Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) is an influential Japanese electropop band, formed in 1978. They are renowned as a major influence in popular music, and for pioneering the electropop music genre.
The principal members are Haruomi Hosono (bass), Yukihiro Takahashi (drums and vocals) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards).
Formation & early years
The band was originally conceived as a one-off studio project by Hosono, the other two members being recruited session musicians - the idea was to produce an album fusing orientalist exotica
(of their cover version of Martin Denny
) with modern electronics. However the first album (with its cutting-edge production) was very popular, and the studio project grew into a fully fledged touring band and career for its three members.
Sakamoto first worked with Hosono as a member of his live band in 1976, while Takahashi recruited Sakamoto to produce his debut solo recording in '77 following the split of the Sadistic Mika Band. Hosono invited both to work on his exotica flavoured album "Paraiso", followed by electronic material for the anthology collection "Pacific". Following the release of the debut "Yellow Magic Orchestra" a live date at the Roppongi Pit Inn was seen by executives of A&M Records of the USA who were in the process of setting up a partnership deal with Alfa Records. This led to the Y.M.O. being offered an international deal, at which point (early 1979) the three members decided the group would be given priority over their solo careers.
Success and breakup
An advertising deal with Fuji Tapes and the group sparked off a boom in the popularity of electronic pop music (called "Technopop" in Japan) that had an impact similar to that of The Beatles
in 1960s Britain. A testament to the influence of Y.M.O. on fashion is how many middle aged Japanese businessmen still have the "Techno cut" haircut, modeled after the group.
Making abundant use of new synthesizers, samplers, digital and computer recording technology as it became available, their popularity and influence extended beyond Japan. Generally the band are highly regarded as pioneers of electronic music, and continue to be remixed and sampled by modern artists.
The band had stopped working as a group in 1984, after the release of their motion picture "Propaganda", the three members returning to their solo careers. The group were careful to avoid saying they had "split up", preferring to use the Japanese phrase meaning "spreading out", and in fact the trio continued to play on each other's recordings and made guest appearances at live shows. Takahashi, in particular, would play Y.M.O. material in his concerts and as "lead singer" was arguably best placed to do so. They released a one-off reunion album, Technodon, in 1993.
The early 2000s saw Hosono & Takahashi reunited in a project called Sketch Show
. On a number of occasions Ryuichi Sakamoto has joined in on Sketch Show performances and recording sessions. He later proposed they rename the group Human Audio Sponge
when he participates. Barcelona performance at Sonar festival and Wild Sketch Show DVDs chronicle these reunions, and include a tongue-in-cheek Japanese text only history of the group that spans to 2036.
The band have reunited in 2007 for an advertising campaign for Kirin which lampoons their longevity and charted No.1 on various Japanese digital download charts (including iTunes Store chart) with the song "Rydeen 79/07", released on Sakamoto's new label commmons.
Recently performing live as Human Audio Sponge; Hosono, Sakamoto and Takahashi did a live performance together as Yellow Magic Orchestra for the Live Earth, Kyoto event on July 7 2007, which raised money and awareness of a 'climate in crisis'.
In August 2007, the band once again reformed, taking the name HASYMO, combining the names of Human Audio Sponge and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Their first single under this name, “Rescue,” was written for the film Appleseed EX Machina. They released a new two song single titled "The City of Light/Tokyo Town Pages" on August 6th, 2008.
HASYMO played two live concerts in Europe this summer, one at the Royal Festival Hall, London on 15 June, 2008 as part of the Meltdown festival of music this year curated by Massive Attack and another in Gijon, Spain the 19th. Although the primary YMO members (Yukihiro Takahashi, Haruomi Hosono, and Ryuichi Sakamoto) are effectively known as HASYMO and played both these concerts, these concerts were billed simply as "YMO" but featured only 4 YMO songs in each concert while the rest of the concert featured Sketch Show, HASYMO music and member's solo works.
- Hideki Matsutake of the Japanese electric band Logic System (band) has been believed to be the fourth member of Y.M.O.; he had been a computer programer for Y.M.O.
- Towa Tei used to submit his demo reels to Ryuichi Sakamoto's radio show when he was a teenager. Towa Tei later became a member of American dance music group Deee-Lite.
- American sci-fi novelist Bruce Sterling is a big fan of the band.
- Y.M.O. appeared on the November 29, 1980 episode of the American dance program, Soul Train; they were one of very few non-black artists, and probably the only Japanese group, to appear on this predominately-black program.
- Señor Coconut released an album of Y.M.O. covers and collaborations called "Yellow Fever" in 2006.
- The album "Technodon" features collaborations with the writers William Gibson and William Burroughs, both reading extracts from their works with Y.M.O. backing.
- Many different chapters of Phi Beta Sigma International Fraternity, Inc. use the song "Computer Games" as their signature theme and stroll song.
- Their song "Behind The Mask", covered first by keyboardist Greg Phillinganes and later by Eric Clapton, was sampled in the Goldie Lookin' Chain song "Your Mothers Got A Penis" on their album "Greatest Hits"
- Video Game Composer Hitoshi Sakimoto is a huge fan of Y.M.O. which is where the inspiration came from. During the beginning of his work, he would often credit his name as YmoH.S.
- Video game designer and composer Kenji Eno has cited Yellow magic Orchestra as influential to his compositions.
- Jennifer Lopez sampled "Firecracker" for her 2001 single I'm Real.
- "Firecracker" (1979, US)
- "Yellow Magic" (Tong Poo) (1979, UK)
- "Technopolis" (1979, Japan)
- "La Femme Chinoise" (1979, UK) (Lyrics: Chris Mosdell)
- "Computer Game" (1980, UK, Italy, Spain)
- "Rydeen" (1980, Japan 1982, UK)
- "Behind the Mask" (1980, UK, US, Italy) (Lyrics: Chris Mosdell)
- "Nice Age" (1980, UK, the Netherlands) (Lyrics: Chris Mosdell)
- "Tighten Up" (Japanese Gentlemen Stand Up Please) (their version of the Archie Bell & the Drells hit; 1980, US, Japan; 1981, UK)
- "Cue" (1981, Japan)
- "Mass" (1981, Japan)
- "Taiso" (1982, Australia, Japan)
- "Pure Jam" (1982, Spain)
- "Kimi ni Munekyun" (1983, Japan)
- "Kageki na Shukujo" (1983, Japan)
- "Ishin Denshin (You've Got To Help Yourself)" (1983, Japan)
- "Every Time I Look Around (I Hear The Madmen Call)" (1983, Holland)
- Reconstructions EP (1992, UK)
- "Pocketful of Rainbows" (1993, Japan)
- "Be A Superman" (1993, Japan)
- "Rydeen 79/07" (2007, Japan) - Digital download release: 10 March 2007, CD release: 22 August 2007.
Original albums and variations
- 1980 Public Pressure
- 1984 After Service
- 1991 Faker Holic (Transatrantic Tour 1979)
- 1992 Complete Service Mixed By Brian Eno
- 1993 Technodon Live
- 1993 Live At The Budokan 1980
- 1993 Live At Kinokuniya Hall 1978
- 1995 Winter Live 1981
- 1996 World Tour 1980
- 1997 Live At The Greek Theatre 1979
Best of albums
- 1984 Sealed
- 1992 Kyoretsu Na Rhythm
- 2000 YMO Go Home! : The Best of Yellow Magic Orchestra, (compiled by Haruomi Hosono)
- 2001 One More YMO: The Best of YMO Live" (compiled by Yukihiro Takahashi)
- 2003 UC YMO: Ultimate Collection of Yellow Magic Orchestra, (compiled by Ryuichi Sakamoto)
- 1992 Hi-tech/No Crime (Yellow Magic Orchestra Reconstructed) (UK compilation of remixes by British artists)