I’ve been trying to think of a good title for a series of posts I want to write. As you may have noticed, I have been reliving 1982 month by painful month, but the problem is that whenever you start any kind of history, even one as laughable as mine, there are always the things that have just been popular and influential lingering in the background. For example if you started a history of America in 2002 you would probably need to refer back to 9/11. Likewise, starting a potted history of pop culture in 1982 there are a few people who were pretty big in 1981 who really deserve a mention because everyone in 1982 was still thinking about them.
After careful consideration I have decided to call this series The Fart in the Empty Room.
One of the smaller farts in the room in 1982 were a band called Japan. Smash Hits reports on them quite a lot, and I think it is mainly because their lead singer, David Sylvian, was an attractive piece of eye candy with silly hair cuts and just a touch, the merest smidge, of make up.
Here is the album cover of Japan’s final 1981 album called Tin Drum.
Tin Drum is a pretty cool album. You gotta love a band that writes a song called Still Life in Mobile Homes. It is quite an arty little album. The bass player sounds like he dropped his fretless bass in a tub of vaseline at times (he’s also a whiz on the African flute and Dida apparently), and two of the band members are credited with playing the tapes (a two button instrument featuring the notes “play” and “stop”), but they still manage to make something that isn’t nauseatingly pretentious (although it definitely is not the party album of 1981-2).
It’s the album cover that really intrigues me.
Probably I am extra-sensitive to Japan-China confusion because I lived in Japan. Also, of course, people routinely say that Australia and New Zealand are the same. Actually, if you’re talking about Australian and New Zealand Europeans then I think we are so similar it doesn’t matter too much if we get mixed up, but it must be annoying to the Maori and Aborigines who are totally distinct cultural groups (not to mention the flora and fauna but they so rarely get asked for their opinions).
Quite often we have Japanese exchange students at our school. At some point there is usually a conversation like this:
New Zealand Student: Do they speak Chinese?
Me: They’re from Japan.
NZ Student: So?
Me: So they speak Japanese.
NZ Student (irritated): Japanese, Chinese, whatever.
I think we can see the Japanese-Chinese-Whatever Effect in the album cover which features a number of things Chinese. Of course, just because Japan was called Japan doesn’t oblige them to have Japanese things on their album covers, and apparently they were actually pretty popular in Japan, but it made me wonder what would happen if a Japanese band called, say, France, released an album called Tin Drum that looked like this: