Tag Archives: Steve Jansen

1981 ➤ Birth of Duran’s Planet Earth — when other people’s faith put the Brummies into the charts

Duran Duran, New Romantics

Duran Duran in 1980: Birmingham’s fluffiest New Romantics

Planet Earth, Night Version, Duran Duran◼ 30 YEARS AGO TODAY the Birmingham club-band Duran Duran released their debut single Planet Earth, less than two months after signing to EMI. It charted in mid-March, peaked at No 12, and bagged the band a spot on Top of the Pops, Britain’s premier music TV show. They were the first New Romantic band from outside London to make good, and this week the writer Steve Jansen claims that “inside of three short years, Duran were officially the biggest band on the planet”. He celebrates Duran’s birthpangs with a freshly researched three-day survey of their origins titled Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran, online at gimmeawristband.com. Jansen talks to all the main players involved during the run-up to the band’s chart debut — here are a few tasters from his epic story, published with permission…

Extracts from Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran:

❏ Bass player John Taylor recalls himself and Nick Rhodes, both Birmingham-born, founding Duran Duran as “young punks; we just wanted to get involved. To us, music was like a commodity. It was this word-of-mouth thing that brought you together with people; it made you your friends — and some of your enemies. It was the mixer.”

❏ Jeremy Thirlby, who was childhood friends with Rhodes, remembers: “None of us — John, Nick or me was gay — but that whole Kahn & Bell scene [around their fashion boutique] was very appealing to people like Nick because there was something going on; plus he’d always been into the slightly more surreal end of Bowie… Nick had always been single-minded, so it didn’t turn his head. He wanted to get somewhere else, and at the time Kahn & Bell was it.”

Michael Berrow, Paul Berrow, Duran Duran

The management, 1980: Michael and Paul Berrow. Photographed © by Paul Edmond

❏ Duran’s co-manager Paul Berrow: “That unique relationship between [Duran’s] rehearsal room upstairs and the club — which was pumping six, seven nights a week down below — John and Roger, all they had to do if they were running out of inspiration was walk down one flight of stairs and they’d find themselves in a club with four or five-hundred people, with a very loud sound system.”

❏ EMI’s A&R man Dave Ambrose travelled to Birmingham to catch Duran in October 1980. Could he honestly have seen so much in Duran so early? “Honestly. Yes. I swear. This was going to be a very, very important band; I could see them being the next Queen. Simon was like this Elvis figure. Andy was a great craftsman, a really solid musician. There was John, this cool bass player. Roger, a still under-rated drummer. And then there’s Nick, like this Andy Warhol figure; and I thought, what an incredible combination.”

❏ In 1980 Beverley Glick was aka Betty Page at the now-defunct UK music paper Sounds. Paul Berrow invited her to Birmingham to meet his unknown band. Page had doubts: “I thought, do I really want to go all the way up to Birmingham to do this? [Berrow] didn’t even offer me a tape.” Upon arrival, Page was forced to reassess: “I’d never met a bunch of people who were so confident and focused, who knew exactly where they wanted to go; even more so than Spandau Ballet [London’s rival New Romantic band]. It was a kind of youthful arrogance that was quite appealing at the time. I don’t think they ever thought coming from Birmingham was going to stop them — in fact, I think they used it to their advantage really.”

Rod Stewart, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy

Inspiration for Planet Earth: Rod Stewart’s UK number one and US number one single Da Ya Think I’m Sexy was released in December 1978. Most of the music was written by drummer Carmine Appice, and its disco-like arrangement was seen by fans as a betrayal of Stewart’s rock roots at a time when he gyrated onstage wearing tight spandex. The song has a further history. Its refrain was similar to the melody in the 1972 instrumental, Taj Mahal, by Brazil’s popular singer-songwriter Jorge Ben Jor. In an ensuing lawsuit, Rod agreed to donate the profits from his song to UNICEF

❏ Andy Taylor, Duran guitarist: “The essence of Planet Earth came from Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? [from December 1978] which Rod Stewart reckons was brilliant. The synth-guitar hook line that kicks off the tune is played on the same scale and key; the first two chords Dm7 & F are the same, so the melody/ counter melody lines are interchangeable.”

❏ Michael Berrow remembers Bob Lamb who produced Duran’s demos back in 1980: “Bob did a great job on Planet Earth. Bob’s arrangement is pretty well what made the final recording.” When EMI came into the frame, however, Lamb was laid off in favour of Colin Thurston. Lamb said later: “Colin was more fashionable than me at the time. I bumped into him at a studio in London and Colin said to me – and I quote – ‘I owe you a house’ (laughs) — which I’m still waiting for!”

❏ Graphic designer Malcolm Garrett reveals why the 12-inch sleeve of Planet Earth (the Night Version) looks different from the regular 7-inch version: “Economics. I don’t think they had much money, and they didn’t expect it to sell. Hence, they only gave me two colours to print with.”

➢ Read Steve Jansen’s full text of Switch It On!
— Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran

Duran Duran, video, Planet Earth

The New Romantic Jive: Rum Runner regulars Gay John and Lavinya (aka Patrick Black), dressed to the hilt and dancing in Russell Mulcahy’s official 1981 video for Planet Earth

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2011 ➤ Farewell Mick Karn, master of the bass and harbinger for the New Romantics

MICK KARN, the acclaimed exponent of the fretless guitar, died today in London from cancer. He was a founder member of the British art-rock band Japan, formed in 1974 with David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri, Rob Dean and Steve Jansen, heavily influenced by Bowie and Roxy. By their 1978 album Adolescent Sex, Japan had developed a unique visual style and innovative sound underpinned by Karn’s sensual bass. In all but club membership, Japan *were* the original New Romantic band

Mick Karn, Buddha, Commonwealth Institute, Steve Jansen Imageshop

Karn outside the Commonwealth Institute, Kensington (undated), photographed by © http://www.SteveJansen.com — Proceeds from the sale of Jansen’s photos have gone to help Mick in recent months

❏ Karn’s Facebook page notes this evening “Even on early Japan recordings, his highly distinctive fretless bass voice for which he is most renowned can be heard. By their swan song, critically acclaimed Tin Drum 1981, he was dubbed one of the best bass players in the world. He’d already supplied bass and sax work to Gary Numan’s Dance album and was the first Japan member with a solo record, Titles [hear audio below]. In 1983, Japan’s live album, Oil on Canvas, brought his playing to new ears: jazz legend Jan Garberek.”

❏ Update on Karn’s Facebook page, Jan 18 “Mick’s funeral service took place yesterday afternoon, Monday 17th January, in West London. The private ceremony was attended by close friends and family.”

➢ How Shapersofthe80s responded to the appeal for Mick Karn last June — plus Mick’s follow-up and background interviews

❏ Bassist John Taylor writes on the Duran Duran website “Nick and I first saw Japan at Barbarellas in Birmingham on their Obscure Alternatives tour and were blown away. They were so fresh, while every other band in town were tripping over each other in a rush to play the same three chords, Japan were brave in many ways. Mick changed my life in a good way. Quiet Life and Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Adolescent Sex and Tin Drum are amongst the best recordings made during the post-punk era in my view. Mick’s sax playing also was always interesting.

Adolescent Sex ,1978, Japan pop group, Mick Karn

Adolescent Sex, the 1978 album

❏ Review by Amy Hanson at AllMusic of Japan’s first album Adolescent Sex (1978) says “A remarkable debut, the set snarls with leftover punk intent, a few glam-rock riffs, and a wealth of electronics that not only reach back to the band’s youth, but also predate much of what would explode out of the next wave of British underground… [Later Hanson continues…] The ‘wow factor’ of an incredibly funky bass and guitar on The Unconventional, repeated again on Wish You Were Black, is not only a surprise but leaves one wondering if the band were closet Chic fans … A more exciting album than just about anything else they’d ever record, Japan were young, hungry, and more than a little rough around the edges. Despite the slick R&B work twined in, it’s important to remember that this band were in the sonic foothold of an early edgy era — groundbreakers at their own inception. ”

Japan pop group, 1978, Mick Karn

Japan in the late 70s: Rob Dean, Mick Karn, Richard Barbieri, Steve Jansen, David Sylvian

A/V tracks featuring Karn at YouTube

➢ Mick Karn, Sensitive (1982) — His first album as a solo artist displays his creativity after Japan’s split, accompanied by Japan drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri

➢ Knights of the Opium Moon (ft Mick Karn) — Track 6 from the London electronic band Furiku’s debut album (Like a Freak, May 2010)… This has to be among Karn’s last musical collaborations. Karn’s own discography lists the four-track EP Love’s Glove as his last published recording in 2005. Dom Agius of Furiku tells Shapersofthe80s: “We were approached by Mick and his management in late 2006 via MySpace. They’d heard our work and invited us to remix a track of his. They sent over a selection of basslines but rather than do a conventional instrumental remix we decided — as long-term Japan and Mick fans — to write and record a new song — the “missing track off Tin Drum” if you will. So we sifted through, chopped and redited maybe six of the basslines together and then we wrote Knights of the Opium Moon over that. Mick and his management were thrilled with the results.”

➢ View TV interview with Mick Karn for Talkin’ Jazz c1993

➢ View video: JBK — Bestial Cluster Dutch TV session

➢ View video: Sons of Pioneers — The best-selling album Oil on Canvas was recorded live during Japan’s six sell-out nights at Hammersmith Odeon, in November 1982, on their last UK concert tour. Japan’s final live performance was on December 16 in Japan. Worsening personal differences persuaded the band members to go their separate ways virtually at the height of their creative and commercial success.

Japan pop group, Mick Karn, Hammersmith Odeon , 1982, Sounds ,Chris Dorley-Brown

Karn onstage at Hammersmith Odeon, November 17, 1982: Japan’s final UK tour. Photographed for Sounds © by Chris Dorley-Brown

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