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