Alphaville? Am I serious? Oh yeah. Here’s another band that had a couple of heavily rotated hits here in the U.S., making them seem like one-dimensional popsters. Many of us are more than familiar with “Big In Japan” and “Forever Young.” In fact, I heard both of those so many times over the years, I’d be fine with never hearing them again.
One of the benefits of working for a boss who is a musician is that I get to hear a different point of view about bands that I either only have limited knowledge of, or in some cases, no knowledge at all. The boss introduced me to an Alphaville song from the very same LP that produced the two aforementioned tracks. It’s called “To Germany With Love,” and let me tell you, it blew me away.
Just in case you are one of the two or three people who have never heard of Alphaville, here’s a brief history. The group formed in 1982 in Germany. The original members were Marian Gold, Bernhard Lloyd, and Frank Mertens, all stage names. The band’s first moniker was Forever Young – sound familiar? It was also the title of the first demo the trio created. In 1984, the band renamed to Alphaville and released “Big in Japan.” Shortly after, they released their debut LP, Forever Young. Frank Mertens left the trio, and was replaced by Ricky Echolette (yes, another pseudonym). The single “Big In Japan” was a huge worldwide success, followed by “Forever Young” which charted well in Europe and the US.
Subsequent releases of LPs and featured singles failed to produce any major chart hits in the US. It’s a shame. This is a group who, like other artists such as Modern English, A-Ha, and even Gary Numan, were improperly marketed, and unfairly remembered as “one-hit wonders” or having flash-in-the-pan popularity.
This is a band that is definitely worth exploring well beyond their most notorious hits. Their solid synth-pop foundation puts them in the same league as Ultravox. Add to that some very strong vocals, and the fact that the band currently continues to record, and this is an 80’s treasure that despite two very solid hits, was criminally underrated.
Official Alphaville website.
Purchase Alphaville music here.
1984: Forever Young
1986: Afternoons in Utopia
1989: The Breathtaking Blue
2000: Stark Naked and Absolutely Live
2001: Forever Pop
2010: Catching Rays on Giant