SP-4853 BGM
Produced by Haruomi Hosono
Released on 1981
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
SP-4853 cover  

I grew up in a Brahmin backwater, apparently, where the red sun of Yellow Magic Orchestra never shone on our impoverished little lives. To hear it told today, young electronic rebels were praying at the altar of YMO while I was wasting my time listening to Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Visage, The Human League, Japan, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, et al. I think the elevation of YMO smacks of historical revision except that so many electronic artists are on board with this. It seems there was a whole contingent of people listening to Sparks and YMO for the same electronic innovations they could have found in a dozen other more popular places, and no one invited me to the party. The only entry point into their catalog I can think of is the single “Computer Game,” a poor novelty tune if I remember correctly. I purchased their eponymous album anyway, didn’t care for it, and probably traded it for some Tangerine Dream record. Listening to BGM now, I can hear where listeners would have found something worth holding onto in the yellow catalog. The synthetic pop songs (which account for roughly half the record) add nothing to the work of Ultravox and Visage, but the instrumental pieces are clearly at the head of their class. Years before “Rockit” captivated a nation, there was “1000 Knives” and the unforgettable “U*T” (it’s more of a dot than an asterisk, but I’m lazy). “Rap Phenomena” is actually pretty effective as early rap songs go (which isn’t very far) while “Loom” manages to merge Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity with Brian Eno’s waves of soothing sound (Discreet Music or Evening Star, take your pick). Adding Oriental elements to the music is only a slight wrinkle to my ears, not the sort of thing that would distract me from the conversation my head was already having with Kraftwerk, and the synth pop songs are best left bottled and forgotten. To Japanese listeners, the native angle might have been a minor revelation, but to my jaded Western ears the reaction to BGM is BFD. Okay, that sounds pretty harsh, so I’ll back away a bit. It’s a good record. I’ve listened to it more than a dozen times and I’ll probably listen to it a dozen more before my little part is played out. But if you don’t own Kraftwerk’s Computer World, save your money for that instead. Or for Solid State Survivor, which by most accounts is the YMO work to own.

SP-4853 back cover
SP-4853 back cover


  1. BALLET    (Yukihiro Takahashi)    4:35
  2. MUSIC PLANS    (Riuichi Sakamoto)    4:30
  3. RAP PHENOMENA    (Haruomi Hosono)    4:30
  4. HAPPY END    (Riuichi Sakamoto)    4:31
  5. 1000 KNIVES    (Riuichi Sakamoto)    5:21
  6. CUE    (Yukihiro Takahashi/Haruomi Hosono)    4:30
  7. U·T    (Haruomi Hosono/Riuichi Sakamoto/Yukihiro Takahashi)    4:32
  8. CAMOUFLAGE    (Yukihiro Takahashi)    4:35
  9. MASS    (Haruomi Hosono)    4:30
  10. LOOM    (Haruomi Hosono/Riuichi Sakamoto/Yukihiro Takahashi/Hideki Matsutake)    5:15

    All arrangements by Y M O


Peter Barakan -- additional lyrics
Mitsuo Koike -- engineer, mixing
Yoshifumi Iio -- engineer
Y M O -- mixing
Yukimasa Okumura -- art direction
The Studio, Tokyo, Japan -- design
Kenji Miura -- photograph
Shoro Kawazoe -- executive producer

return to YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA discography

JPN 1981 Alfa LP ALR-28015 inserts
US 1981 A&M LP SP-4853  
NET 1981 A&M LP AMLH 64853  
US   Restless CD 72703  
EUR 2003 Epic CD 513449 digital remaster


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