Wednesday, January 05, 2011

We walk backwards, say nothing

I've written before about the first band I ever saw live, Japan, at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1982. How exotic they seemed to a 14-year-old: a wicked combination of accessibility (there they were, just a few feet away on the stage) and unbreachable distance, the halo of fame and their sheen of otherness: people I recognised, because I'd seen their pictures in Smash Hits, but could never know. I thought my heart would burst with this new understanding, and the music seemed to swell around me. Ryuchi Sakamoto joined them for the performance; he was doing a strange, balletic tiptoe dance and seemed to glide across the stage.

Although my favourite was, of course, David Sylvian, I was keen on the drummer, Steve Jansen, who played an electrifying solo on Visions of China. The most exotic band member was Mick Karn: with his hollow cheekbones, dark eyes, and enigmatic expression, he didn't seem to need the make-up the others all wore – he already looked strange enough. His is the distinctive, muscular bass sound that is the essential infrastructure of every Japan song.

It sounds silly, but it scarcely seems possible that he should be dead – any more than it would seem possible that any of the other members of Japan should die, because the memory of that night is still so vivid to me.

Mick Karn, 24 July 1958 – 4 January 2011


Mancsoulsister said...

I had Japan (particularly David Sylvian) splattered all over my bedroom wall long long after they split up. I saw Mick Karn in concert with Pete Murphy in Dali's Car in Manchester (I think it was 1985). It is so sad that he has died and penniless if reports are to be believed. Hopefully the music will live on,,,

LottieP said...

I don't think me and my sister could have chosen a better band for our first ever live gig. It was amazing.

I knew he was ill - I actually found out when I went on a Japan-related internet odyssey after this discussion.

Mancsoulsister said...

On a semi-related topic - I know you love music (well know in the sense that you talk about it a lot in your blog!) and wondered what you think of this article

LottieP said...

Thanks for the link, MSS (for some reason it went into spam!). It doesn't accord with my experience at all - I'm always seeking out new music to listen to. My sister does too and she is two years older than me. We grew up escaping into music and we still do.

Claire said...

It's probably partly in response to our fogeyish parents, who appeared to give up any interest in popular culture the moment they started having us, at ages 23 and 25. It was a few years after you had first become an avid listener to The Smiths that Marg knew who Morrisey was but I'm not sure she could have identified any of his music.