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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

GENTLEMEN TAKE POLAROIDS

THOUGH JAPAN HAD NO CONNECTION TO THE ORIGINAL NEW ROMANTICS, THEIR BREAKTHROUGH ALBUM OF LATE 1980 WAS HAILED BY THE PRESS AS A MASTERPIECE OF THE SO-CALLED MOVEMENT. HOWEVER, THEIR SUCCESS HID A MURMURING DISCONTENT WITHIN THE GROUP…

JAPAN

Japan’s sharp but sober style was, said David Sylvian, “a way of life”, not a New Romantic “costume”

At the time of Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ release in November 1980, Japan were widely considered to be a joke. “Japan’s current sound is one long, diffuse outtake from Roxy Music’s Flesh And Blood,” reckoned the NME. It was a verdict shared by all the weeklies.

The group had always worn their influences on their sleeves and were the epitome of a group who’d grown up in public. Their first two albums sounded like the aural equivalent of adolescent photo-booth strips: naïve, gawky and fuelled by misplaced hormones. However, following 1979’s Quiet Life, Polaroids was an assured statement that reflected both David Sylvian’s new sense of purpose and the rapid evolution of Japan as musicians. The cover alone was an instant classic, portraying Sylvian as a Helmut Newtonesque artifice that channelled Dirk Bogarde from The Night Porter via the blossoming New Romantic movement.

It was also Japan’s first album release on the Virgin label. “The transition from Hansa to Virgin wasn’t tense at all,” says guitarist Rob Dean. “Here was a label that understood more than just commerciality. On Hansa, we were stablemates with Boney M and Amii Stewart. On Virgin, we were with Magazine, XTC and Simple Minds. We felt confident.” After signing with Virgin in the summer of 1980, Japan were hurried into AIR Studios, high above London’s Piccadilly Circus. Keyboard player Richard Barbieri recalls, “We’d recorded Quiet Life there and it had been a great experience. We wanted to carry that through to Polaroids.”

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About Classic Pop

In our latest Classic Pop Presents special, we immerse ourselves in the flamboyant world of the New Romantics. From the scene's origins as an underground movement born out of the Blitz Club in Soho through to the worldwide surge of popularity that led to mainstream success for some of the major players who made their musical mark, such as Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Visage and Duran Duran. Inside we tell the story of the Godfather of the scene, Steve Strange, and explore his pioneering band Visage with the help of Blitz DJ and band member Rusty Egan and fellow band-mate Midge Ure, who moved on to front Ultravox. We chat to Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman, who guides us through the making of their game-changing debut album Journeys To Glory, plus we head up to the Midlands to the Rum Runner club, which gave rise to another of the scene's major success stories, Duran Duran. This issue has plenty more to be enjoyed, including an exploration of David Bowie's influence on the movement plus eye-opening interviews with some of the scene's faces to get their side of this fascinating era, including Toyah, Princess Julia and Mark Shaw. Raconteur, author, DJ – and Soho's Wag Club founder – Chris Sullivan shares his hilarious memories of the times, and we strut the cat-walk with Blitz Kids, fashion designer Judith Franklin and photographer Graham Smith for our New Romantic fashion feature. Also inside, there's our Top 40 Essential New Romantic playlist, the design styles and artwork of the scene's many fine releases, and all with stunning photos throughout!