Yellow Magic Orchestra

Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) is a Japanese electro/art-pop trio that released six proper albums and a live disc on Alfa between 1978 and 1983. They were formed by veteran multi-instrumentalist Haruomi Hosono (ex-Apryl Fool, Happy End) and featured drummer Yukihiro Takahashi (ex-Sadistic Mika Band). During YMO’s initial run, singer and keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto launched a prolific and internationally successful solo career.

Members: 細野晴臣 [Haruomi Hosono] (bass, keyboards, electronics, vocals), Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards, electronics, percussion, vocals), 高橋幸宏 [Yukihiro Takahashi] (drums, electronics, percussion, vocals)


Background

Yellow Magic Orchestra was formed in 1978 by veteran musician Haruomi Hosono, who started nine years earlier as the bassist of psych-rockers Apryl Fool. During the early 1970s, he played multiple instruments on three albums with folk-rockers Happy End. Mid-decade, he cut two albums with pop-funksters Tin Pan Alley. He launched his solo career with the 1973 release Hosono House. Concurrently, he played on albums by Inoue Yousui (Ice World, 1973) and Osamu Kitajima (Benzaiten, 1974).

In late 1977, Hosono formed The Yellow Magic Band, a loose collective of studio musicians assembled for his fourth solo album Paraiso, a tropical set that appeared the following year. The band included drummer Yukihiro Takahashi and keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Takahashi had cut three albums between 1973 and 1975 as a member of art-rockers the Sadistic Mika Band. Simultaneously, he partook in the folk combo Buzz, led by his older brother Nobuyuki. As recordings took place for Paraiso, Takahashi used some of the same musicians for his debut solo album Saravah!, including Hosono and Sakamoto.

Sakamoto’s recording career dated back to 1975 with appearances on albums by Lily, Kohei Oikawa, and Kobayashi Masahiro. His first headlining album was the 1976 ALM Records release Disappointment-Hateruma, a free-improv collaborative effort with percussionist Toshi Tsuchitori. In 1977, Sakamoto and Hosono interacted on albums by Taeko Ohnuki (Sunshower), Tatsuro Yamashita (Spacy), and Chu Kosaka (Morning). That same year, Sakamoto played keyboards on four songs (all of side A) on Olive’s Step, the fifth album by jazz-rock guitarist Kazumi Watanabe.

After recordings wrapped on Paraiso and Saravah!, Sakamoto recorded his debut solo album Thousand Knives of with backing by Hosono, Takahashi, and Watanabe. Also in 1978, Hosono recorded two further solo albums: Cochin Moon (co-billed to Tadanori Yokoo with help from Sakamoto) and Pacific (co-billed to Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Yamashita with appearances by Sakamoto and Takahashi).

In July 1978, Hosono enlisted Sakamoto and Takahashi for a studio-based project fusing electronic music with exotica. Intended as a one-off, it was released on Alfa that November as Yellow Magic Orchestra. The album’s success made YMO an ongoing concern.


Yellow Magic Orchestra

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their self-titled debut album on November 25, 1978, on Alfa.

“Computer Game” / “Fire Cracker”
Released: 1978, 1979

“Cosmic Surfin'”
Released: 1979

“La femme chinoise”
Released: 1979

“Tong Poo”
Released: 1979

In May 1979, Yellow Magic Orchestra appeared in the United States on A&M.


Solid State Survivor

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their second album, Solid State Survivor, on September 25, 1979, on Alfa.

“Technopolis” / “Solid State Survivor”
Released: October 1979

“Rydeen”
Released: June 1980


Public Pressure

In February 1980, Alfa Records issued Public Pressure, a live album drawn largely from YMO’s recent UK and US tours.


X∞Multiplies

Yellow Magic Orchestra released the 10″ mini-album X∞Multiplies on June 5, 1980, on Alfa.

“Nice Age”
Released: 1980

“Tighten Up”
Released: 1980

In the US, an alternate version of X∞Multiplies appeared in late July as a 12″ EP on A&M.

“Behind the Mask (US & UK only)”
Released: August 1980


BGM

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their fourth studio album, BGM, on March 21, 1981, on Alfa and A&M.

“Cue” / “U•T”
Released: April 21, 1981

“Mass” / “Camouflage”
Released: September 5, 1981


Technodelic

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their fifth studio album, Technodelic, on November 21, 1981, on Alfa.

“Pure Jam”
Released: 1982

“Taisō”
Released: 1982


Naughty Boys

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their sixth studio album, Naughty Boys, on May 24, 1983, on Alfa.

“Kimi ni, mune kyun” / “Chaos Panic”
Released: 1983

In July 1983, Alfa issued Naughty Boys Instrumental, a collection of remixed tracks from the album proper.


Service

Yellow Magic Orchestra released their seventh album, Service, on December 14, 1983, on Alfa.

“You’ve Got to Help Yourself”
Released: September 28, 1983

“Every Time I Look Around (I Hear the Madmen Call)”
Released: 1984 (EU only)


Discography:

  • Paraiso (1978 • Harry Hosono and The Yellow Magic Band)
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)
  • Solid State Survivor (1979)
  • Public Pressure (live, 1980)
  • X∞Multiplies (10″, 1980)
  • BGM (1981 • YMO)
  • Technodelic (1981 • YMO)
  • Naughty Boys (1983 • Y.M.O.)
  • Naughty Boys Instrumental (1983 • Y.M.O.)
  • Service (1983 • YMO)

Sources:

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