waits see

Big in Japan

For the 1984 song by Alphaville, see "Big in Japan"; for the song by Tom Waits, see his album Mule Variations'' from 1999

Big in Japan was a punk band that emerged from Liverpool, England in the late 1970s. They are better known for the later successes of their band members than for their own music. According to the Liverpool Echo, Big in Japan were "a supergroup with a difference - its members only became super after they left."


Coming from the same Merseyside scene as Echo & the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, OMD and Dalek I Love You, Big in Japan formed in late 1977. They started off playing gigs around Liverpool, such as Ruffwood School in Kirkby along with Wah! Heat, but most notably at the seminal Eric's Club. Their stage show was unique: lead singer Jayne Casey would perform with a lampshade over her shaved head, guitarist Bill Drummond played in a kilt and bassist Holly Johnson performed in a flamboyant manner which he would later take further in Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Jayne Casey would later state:

We were all a bit too eccentric at a time when punk was quite macho and clear cut...a bit too much for people to handle. We always wanted to be like The Monkees or something. We wanted to be a cartoon, and that's how we tried to sell ourselves to the record companies.

Ian Broudie said that "It was more performance art than rock'n'roll. But it gave me a healthy disregard for musicianship. It's ideas that are important, not proficiency.

Hatred of the band reached such a level that a petition calling on them to split up was launched by a jealous young Julian Cope. Displayed in local shop Probe Records the petition gathered 2000 signatures including those of the band themselves. According to Cope's autobiography, "Of course, Bill Drummond was into the whole thing and told us we needed 14,000 signatures, then they'd split up. We got about nine.

The band broke up in 1978, but recorded From Y To Z and Never Again afterwards to pay off debts. The unintentional consequence of the E.P. was the formation of the seminal Zoo label, which went on to release early material by Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes, amongst others. They also recorded a Peel Session on 12 February 1979, with a lineup of Casey, Broudie, Johnson and Budgie; the session was broadcast on 6 March 1979.

Big in Japan left a recorded legacy of seven songs: one on a single, four on their E.P. From Y to Z and Never Again, and two released on a compilation. As of 2005, five out of these recorded songs are commercially available, on the compilation CD Zoo Label: Uncaged.


Singles and EPs

  • Brutality, Religion and a Dance Beat (1977)
  • From Y to Z and Never Again (1978)


  • Street To Street: A Liverpoool Album (1978)
  • To the Shores of Lake Placid (1982)
  • 'The Zoo' Uncaged 1978-1982 (1990)

Other work

Three unreleased songs were recorded for the band's only John Peel session of 6 March 1979 - "Suicide High Life", "Goodbye" and "Don't Bomb China."

A bootleg CD is in circulation which contains all of the material listed above as well as demo versions of "Society for Cutting Up Men", "Boys Cry", "Big in Japan", "Space Walk" and "Match of the Day and Taxi." It also contains the audio from the band's performance of "Suicide A Go Go" on their Granada TV appearance of 23 March 1978 (on Tony Wilson's So It Goes).

Black and white amateur home movie footage of the band performing live at Eric's still exists - excerpts of the band performing both "Big In Japan" and "Cindy And The Barbi Dolls" were used in the BBC's "Rock Family Trees: The New Merseybeat" TV program, originally transmitted in August 1995 and repeated in 1997.


Notes & references

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