Tag: Yellow Magic Orchestra (Page 2 of 4)


“The medium of reinterpretation” as HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware once put it, is an important creative opportunity that can widen a musical audience and expand the aural palette.

SoftCell-81This was most evident in 1981 when SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ became ubiquitous as Synth Britannia’s first true crossover record, reaching No1 in UK, Germany, Australia and Canada while also breaking the US Top 10 a year later.

A disgruntled rival musician had told Marc Almond only a few months before that “You couldn’t make a decent dance record if you tried”, but make one he did!

Written by Ed Cobb, ‘Tainted Love’ was recorded by Gloria Jones (partner of the late Marc Bolan) and became a Wigan Casino favourite on the Northern Soul scene. As a fan of that scene, David Ball knew the song and took it into haunting electronic torch territory. Segued with a Motown cover ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ on an extended version, it became one of Sire Records biggest selling 12 inch singles in America.

It was to be a double edged sword though as the coupling of two covers made SOFT CELL minimal money despite the record selling millions. Thus successful cover versions generally only make the original songwriter any dough. Although often perceived as a sign of creative desperation, a fair number of cover versions are genuinely recorded as a labour of love.

So what of the other great synth reworkings? The covers in The Electricity Club’s listing are predominantly conventional songs reworked in a synthpop manner. And in several cases, the reworks have been so distinct and definitive that it is often forgotten they are actually covers! Restricted to one song per artist moniker, they are presented in chronological order.

VISAGE In Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

VISAGE 2525ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo steered by Midge Ure in 1978. ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added some musicality. But when Ure presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, it was rejected! Remixed later by John Hudson, it was finally unleashed for public consumption in 1983.

Available on the album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records



One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny, but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music


GARY NUMAN On Broadway (1979 – released 1980)

NUMAN live 79Written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, a quartet who between them have written some of the greatest songs in pop history, the original by THE DRIFTERS was a favourite in the Webb household. So GARY NUMAN did a live machine music rendition on 1979’s ‘The Touring Principle’. However, the star on this magnificent reinterpretation of ‘On Broadway’ is not Numan himself, but guest keyboardist Billy Currie of ULTRAVOX with his screaming ARP Odyssey solo.

Available on the album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ via Beggars Banquet Records


TELEX Rock Around The Clock (1979)

telexOn paper it shouldn’t have worked; a funereal take of the song that heralded the birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll smothered in robotic vocoder. And it caused much head scratching when it became a UK Top 40 hit, although one person listening was Daniel Miller who borrowed the concept for SILICON TEENS. Belgian trio TELEX always had a sense of subversive irony about them. This mischief came to its head with their lampooning number ‘Eurovision’, which they actually entered for 1980 Eurovision Song Contest!

Available on the album ‘Ultimate Best of’ via EMI Belgium


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Only After Dark (1980)

human league only after darkAn all synth rework of Head Spider Mick Ronson’s guitar dominated cult favourite, the metronomic tension was enhanced on THE HUMAN LEAGUE version by the metallic sequence of a Roland System 100 while monophonic synth lines complimented the futuristic atmosphere. Oakey impressively bellowed away while Martyn Ware provided some sprightly vocal support. ‘Only After Dark’ had been due to be released as a single but was cancelled in favour of a reissue of ‘Empire State Human’.

Available on the album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records


JAPAN All Tomorrow’s Parties (1980)

JAPAN all tomorrows partiesSaid to be Andy Warhol’s favourite Lou Reed composition, this interpretation of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Nico-led cult classic was turned from a Teutonic funeral march into a looser, synth assisted beat ballad in the vein of ROXY MUSIC. Demo-ed under the supervision of manager Simon Napier-Bell in 1979 but remixed later by John Punter, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ was to herald the sophisticated muzak direction that JAPAN were to become ultimately associated with.

Available on the album ‘Quiet Life’ via BMG Records


OMD The More I See You (1980)

This cover of ‘The More I See You’ had actually began musically as a new OMD composition until Andy McCluskey started improvising and using the words of this vintage tune written in 1945 by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. It was subsequently a hit for Chris Montez in 1966, although OMD’s version was a far darker proposition, with the spectre of JOY DIVISION vocalist Ian Curtis looming over the bright synthesizer melodies and deep bass drones.

Available on the album ‘Organisation’ via EMI Records


DURAN DURAN Fame (1981)

Before they became Birmingham’s most famous boat crew, DURAN DURAN recorded this speeded up version of David Bowie’s art funk co-write with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar for the 12 inch B-side of their flop single ‘Careless Memories’. As well as having a more frantic pace and layers of Nick Rhodes’ Crumar Performer string machine, Andy Taylor even aped Robert Fripp to add a screaming guitar solo that had not featured in the original.

Available on the album ‘The Essential Collection’ via EMI Records


THE FAST SET King Of the Rumbling Spires (1981)

Some_bizzareA speeded-up, manic darkwave rendition of an early Marc Bolan composition, this was the one of the best tracks on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ after DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE, B-MOVIE and ILLUSTRATION. The screeching synths and aggressive, unorthodox vocals are all over in a matter of a couple of minutes. THE FAST SET disappeared after just one proper single ‘Junction One’ which also featured another Bolan song ‘Children Of The Revolution’ on the flip.

Available on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ via Some Bizzare Limited



Keyboardist Dave Stewart, once of prog rockers HATFIELD & THE NORTH recruited friend and backing vocalist Barbara Gaskin to sing on the second of his electronic pop covers, the first being ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ with Colin Blunstone. Their inventively oddball synth version of ‘It’s My Party’ (made famous by Lesley Gore) was a triumph and a worldwide hit which reached No1 in the UK and Germany. Stewart and Gaskin have continued to worked together and have a new album pencilled in 2018.

Available on the album ‘The Singles’ via Broken Records


TECHNO TWINS Falling In Love Again (1981)

TECHNO TWINS were wife and husband duo Bev Sage and Steve Fairnie; they indulged in their own brand of ‘Technostalgia’ with silent partner Dave Hewson who later reappeared in POEME ELECTRONIQUE and more recently TWINS NATALIA. This abstract theatrical cover of the 1930 German song composed by Friedrich Hollaender as ‘Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fuß Auf Liebe Eingestellt’ and made famous by Marlene Dietrich actually managed to reach No70 in the UK singles chart!

Originally released as a single by PRT Records, currently unavailable


BEF feat GLENN GREGORY Wichita Lineman (1982)

BEF Witchita‘Wichita Lineman’ was one of Jimmy Webb’s great narrative songs like ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, ‘Galveston’ and ‘Where’s The Playground Susie?’ which were made famous by Glen Campbell. Although included for the ambitious ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol1’ project, BEF’s recording is a HEAVEN 17 track in all but name and was originally recorded by the other Glenn as his audition piece. The chilling electronic arrangement takes on an even darker turn as a magnificent cacophony of sound invades the climax.

Available on the album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records


NEW ORDER Turn The Heater On (1982 – released 1986)

NEW ORDER heaterReggae artist Keith Hudson’s ‘Turn The Heater On’ was a favourite of Ian Curtis and recorded by NEW ORDER for their second John Peel session as a tribute to the late vocalist of JOY DIVISION. Bernard Sumner’s melodica gave a claustrophobic dub laden vibe alongside the white noise rimshot  of Stephen Morris, while Hooky actually played bass as opposed to his trademark higher register six string and Gillian Gillian’s ARP string machine added some appropriately frozen textures to match to the title.

Available on the album ‘The John Peel Sessions’ via Strange Fruit Records


MIDGE URE No Regrets (1982)

MIDGE URE No RegretsA cover of a cover, ‘No Regrets’ was written by Tom Rush and a comeback hit for THE WALKER BROTHERS in 1976. During a break from ULTRAVOX, Midge Ure created this synth heavy rework. But that wasn’t all that was heavy… out of nowhere came a blistering guitar solo that would have made Eric Clapton proud and a doubled Linn / Simmons pounding for the overdriven climax. Possessing high and lows in a way that previous versions never had, the diminutive Glaswegian made ‘No Regrets’ his own.

Available on the album ‘No Regrets’ via EMI Gold


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Ferry Cross The Mersey (1983)

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were very good at covers as Born To Run’ and ‘War’ proved. With a superbly honest vocal from Holly Johnson,  the Trevor Horn produced reworking of this paean to Liverpool’s famous river crossing, written by Gerry Marsden for the 1965 film of the same name, climaxed with some joyous cascading synth lines and a frantic Linn Drum programme in a manner that couldn’t have been originally imagined by its composer.

Available on the album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square / Salvo


NAKED EYES Always Something There To Remind Me (1983)

NAKED EYES, who comprised of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher, had actually been in a band called NEON with Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. They had a huge US hit with a synthpop cover of this Bacharach and David classic which had been put together in the studio from memory. Rob Fisher later met Simon Climie and formed CLIMIE FISHER who had a number of UK hits, but he sadly passed away in 1999 aged just 42; Pete Byrne still continues to tour as NAKED EYES.

Available on the album ‘Burning Bridges’ via Cherry Pop


BLANCMANGE The Day Before You Came (1984)

blancmange-day before you cameThere once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA and covering their songs was certainly not on many artists’ agenda. But BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of what many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, ‘The Day Before You Came’ fitted well with Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics. Add in the mystique of the Indian sub-continent and it was pure heaven.

Available on the album ‘Mange Tout’ via Edsel Records


ERASURE Gimme Gimme Gimme (1985)

ERASURE GimmeThey did the ‘Abba-esque’ EP and the mid-career crisis ‘Other People’s Songs’ album but ERASURE’s best cover was right at the beginning with this Hi-NRG romp in the big shadow of DIVINE. Turning ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ into the ultimate anthem, the progressively faster ending made for an appropriately thrilling climax. Following not long after BLANCMANGE’s cover of ‘The Day Before You Came’, the seeds of an ABBA revival were now well and truly planted.

Remix version available on the deluxe album ‘Wonderland’ via Mute Records


PROPAGANDA Sorry For Laughing (1985)

Written by Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross, ‘Sorry For Laughing’ was the key song on from the only JOSEF K album ‘The Only Fun In Town’. It had been a favourite of ZTT arch strategist Paul Morley and as per the label’s early policy, he persuaded his then-new signings PROPAGANDA to the rework the frenetic guitar track into a more moodily percussive electronic one. However, Ralf Dörper later told The Electricity Club: “I very much would have preferred to have a THROBBING GRISTLE cover version…”

Available on the album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square


WINSTON TONG Broken English (1985)

Having written and sung lead vocals on ‘In A Manner Of Speaking’ with TUXEDOMOON which was later covered by a certain Martin L Gore, Winston Tong embarked on a solo electronic pop adventure with Alan Rankine of ASSOCIATES fame at the production helm. The subsequent album entitled ‘Theoretically Chinese’ dealt with the theme of cultural identity and an excellent uptempo cover of Marianne Faithfull’s ‘Broken English’ slotted into the overall concept perfectly.

Available on the album ‘In A Manner Of Speaking: Best Of’ via LTM Records


DEPECHE MODE Route 66 (1988)

Written by Bobby Troup and covered by artists such as diverse as Nat King Cole and The Rolling Stones, this signalled the start of DEPECHE MODE’s fixation with a more blues based sound. While largely guitar driven, the rhythmical structure was driven by drum machine and sequences while the instrumental break of’Behind The Wheel’ made a guest appearance during the middle eight. It was performed as an encore during the ‘World Violation’ tour in 1990, but with Dave Gahan on lead vocals instead of Martin Gore.

Available on the single ‘Behind the Wheel’ via Mute Records


JIMMY SOMMERVILLE From This Moment On (1990)

red hot & blueOften having his biggest hits with covers, you could be forgiven for thinking Jimmy Sommerville was some kind of falsetto karaoke machine. But for the most part, his reinterpretations were good. One of his lesser known covers was ’From This Moment On’, a throbbing contribution to the charity album ‘Red Hot & Blue’ of Cole Porter standards. With a snatch of ‘I Feel Love’ thrown in for good measure, this was one of the best recordings from the collection which also featured U2 and ERASURE.

Available on the album ‘Red Hot & Blue’ via Chrysalis Records


PET SHOP BOYS Go West (1993)

Performed at The Hacienda in 1991, ‘Go West’ had been due to be released in Christmas 1992, but PET SHOP BOYS bottled it when it was pointed out a VILLAGE PEOPLE cover would look like the duo were aping ERASURE’s ‘Abba-esque’.  ‘Go West’ was based on Pachebel’s ‘Canon’ and its elegiac quality was particularly poignant with AIDS still very much in the news at the time. Meanwhile the ‘Oklahoma’ male choir styled key change gave the song a lift that was never apparent in the original.

Available on the album ‘Pop Art’ via EMI Records


CAMOUFLAGE Bad News (1995)

Written by Moon Martin, an American rock artist who also wrote ‘Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)’ which was covered by Robert Palmer, ‘Bad News’ with its metronomic core had been popular in German new wave clubs, which was how CAMOUFLAGE came to hear it. Given a pacey Eurodance treatment that was very much of its time, it also mixed in twangy ‘Pulp Fiction’ surf guitar elements alongside the trancey electronics for an unusual but successful hybrid of styles.

Available on the album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records


DUBSTAR Not So Manic Now (1995)

DUBSTAR No so manic nowOriginally a little known song by Wakefield indie band BRICK SUPPLY, DUBSTAR made ‘Not So Manic Now’ their own with the Northern lass earthiness of Sarah Blackwood providing the chilling commentary of an attack on a helpless pensioner. Stephen Hague’s wonderful production fused programmed electronics with guitars and cello in fine fashion, while the incessant programmed rhythms drove the song along without being obtrusive to the horrifying story.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
21st December 2017

MIKADO Forever

Cult electronic duo MIKADO have a new expanded version of their anthology ‘Forever’ released by Les Disques du Crépuscule, the Belgian label who issued their first single ‘Par Hasard’ in 1982.

Comprising of chanteuse Pascale Borel and instrumentalist Grégori Czerkinsky, the pair joined forces in 1982 to create a bittersweet chi-chi sound.

Czerkinsky used a Wilson Condor T organ with its rhythm box, a Jen Pianotone J-600 and later a Micromoog to complement Borel’s wispy vocal tones.

They exuded a Gallic sophistication which was enhanced by a retro-kitsch visual presentation directed by Pierre et Gilles. Taking their name from the popular Japanese stick game which was also the title given to the Emperor of Japan, MIKADO accquired a local following there after a short Crépuscule package tour of the country in 1984.

One notable fan was Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA who became the executive producer of their self-titled debut album and released it through his Non-Standard label in 1985. Although Borel and Czerkinsky started recording demos in 1988 for a second album, they split up in 1991.

This collection features all of MIKADO’s singles, B-sides, jingles like ‘La Sardine’ and ‘La Tour Eiffel’ plus demos from that unfinished second album.

‘Forever’ begins with ‘Par Hasard’, their wonderful first single and signature tune. Czerkinsky’s pretty keyboards and Borel’s eloquent air reminiscent of Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Brigitte Bardot made this a cult classic; the English version ‘Romance’ is also included as a bonus track and while cute, the tune works far better en Français. ‘Ce Garçon Là’ and ‘Au Jeu du Mikado’, the two B-sides from ‘Par Hasard’ affirmed MIKADO’s musical intentions.

Meanwhile, the breathy ‘Les Enfants du Piree’ is a charming cover of the Greek song ‘The Children of Piraeus’. Written by Manos Hadjidakis, the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1960 after being featured in the film ‘Never On Sunday’ and was a No1 hit in France by Dalida, which is likely to be how MIKADO first heard it.

Their 1984 single ‘Un Naufrage en Hiver’ was their first studio liaison with Haruomi Hosono and signalled MIKADO’s move towards a more punchier pop sound while still retaining their inherent elegance. It laid the path for their debut album in 1985.

On self-titled long player, songs like the cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Attends Ou Vas-t’en’ saw live drums and marimbas join the expanded instrumental palette, while the sophisticated synthpop of ‘Anita’ indicated how MIKADO were maturing.

Indeed, the unearthed cover of the haunting theme to the Robert Mitchum film ‘Night Of The Hunter’ showed MIKADO could do dark and introspective too, coming over like a blueprint of ‘Felt Mountain’ era GOLDFRAPP. Following up the album, the bouncy single ‘Carnaval’ threw in some driving digital claps a la PRINCE and guitar to the synthy mix.

‘La Fille Du Soleil’ released in 1987 by Epic France secured a domestic hit single with an enjoyable boy / girl duet, although the big club friendly production was the antithesis of ‘Par Hasard’

Something had to give and ‘Emma et Vienna’, the B-side of ‘La Fille Du Soleil’, sprung a surprise with a Mediterranean flavoured acoustic six string ballad. And as the pair prepared demos for the second album, songs like ‘L’Arc En Ciel’ and ‘L’Amour Est Un Peu Fragile’ indicated that a more conventional direction was being pursued, with the former exuding some Country & Western influences.

But further MIKADO music was not to be forthcoming. The estranged pair later had successful solo careers and both are still making music; in 2015, Pascale Borel returned with a synthetic pop album entitled ‘Par Ailleurs’ while Grégori Czerkinsky released the more traditionally inclined ‘Confusion!’ in 2016.

While not massive selling, the cocktail electro template of MIKADO no doubt inspired NOUVELLE VAGUE, the French bossa nova combo who found success in 2004 using sweet female vocals to cover classics such as ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

‘Forever’ is an interesting snapshot of French new wave pop and provides MIKADO’s brand of updated Yé-yé some belated but well-deserved recognition.

‘Forever’ is released by Les Disques du Crépuscule as a 28 track 2CD set housed in a 6 panel digipack with a 12 page booklet; a 20 track double vinyl edition is also available




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Images by Pierre et Gilles
22nd September 2017


While acts like THE ART OF NOISE and DEPECHE MODE pioneered the use of sampling found sounds to use as new virtual instrumentation, eventual improvements in the technology meant whole recognisable phrases could be cut, manipulated and looped to create new compositions and arrangements.

For those on a budget, some of the samples would have been replayed as a way of saving money and not having to pay mechanical royalties to the original artist.

Previously incongruous genre blends were now more straightforward for producers and DJs as easy listening and AOR would end up sitting on top of house tracks while significantly, a number of acts who made their name during Synth Britannia would feature in R’n’B and hip-hop.

So The Electricity Club has put aside some of its snobbery to seek out 25 of the most inventive, and some would say, sacrilegious uses of classic synth samples in popular music. However in a wider context, this diverse selection of tracks acts as a popular culture record of Synth Britannia’s influence in particular, especially when the Musicians Union attempted to ban the synthesizer from studio work and live performance in 1982.

Presented in chronological and then alphabetical order with a limit of one track per artist moniker, here are the names that have gone on the list…

NEW ORDER Blue Monday (1983)

Once you delve into the background behind NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’, you will see that it is a real Frankenstein’s monster of a track including a sample of the neo-robotic Vako Orchestron choir sound from ‘Uranium’ by KRAFTWERK. And although not sampled, ‘Blue Monday’ took direct influence from a variety of sources including ENNIO MORRICONE, SYLVESTER, DONNA SUMMER and KLEIN + MBO.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Singles’ via WEA Records


THOMAS DOLBY Puppet Theatre (1984)

Mirroring the way in which KRAFTWERK had entered the urban community’s consciousness via Electro and Breakdancing, THOMAS DOLBY helped write and produced the single ‘Magic’s Wand’ for the Brooklyn hip-hop duo WHODINI. Centering around a superb synth riff and vocodered vocals, the track stood out from some of its contemporaries due its electronic production and TMDR himself ended up reworking elements of the song for himself on his own track ‘Puppet Theatre’.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Flat Earth’ via EMI Music


ERASURE Blue Savannah – Der Deutsche Mix I (1990)

One of ERASURE’s best known songs, ‘Blue Savannah’ had originally been inspired by ROY ORBISION and for its single release, Mute Records commissioned a plethora of remixes. ‘Der Deutsche Mix I’ by Gareth Jones and leftfield house trio FISCHERMAN’S FRIEND took the novel step of using KRAFTWERK samples from ‘Computer World’ and ’Tour De France’ but in a more obvious fashion, as opposed to a few blips as THE KLF had done on ‘What Time Is Love?’.

Available on the ERASURE boxed set ‘3’ via Mute Records


BOMB THE BASS Winter In July (1991)

BOMB THE BASS mainman Tim Simenon loved the Synth Britannia era, later working with JOHN FOXX and DEPECHE MODE. ‘Winter In July’ featured a sample of the atmospheric Roland System 700 synth FX used in the intro to ‘Ghosts’ by JAPAN, while the rhythmic backbone of the track also owed a lot to the drum pattern from ‘Visions of China’. The song caught the eye of SARAH BRIGHTMAN, who did her own cover for the ‘La Luna’ album in 2000.

Available on the BOMB THE BASS album ‘Beat Dis: The Very Best Of’ via Camden Records


USURA Open Your Mind (1992)

USURA’s ‘Open Your Mind’ centred around the opening polysynth part of SIMPLE MINDS ‘New Gold Dream’, and took its title from a dialogue sample used in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Total Recall’. The Italian dance trio responsible for the frantic club track also used elements from ASHFORD & SIMPSON’s ‘Solid’ in the piece too.

Available on the USURA single ‘Open Your Mind’ via Deconstruction Records


UTAH SAINTS Believe In Me (1993)

UTAH SAINTS were serial samplers and ‘Believe In Me’ took significant chunks from THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Love Action’ as well as SYLVESTER’s ‘Do You Wanna Funk?’ and CROWN HEIGHTS AFFAIR’s ‘You Gave Me Love’. Central to the track was Phil Oakey’s mid-song chant which helped propel this immensely catchy club stomper to number 8 in the UK charts in 1993.

Available on the UTAH SAINTS album ‘Utah Saints’ via FFRR Records



Pivotal in pioneering the Big Beat genre, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS looped a short section from the vocodered intro to KRAFTWERK’s ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’ track for ‘Leave Home’. Aside from the beginning of the piece, the sample doesn’t appear elsewhere and the track relies more on the “Brothers gonna work it out” vocal by American singer / songwriter Willie Hutch and a live bass part played by John ‘Segs’ Jennings of the punk band THE RUTS.

Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Exit Planet Dust’ via Virgin Records


LEFTFIELD Snakeblood (1998)

This big beat duo of Paul Daley and Neil Barnes were said to have been one of the loudest live acts ever. At Brixton Academy in 1996, the sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the roof. For ‘The Beach’ soundtrack, LEFTFIELD contributed a thumping instrumental track for the beginning of the film. However, on closer scrutiny, the basis of ‘Snakeblood’ appeared to be the melody line from OMD’s ‘Almost’! When challenged, the duo fessed up amicably.

Available on the LEFTFIELD album ‘A Final Hit’ via Sony Music



Using a repetitive scratched one bar loop from GARY NUMAN’s ‘Cars’, ‘Koochy’ was one of several tracks around this period which sought influence from the synth icon. Also featuring a robotic KRAFTWERK-inspired vocal and 808 cowbells, the track went Top 5 in UK national charts, despite it frankly being a bit of a mess and unfufilled in its potential. Along with a couple of tracks on this list, it started to prompt the slow, but steady rebirth of the former Gary Webb.

Available on the ARMAND VAN HELDEN album ‘Killing Puritans’ via Southern Fried Records


BASEMENT JAXX Where’s Your Head At? (2001)

Along with ‘Koochy’, ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ certainly did no harm in helping to rehabilitate the faltering career of GARY NUMAN; using the sped up central Minimoog bass riff of ‘M.E.’, the song also cleverly incorporated elements of ‘This Wreckage’ too. With a brilliant video to match, the song showed that it was possible to create a synth-oriented dance track that wasn’t cheesy and almost had a punk aesthetic to it.

Available on the BASEMENT JAXX album ‘Rooty’ via XL Records


FELIX DA HOUSECAT featuring MELISTAR Harlot (2001)

Blatantly sampling the rhythmic elements of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ without acknowledgement, nonchalant vocalist MELISTAR joined Felix Stallings Junior to ironically wax lyrical about the joys of using feminine charms to get by in life! With some great analogue riffage on this bridge linking past, present and future with an icy detachment, Stallings was very forward thinking and knew she was a feline… the European female’s here!

Available on the FELIX DA HOUSECAT album ‘Kittenz & Thee Glitz’ via Emperor Norton


JENNIFER LOPEZ I’m Real (2001)

YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s hit cover of ‘Firecracker’ forms a significant element of this single by the actress / singer /dancer /model from The Block. Interestingly MARIAH CAREY made an enquiry to use the sample first for her song ‘Loverboy’, but as a result of involvement from her ex-husband and Sony label boss Tommy Mottola, the riff ended up with Lopez instead, prompting a war of words between the two parties.

Available on the JENNIFER LOPEZ album ‘J.Lo’ via Sony Music


GEORGE MICHAEL Shoot The Dog (2002)

‘Shoot the Dog’ was the late Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou’s protest song directed at the so-called special relationship between George W Bush and Tony Blair. Appearing a few years before PET SHOP BOYS’ ‘I’m With Stupid’, the more veiled ‘Shoot The Dog’ used the middle eight section of ‘Love Action’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE including Phil Oakey’s vocal, while also borrowing from ABC’s ‘Be Near Me’ and his own ‘Fast Love’

Available on the GEORGE MICHAEL album ‘Twenty Five’ via Sony Music


SUGABABES Freak Like Me (2002)

GIRLS ON TOP mash-up merchant and producer Richard X dropped ADINA HOWARD’s R’n’B number over ‘Are Friends Electric?’ by TUBEWAY ARMY as a bootleg. A crossover hit was waiting to be unleashed but Howard refused permission for her vocal to be used; enter SUGABABES, modern pop’s equivalent of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. This was a period when GARY NUMAN was being sampled left, right and centre and this Diabolus In Musica urban hybrid helped bring him to a curious new young audience.

Available on the SUGABABES album ‘Overloaded: The Singles Collection’ via Universal Music



Belgian domiciled Italian DJ Vito Lucente dabbled in house and Eurodisco. But his best known recording borrowed from the HI-NRG scene in New York, sampling ‘I’m So Hot For You’ by BOBBY O that had borrowed its riff from THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’, which itself was inspired by ABBA’s ‘Eagle’. In amongst all this, he somehow persuaded THE CURE’s mainman to contribute some of his afflicted gothique to proceedings.

Available on the JUNIOR JACK album ‘Trust It’ via Defected Records


RICHARD X featuring KELIS Finest Dreams (2003)

No stranger to delving into the mine of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, RICHARD X started his career in the underground club scene creating mash-ups. ‘Finest Dreams’ with KELIS was a reworking of ‘The Finest’ written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis which was made famous by THE SOS BAND. Using a similar trick to ‘Freak Like Me’, the musical structure was based around ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’ and the catchy single became a Top 10 hit in the UK.

Available on the RICHARD X album ‘Presents His X Factor Vol. 1’ via Virgin Records


SOUL MEKANIK Basement City (2005)

SOUL MEKANIK are the duo of Kelvin Andrews and Danny Spencer. Probably best known for co-writing ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ ‘Rock DJ’, the pair took most of the instrumental elements of ‘Visions of China’ by JAPAN and used it as a soundbed for a new female vocal and some added portamento synths. Surprisingly successful in its conception, it was a shame this effectively well-worked track didn’t reach a wider audience.

Available on the SOUL MEKANIK album ‘Eighty One’ via Rip Records


RIHANNA S.O.S. (2006)

Using a sample from SOFT CELL’s iconic cover of the Northern Soul favourite by GLORIA JONES, ‘S.O.S.’ co-writer JR Rotem said “I heard ‘Tainted Love’ and wanted to take the bass line and update it with a new swing”. Utilising pitch shifted vocals worked with compression software to increase the tonal spectrum, ‘S.O.S’ was effectively a musical cry for help that was to become the Barbadian singer’s first big hit. Swathed in synth riffs and machine beats, she was to use a similar template for ‘Umbrella’.

Available on the RIHANNA album ‘A Girl Like Me’ via Def Jam



As if in a tit-for tat response to JENNIFER LOPEZ’s YMO-sampling ‘I’m Real’, NICOLE SCHERZINGER’s ‘Steam’ sampled the central riff from KRAFTWERK’s ‘Numbers’. Sounding rather out of place, after the first four singles from the planned ‘Her Name Is Nicole’ album flopped, Scherzinger shelved the project and the track did not actually see the light of day.

Never officially released


HILARY DUFF featuring THE PROPHET Reach Out (2008)

There was a period when DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Personal Jesus’ was either being covered by artists as diverse as JOHNNY CASH and MARILYN MANSON or sampled for pop tunes by R’n’B starlets like JAMELIA. Built around the voice samples, synth fuzzes and guitar riff from the original track, ‘Reach Out’ saw the one-time ‘Lizzie McGuire’ star attempt to sex up her previously goody two shoes image with an innuendo-laden Schaffel romp that included an obligatory rap as well!

Available on the HILARY DUFF album ‘Best Of’ via Hollywood Records


GZA featuring RZA & IRFANE KHAN-ACITO Life Is A Movie (2008)

Track number four in this listing that features a GARY NUMAN sample. This time WU-TANG CLAN member GZA takes elements from ‘Films’ off ‘The Pleasure Principle’ album and reworks it into a dark hip-hop track. And it works largely thanks to the late Ced Sharpley’s live but solid drum breaks from the original, while Numan also makes a cameo appearance.

Available on the GZA/GENIUS album ‘Pro Tools’ via Babygrande


RECOIL Allelujah (2008)

Former DEPECHE MODE member Alan Wilder occasionally relied on esoteric samples for his RECOIL project and on ‘Allelujah’, he paid homage to TANGERINE DREAM by using the hypnotic Moog sequencer pattern and electric piano part from ‘Rubycon’ for the second half of the nine minute track. Originally appearing on the ‘subHuman’ album, ‘Allelujah’ also featured as the B-side to the CD single release of ‘Prey’.

Available on the RECOIL album ‘subHuman’ via Mute Records


RED BLOODED WOMEN Colour Me Dirty (2008)

There was a brief period when the template for a modern girl group was to utilise a YAZOO inspired backing track. RED BLOODED WOMEN took that literally with a little help from cult electronic trio TRADEMARK on this feisty interpolation of ‘Don’t Go’, sounding literally like GIRLS ALOUD produced by Daniel Miller!

Available on the RED BLOODED WOMEN promo CD EP ‘4 Track Sampler’, never officially released


REX THE DOG Bubblicious (2008)

REX THE DOG AKA Jake Williams AKA JX made his name with some superb remixes for artists such as ROBYN, DEPECHE MODE and THE PRODIGY. ‘Bubblicious’ saw him recycling a whole chunk of ‘Midnight’ from the debut YAZOO album ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ and taking what was originally an sensitive synthetic torch song and turning it an uptempo electro banger.

Available on the album ‘The Rex The Dog Show’ via Hundehaus Records


THE SATURDAYS If This Is Love (2008)

At a time when the YAZOO songbook was being ripped left, right and centre, one pop act that became particularly joined at the hip with Vince Clarke were THE SATURDAYS. As well as lifting the synth riff off ‘Situation’ for their first single ‘If This Is Love’, Clarke remixed their third single ‘Issues’. And to cap it all, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ was covered for Comic Relief as their fourth single release in 2009!

Available on the album ‘Chasing Lights’ via Polydor Records


Text by Paul Boddy and Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Mark Bebb
12th July 2017

Lost Albums: THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS Catch The Fall

After JAPAN split at the end of 1982, vocalist / songwriter David Sylvian and bassist Mick Karn set to work collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Midge Ure respectively as well as preparing solo albums.

Meanwhile, drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri partnered up for the JVC commissioned instrumental work ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ released in Spring 1985 to accompany a documentary on the Space Shuttle Challenger. But for their song-based project, the more reserved pair named themselves THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS.

Gathering together an ensemble of noted guest musicians including Phil Palmer, David Rhodes, Danny Thompson, Matthew Seligman, Robert Bell and Martin Ditcham, they issued a long player entitled ‘Catch The Fall’ in Autumn 1987 on Virgin Records.

The album was co-produced by Yoshifumi Iio who had worked with Yukihiro Takahashi of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and in particular, the brilliant interim single ‘Stay Close’ with Jansen in Autumn 1986. It was this duet in which Jansen debuted as a vocalist, so it naturally fell to the young sticksman to undertake vocal duties for THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS.

With a Sylvian-esque brow raised, the atmospheric ‘Catch The Fall’ title song with complimentary double bass from Danny Thompson sounded like it could have been a collaboration between TALK TALK and JAPAN. With the sparse percussive textures never overwhelming the proceedings, Clive Bell’s khene and crumhorn successfully added a touch of ethnic mystery.

Resembling ‘Goodbye Is Forever’ by the Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes arty DURAN DURAN side project ARCADIA, ‘Shining’ with its slapped digital bass sounded a little forced, although Barbieri’s synths offered some aural familiarity to connect listeners to ‘Tin Drum’ as did Matthew Seligman’s fretless bass, coming together like JAPAN with an added pop sensibility.

The accessibly dynamic ‘Second Sight’ picked up on Jansen’s Takahashi influences and grooved like a good Ferry styled pop tune should with some fabulously produced drums. With the mellow mood of later era CHINA CRISIS, Jansen offered his best Sylvian impersonation on ‘Love That You Need’, a track that could have been mistaken for his brother if it wasn’t for Suzanne Murphy’s girly refrain. Barbieri’s synths aided the possible case for mistaken identity.

The directly upbeat ‘Real Life, Real Answers’ was an obvious cousin of ‘Stay Close’ and as pop as ‘Catch The Fall’ would get, capturing a combination of acts that had been influenced by JAPAN such as ICEHOUSE and LUSTANS LAKEJER who furthered the template in their own home territories of Australia and Sweden respectively. With a wonderfully clean sound, this is a truly underrated jewel from the canon of Jansen and Barbieri

Taking things down, the laid back ‘Host To The Holy’ displayed eerie Barbieri synths with a lilting percussive mood from Jansen in the vein of TALK TALK’s ‘Happiness Is Easy’. Comprising of primarily piano and vocals with only partial augmentation from synths and double bass, ‘My Winter’ was reminiscent of the more organic material on Sylvian’s ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’, but with less of a hazy demeanour.

The closing ‘Pushing The River’ delivered Jansen’s best vocal of the set, while Barbieri’s gorgeous artful textures and synthetic brass helped the song come over like what a JAPAN track might have sounded had the band continued recording into 1983.

Compared with David Sylvian and Mick Karn’s solo work or the JAPAN comeback as RAIN TREE CROW in 1991, ‘Catch The Fall’ was pop music, but of the more sophisticated variety. However, in the compact disc era from which it emerged, the market was saturated with comparable acts such as TEARS FOR FEARS, TALK TALK, THE BLUE NILE and CHINA CRISIS.

While featuring good songs that were well played and programmed as well as cleanly produced, what ‘Catch The Fall’ perhaps lacked was some of the sound design and innovation found on ‘Tin Drum’ or subsequent records that Jansen and Barbieri would go on to record with each other and separately in later years.

This could have been due to the prevalent preset trap with thebearly digital technology of the time, or an effort to appease Virgin Records to produce a marketable, commercial record.

However, the running order might not have helped the flow of the record while ‘Real Life, Real Answers’ would have made a better single than ‘Shining’ in the quest to attract potential purchasers.

Alas, ‘Catch The Fall’ did not sell, so Jansen and Barbieri departed from the label they had been with since 1980’s ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ and the songwriting world, to return to more independently minded experimental climes, most notably as JBK with Mick Karn via their own Medium Productions set-up.

While THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS only made one album, ‘Catch The Fall’ has stood up well thirty years after its making. For those JAPAN fans who may have found the improvisational nature RAIN TREE CROW something of a disappointment and may have given up on the various members’ solo projects after 1984, this album is worthy of investigation.

It may not be Jansen and Barbieri’s best work, but it is very good all the same.

‘Catch The Fall’ was released by Virgin Records and now available digitally via the usual outlets



Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Sheila Rock
19th June 2017


Steve Jansen was just 18 years old when he recorded his first album as the drummer of JAPAN.

Founded with his brother David Sylvian and school friend Mick Karn in 1974, the trio soon recruited Richard Barbieri and Rob Dean before JAPAN were spotted by noted svengali Simon Napier-Bell who had managed Dusty Springfield and a pre-fame Marc Bolan.

Signing to Ariola Hansa, JAPAN eventually found their sound with the sophisticated art rock of their third album ‘Quiet Life’. Decamping to Virgin Records in 1980, things began to gain momentum for the quintet with their fourth album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, as the arty poise of the New Romantic movement began to take hold within British popular culture.

However, JAPAN were moving towards a more synthesized sound, with Sylvian and Jansen now also contributing keyboards. This ultimately led to the departure of guitarist Rob Dean, but the remaining quartet went on to record what many regard as JAPAN’s most accomplished long player ‘Tin Drum’.

‘Tin Drum’ was to become their biggest seller and assisted by a two prong campaign also involving their former label’s various reissues, JAPAN enjoyed a run of 6 successive Top 40 singles in 1982.

Despite their success, personal and creative tensions led to JAPAN disbanding at the end of their year. Jansen remained on good terms with his brother and his bandmates, particularly Richard Barbieri.

While working with them on their solo ventures and in various combinations under the monikers of THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS, RAIN TREE CROW, JBK and NINE HORSES, there was also Jansen’s long standing friendship with Yukihiro Takahashi of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Jansen did not actually release his first solo album until ‘Slope’ in 2007. Featuring a number of guest vocalists including David Sylvian and Joan Wasser, the pair’s striking electro-blues duet ‘Ballad Of A Deadman’ was one of the highlights.

His second solo long player ‘Tender Extinction’ was an evocative blend of songs and instrumentals which developed on the template laid down by ‘Slope’. But while mixing the record, Jansen came up with the concept for ‘The Extinct Suite’.

Not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long piece of music. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano, brass and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exudes a wonderful quality equal to Brian Eno or Harold Budd.

Steve Jansen kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about his varied career and vast catalogue of work.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is a new album but sort of isn’t… how did the concept come about?

I felt that there was a lot of musical content behind the vocal tracks on ‘Tender Extinction’ that leant itself to being reinterpreted as instrumental music. My aim was to extract these elements and link them into a ‘suite’ which meant composing some new pieces as well as, in some instances, significantly altering the original source.

Was there a feeling that ‘Tender Extinction’ could be taken further?

In the sense explained above, I felt there was more to be explored.

Do you feel you now have more in common with classical composers in wanting to explore variations on a theme?

I doubt it. I explore sonics and arrangements and spend many hours sound designing and keeping an open mind as to where it all might lead. I don’t have many musical disciplines.

‘Worlds In A Small Room’, ‘Swimming In Qualia’ and ‘A Secret Life’ are just some examples of your other ambient work, how did you become interested in that area and which particular artists or composers have influenced you?

I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change, elements that have been present in most of the music I’ve been involved in.

I don’t really listen to other people’s music anymore because I find I’ve no real use for it, but there was a time when I would enjoy ambient releases during the 70s / 80s by all the knowns of the time.

How do you differentiate your approaches for instrumentals as opposed to songs? What do you get out of instrumental work that you wouldn’t get from writing a song?

Songs usually require more structure and chordal shapes. Ambient music is as I’ve previously described and affords you the chance to deviate from the path and explore things on a whim.

In THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS with Richard Barbieri, you were recording perhaps more conventionally framed songs, how do you look back on that period?

It was a lost period. We found ourselves in a bit of a limbo. We came from a pop background and, unlike today, in order to survive in the music business you needed label backing, and the business of music was dominated by labels acting as moneylenders that wanted to see big returns. Without being a part of that machine you would disappear altogether. Richard and I were signed and dropped by Virgin (and their subsidiaries) 4 times in all and during that time we had to wait for technology to significantly move the goalposts.

Your 1986 single ‘Stay Close’ with Yukihiro Takahashi was a fabulous one-off, do you ever regret that the two of you never did a full joint album together back then?

We did an album under the name ‘PulseXPulse’ but it was more aimed at the Japanese market. Yukihiro is not very exportable and he plays into his own market because that’s what serves him best. I’m sure we could have made a collaboration album in the vein of ‘Stay Close’ but it would have been very much of its time.

You’re a proven competent vocalist but for your first solo album ‘Slope’, you brought in guest singers, a tradition that has continued with ‘Tender Extinction’… what was the ethos behind that?

I beg to differ. I don’t enjoy working with my own vocals, it’s much nicer for me to be able to write music with vocalists whose singing brings an unexpected dimension and inspires me to bring out the best that I can from the collaboration between myself and them.

You’ve always been more than a drummer and you utilised keyboard percussion on ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ and ‘Tin Drum’; what attracted you to experiment with that aesthetic?

During JAPAN’s days I was often asked to play keyboard parts that required precise timing (pre-computers of course) and this was my foot in the door into keyboards… that, and the marimba.

During the ‘Tin Drum’ period, you had access to the then state-of-the-art technology like the first Linn Drum Computer and Simmons Drums. How did you find those to use?

At the time the Linn Drum Computer was exciting to work with, however the Simmons Drums were another matter. Very limited sound and extremely physically hard to endure due to the fact that the drum heads were made of riot shields which had no give and created shockwaves that caused finger joints to swell dramatically.

You had co-writing credits on ‘Visions Of China’ and ‘Canton’. Had these two originally been your ideas?

That would have been put down to the fact that what I was doing rhythmically played a bigger part than usual in the inspiration and direction of the songs. But in reality I don’t think it was the right way of doing it. I think all JAPAN’s music was methodically arranged by each member and warranted some co-writing credit however small.

Richard Barbieri still uses analogue technology alongside modern equipment and techniques, do you have any continued interest in vintage equipment?

Not really. Nor vinyl.

The 2015 release of the 1996 concert recorded in Amsterdam as the ‘Lumen’ EP was a reminder of what a fantastic combo of musicians you, Richard Barbieri and the late Mick Karn, with the addition of Steven Wilson, were. Do you miss full-on live work, especially as these days you appear to be more computer based?

I do miss it. I like performing live but I really don’t enjoy the cumbersome aspects of putting shows together where there are budgetary restrictions. There was a time when I would try to put a positive spin on such things but not anymore.

You have drummed for PROPAGANDA, ICEHOUSE, ALICE and MANDALAY as well as for Takahashi and Tsuchiya-san, while noted sticksman Gavin Harrison has cited you as one of his favourite drummers. Did the idea of session work ever appeal to you?

No, I wasn’t that versatile.

I had my own way of doing things which meant that what I played wasn’t particularly universal and therefore the people that wanted to work with me did so because of the approach I took to drumming rather than fitting into place with a particular style of music. This isn’t good form for a session drummer.

You worked with John Foxx and Steve D’Agostino on ‘A Secret Life’. Are there any other established artists you would be interested in working with?

That project arose from meeting at a Harold Budd concert in which we all took part. I didn’t have much to do that with that particular project except to take the Budd concept further of creating ambient sounds on a gong. I’ve never really looked to seek out other artists to work with except for vocalists, and even then I’m not keen on going for high profile people (which is just as well because why would they?).

You’ve been with major record companies, run your own independent labels, used distributors and have now adopted Bandcamp as a sales outlet. What is the future for an artist in your position?

I will continue to make music because it’s not a job as such, and certainly not a hobby, it’s more of a need to be creative and find a balance in myself. I don’t know if a time will come when I no longer feel the need to do it, have to wait and see.

You blog quite regularly on your Sleepyard platform. How are you finding engaging with a fanbase via the joys of the world wide web and all that it entails?

It’s nice to communicate with people. Not having been ‘a front man’ in the true sense of the word, I’ve not done a great deal of press. The idea of projecting my persona and claiming ownership of any one project has never really appealed to me as it might to some, but being able to answer specific questions that people might be curious about can be a pleasant exchange and sometimes gives me a chance to realign history a little. That’s all.

Photography is still very much a part of your life and artistic expression…

I have an archive of images that I’ve only recently been exploring and thus put a book out. I do appreciate photography and think it runs in parallel to being creative musically as music and visuals both paint pictures and are emotive in different ways but can also work in collusion.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on project EXIT NORTH (with the Swedes) and quietly working on new material.

The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Steve Jansen

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available in CD and download formats from the usual retailers and direct from https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

The double vinyl LP edition twinned with ‘Corridor’ is released on 11th May 2020, pre-order direct from https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-corridor-lp-edition

The photo book ‘Through A Quiet Window’ is available from https://www.thefloodgallery.com/collections/steve-jansen




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos courtesy of Steve Jansen
30th May 2017, updated 28th March 2020

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