Galapagos on YouTube!
Galapagos is a band I’ve been listening to since about 1995. I’d just started learning Japanese at the time and was beginning to make some Japanese friends.
I started taking them out to clubs and live gigs and was showing them around as if we (westerners) had invented to concept of “live”.
Was I in for a surprise. One girl, I forget her name now, came over the next day after a bunch of us went out for a night in Coventry. She handed me a tape and said, “If you liked that stuff last night, you’ll love this.”
I was totally taken aback by what I heard. I never imagined that the Japanese could take a mixture of 80’s British punk, Adam and the Ants, generic rock and pop, mash in some pentatonic guitar riffs ala Shamisen and laser-glam it up for the nineties. Added to the era of Japan being the highly stressed economic king of the world, a client base with practically unlimited budget and a guaranteed profit, the Japanese post-bubble laser-punk scene gave rise to one of the most ridiculously outrageous fashion statements since Ziggy meets the National Front. We’re talking excess, taken to excess in a way only the uber-wealthy and highly-strung nation of Japan could manage or afford.
Every aspect of their work was over-the-top. The tempo, the changes in tempo, the number of beats per bar, the raving, maniacal lyrics and let’s not forget, the stupendous makeup and hairstyles du jour!
The band, to me seemed to typify the boundless wealth and exuberance of the 1990s fuck the world and then we die attitude.
I played that tape long after the girl went back to Japan and if I could, I’d love to say a heartfelt thank you to her for giving me an experience to remember. I remember almost crying when the tape chewed itself to oblivion in my overpriced cassette deck, and thinking that I’d never hear them again.
Of course, that was before knowing that I was going to come to Japan in 1999.
On arriving in Japan, I immediately started scouring the shops for the band’s CDs but of course, nobody had ever heard of the band and every time I’d gone to Kobe or Osaka, I’d prepared by printing out a list of some of the best secondhand CD shops in the region. I visited most on the list but none had them in stock. In the end I gave up.
I found sketchy details that suggested they’d split up in the mid nineties: The were a victim of the Japanese consumers’ fickle appetite for change and Great New Things (TM).
Then, lo and behold, one day when I visited a local CD shop in my neighbouring Toyooka, the only sizable town near Kinosaki, I found it completely by chance! One copy of Down By Law in pristine condition nestled in the oldies box. It cost me about 80p and three years!
Galapagos – Down By Law, 1990.
The owner of the shop had no idea it was even there.
Now, this in itself is only minor news. But a few years later, 2001 if I remember correctly, I was walking through the streets of Sapporo. The temperature was somewhere in the region of -12 degrees Celsius, typical January weather for that part of Japan. I glanced up from my feet for a moment and caught sight of a second hand CD shop.
Now bear in mind that I’d not been looking for any second hand CDs for a long time and had passed dozens of second hand CD shops in the meantime. This one was no different and I walked on by.
But I got the strangest feeling. I had to stop walking. I felt I was being pulled back to the shop.
I thought, “I wonder…” I went into the shop and asked sheepishly “You don’t happen to have Honey Pie by Galapagos, do you?”
Of course he’d never heard of the band but duly checked on the computer anyway. Finally he laughed and said, “Wow. We have a copy that came in in 1995!”
Galapagos – Honey Pie, 1993
I’m writing this curiously, spuriously, oscuriously blog entry today because, in searching for info on Galapagos, I came across these absolute Gems on YouTube!
Seriously, I had no idea the lead singer was so hot! And What a hairstyle!