Alphaville is a German synth-pop / new-wave band that were particularly popular in the 1980’s. “Big in Japan” comes from their 1984 album “Forever Young” and is the third track on the album.
The title of the track being “Big in Japan” (which is a phrase referencing a Western band’s popularity with Japanese audiences rather than their home country), is fairly misleading as the song is not about being popular in Japan, but actually tells the story of “a couple of lovers trying to get off Heroin”, Alphaville lead singer Marian Gold told German online magazine “Re.flexion” in 1998. “They both imagine how great it would be to love without the drug: no steal, no clients, no ice age in the pupil, real emotions, -true worlds. I must admit the only ones who understood the meaning of the song correctly were Bernhard Lloyd and our then publisher Andy Budde. Bernhard recognised the quality of the song and Andy the ability of its marketing.”
“Big in Japan” provides a multitude of multi-layered sounds alongside the heavy and thought provoking story telling lyrics. With an electronic sort of atmosphere with a chime like sound from a keyboard, the steady drum beat and the shakiness in the background, the track does a fantastic job at telling the story of the drug loving couple just as well as the lyrics do. The sound was fairly new and modern for music of that time, but also fit into the 80’s synth-pop style tunes that were extremely popular at the time.
The music video was directed by Dieter Meier and was uploaded on a YouTube channel that goes by the name “RHINO” that specialises in being “the greatest music catalogue in the world.” Since it’s upload to the RHINO channel in December 2013, the music video has over 6.5 million views. Featuring Alphaville lead singer Marian Gold singing in front of a projector with different scenes, such as a sun rise, a city, fireworks being lit – all with a woman who’s image changes throughout the video until she changes into a geisha towards the end of the video.
Release Date: January 1985
Songwriter/s: Bernhard Lloyd, Marian Gold, Frank Mertens
Music Video Director: Dieter Meier
Chart Rankings, Certifications: The song received a Gold certification with over 250,00 units sold in Germany. The track reached #1 in the US (on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play), Switzerland, Sweden and Germany. It also reached #8 in the UK, #67 in Australia and #3 in Norway.
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December 31, 2019 at 10:17 pm
All these years I thought it was about a geisha or call girl who went back and forth between true love and pretending for a living. Quite different from my 35 years of misinterpretation.
July 17, 2020 at 12:16 am
I’ve also misinterpreted this song greatly. Always thought it to be a more upbeat song. Always wondered the reason by the “I will wait here for my man tonight” lyric. Turns out the man must have been a drug dealer.
December 27, 2020 at 5:40 am
I thought it was about a popular western boy prostituing himself in Japan where he was indeed known for being “Big”. “I will wait here for my man tonight; it is easy when you are big in Japan. ….pay and I will sleep by your side; Things are easy when you are big in Japan.
April 7, 2022 at 10:40 pm
May 14, 2022 at 11:01 am
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