamoto recited lyric in Japanese while animalistic growls burbled in the synths. Finally, Sylvian joined in at the song’s midpoint to add his distinctive poise.

Even better was the B-side to “Bamboo Houses,” called “Bamboo Music.” When I first saw that track ages ago, I wrongly assumed that it was merely an instrumental version of “Bamboo Houses.” No, it was a different song entirely. It was of a piece with “Bamboo Houses” but more fluid and languid while still sporting the same sort of rhythm that the A-side had. Sylvian’s vocal was out of his high croon era when things were…smoother than in 1981. Yet the rhythms still had the complex time signatures which gave “Tin Drum” its undying power. The resulting song almost played out like the single that never happened between “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and “Tin Drum.” Which is to say, JAPAN perfection, if you’re me. Your mileage may vary.

In 1988, this CD was a must-have for having the “Bamboo Houses” 12″ tracks on CD, but by now, they have also manifested on various Sylvian compilations, but only appear in concert on “A Victim Of Stars 1982 – 2012″ from eight years ago. Even if I get a copy of that [and I should] I’ll still keep this CD-3 since it’s a CD-3! I have about 40-60 of the little discs, and can’t imagine divesting myself of any of them. Especially since they take up so little room! It actually makes me a little sad when I consider that a CD-3 had the potential for 20 minutes of CD quality in a tiny package. It was the perfect medium to replace the 7″ and the 12” …and look where that got us. Sigh.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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16 Responses to CD-3 Files: David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours

  1. schwenko says:

    yes, a very nice item. I have probably about 50 or so cd-3s. I wonder what the best way to find them for sale?

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  2. I think I have a couple dozen of them. Like the Monk, I thought this was the perfect replacement for singles-into-EPs and 12-inchers, and stores could stock them far more efficiently than with the other formats. Of course that idea made too much sense

    I don’t know if I have this one but if not it will be high on my list to acquire someday!

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  3. Scott Klapman says:

    In Germany, they tried issuing both 2-track 3″ “singles” (like a 7″) & 3 or more track 5″ “maxis” (for a 12″); see Tears For Fears ‎– Woman In Chains for example. In the US, Elektra, Sire, I.R.S., Bar/None Records, SST & A&M liked them as I recall. WEA (and subsidiaries) all over Europe too.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Scott Klapman – I saw that recently in Discogs. I’d almost bite for that. I have the 1981 Hammersmith JAPAN boot from the BBC FM broadcast, with about 75% of the concert, and I’d pay a LOT for a full show in high quality from that event.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Scott Klapman – I recall some Euro CD-3s in spectacular packaging. I used to have the “Woman In Chains” CD-3 and it was a design spectacular!
      woman in chains CD-3
      It always used to severely irritate me when people pointed to the 12″ sleeve on a record as being the ultimate in sound carrier packaging. Only if one had no imagination! The smaller size of the CD allowed for so much more flexibility in packaging in ways that would not be possible [or even practical] with full sized vinyl discs. That sounded noisy, to boot!

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      • Tim says:

        Swing Out Sister did one with a grand piano jewel box (if you can call it that) for The Windmills of Your Mind.
        Recently obtained a Prefab Sprout 3” CD buying something used off of Amazon. Up until then I never knew they or their label did anything for their catalog on the 3” format.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – Oh yeah! I forgot that I used to have that one too. When I got the Japanese remix CDs that had all of those tracks I managed to sell it off in a budget crunch. I kept other “gimmix” CD-3 packages, like the heart-shaped “Sloppy Heart” single by Frazier Chorus.

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          • Tim says:

            You could do a whole thread of gimmicky cd packaging.
            VERY Pet Shop Boys topic for a certain era.
            I have the Japanese deluxe Behavior and time has not been kind to the white velvet slipcase…..which is funny, because it largely sits untouched on a bookshelf.
            I had an OMD single from the early 90s that came in a blue velvetish box that was scented. Call My Name? Pandoras Box? That era.

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  4. Ade.W says:

    Nice pick for a random dip into the box .I too seem to have these tracks right through my collection. Bamboo Houses appears on the Virgin comp “New gold dream”. I have to admit i do not have any 3″CDs and i have yet to see any when I am crate digging, I wonder where they have all gone?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Ade.W – A very good question indeed. I can’t say I’ve ever remembered seeing used CD-3s. It’s my suspicion that they were never bought or traded at used record stores to begin with. I can’t say why, though.

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  5. Gavin Brick says:

    Three of my absolute favourite songs of the era on one shiny disc!
    I dont have this I’m afraid,but have the associated singles/album versions on vinyl and CD albums.
    I have only a handful of 3″ discs-I sold a few Madonna and Prince ones a few years ago when times were harder.
    My own recent music release was a boxed 3″ CD with three artworks,so I am fond of the format.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin Brick – “Hurrah” to you for keeping the CD-3 torch burning as The Metamorph. I’m shocked that the ignoble cassette is seen as hipster catnip in These End Times® while the delectable CD-3 is cruelly ignored. I also sold off some CD-3s to fund some music travel in the ‘teens. All of my former Duran Duran US CD-3s from the ironically named “Big Thing” album have been redistributed. The travel was worth it!

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  6. Echorich says:

    I may only have 20 or so cd3 singles, bu I also have a Crown Electronics portable cd3 player. It has an opening on the bottom right corner of the lid to allow you to move the spindle and play cd5s as well. It was quite a point of interest on flights to London in the 80s and 90s with cd5s spinning outside the corner of the player.
    I have this Forbidden colors along with a cd3 of Sylvian’s Pop Song which came out in 89. My favorite cd3s include Virgin’s series of Budget cd3s where the would put 3 or 4 songs by different artists on one cd3. The combination of bands was quite random. But my most prized cd3 is Wire’s silk Skin Paws which came in a cd3 sleeve with 3 holes on a flat spine so you could add it to your Filofax – which I did.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I’d not heard of that CD player but it’s a brilliant piece of engineering.
      Crown CD-10
      I have never seen the UK “Silk Skin Paws” and just had the US CD-3 which came in a full sized slimline JB with adapter. Which would obviously never be necessary on your player!

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