UK 7″ single (Virgin, VS 554), 1982
A: ‘Nightporter’ (Remix) (5’02”) / B: ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ (Remix) (4’58”)
UK 12″ single (Virgin, VS 554-12), 1982
A: ‘Nightporter’ (Remix – Extended) (6’48”) / B: ‘Methods of Dance’ (6’53”)
UK 7″ promo DJ edit single (Virgin, VDJ554), 1982
A: ‘Nightporter’ (Remix – Edit) (3’38”) / B: ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ (Remix) (4’58”)
Japan were rich pickings for collectors in their heyday, due to the large amount of single releases that competing record labels issued to try and capitalise on the market that existed for a band who’s time had finally come, with the rise of all things New Romantic. Yet, as many flopped as would succeed. The band had been signed to the German label Ariola-Hansa and put out three albums and a handful of accompanying, and non-LP, singles between 1978 and the start of 1980, only to jump ship to Virgin, where a further two studio LPs would see a release. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to what hit and what didn’t. ‘Life In Tokyo’, easily one of the bands most commercial efforts was released and re-released several times over and never became anything more than a minor hit in the lower reaches of the Top 40 of the day, while the genuinely eerie sounding ‘Ghosts’ which you would never imagine as single material proved to be the bands biggest ever hit single, when it peaked at number 5 in the Top 40 in early 1982.
Virgin may well have thought then that lightning might strike twice with a seemingly left-field, quiet and reflective, elemental song – whereas in ‘Ghosts’ it was the wind which tormented Sylvian, in ‘Nightporter’ it is the rain to be braved. So, Virgin chose ‘Nightporter’ as a single in late 1982, to coincide with the final Japan live tour. The song had first been issued on 1980’s ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ LP and for the 1982 release it was remixed by the bands preferred producer, Steve Nye. The standard 7″ release had a remix timed at 5’02, while the 12″ single had a longer 6’48” length remix. Unlike some of the previous single remixes, neither mix was a radical rearrangement on the LP – the most noticeable sonic difference being that the reverb levels were reined in somewhat.
The standard UK 7″ and 12″ singles came packaged in attractive black and silver picture sleeves (different photos on the front of each, later edition of the 7″ on much thinner paper sleeves with white replacing the silver ink) and with different B sides, both also dating from the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ album. The 7″ (Virgin, VS554) chose to recycle the remix of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ that had first surfaced in late 1980 on Virgin’s ‘Cash Cows’ sampler LP (which you can find out more about on this mighty fine PostPunkMonk entry). The 12″ (Virgin, VS554-12) came with an unaltered ‘Methods of Dance’. Lightning failed to strike a second time however and the single made it no further than number 29 in the UK Top 40 of the time.
To help it on its way, there was also a 7″ DJ edit issued (Virgin, VDJ554), which took the Steve Nye remix and got the editing scissors out again and cropped it down further to a 3’38” running time. This is the same mix, I believe, as was used on the promo video for the single.
Unfortunately, Japan’s single edits and remixes of the time have not been well served in the digital era, with only a few having surfaced as bonus tracks on CD releases. A comprehensive boxed set gathering together many of these mixes is long overdue, but probably unlikely given David Sylvian’s well-known disregard for the Japan period.
However, ‘Nightporter’ has at least seen two of its remixed version surface on budget label CD compilations though. The remix of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’, which graced the B side of the 7″ single, has never seen a re-issue though, which is particularly criminal given the way the remix bends and twists what is already a pretty radical re-arrangement even more. Firstly, the 7″ remix of ‘Nightporter’ appeared on a 1990 CD compilation from the budget Old Gold label, titled ‘A Kick Up The Eighties Volume 4’ (OG OG 3523).
The 12″ ‘Nightporter’ remix meanwhile has been issued twice, firstly in 1991 on ‘The Best of Synth Gold 2′, another Old Gold release (OG 3806) and then more recently in 2011 as part of the ’12” 80s Alternative’ three CD set (Universal Music Compilations, 5333891).
Finally, one last curiosity – as can be seen in the photo of the back cover of the 12″ single above, the credits for ‘Nightporter’ are listed as;
David Sylvian: Acoustic Piano, Vocal
Richard Barbieri: Keyboards, Acoustic Piano
String bass and Oboe arranged by M Karn and A O’dell
Interestingly, there was meant to be a credit sheet that came packaged with the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ LP but never made it into production – though copies have since come to light shared via the web. On this credit sheet fuller details are given, thus;
David Sylvian: Acoustic Piano, Vocal
Richard Barbieri: Acoustic Piano, Roland System 700 Synthesizer, Oberheim OBX synthesizer
Barry Guy: String Bass
Andrew Cauthery: Oboe