Music / Alphaville

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Clockwise from top: Ricky Echolette (Instruments), Marian Gold (Voices), Bernhard Lloyd (Machines)

"Let us die young or let us live forever.
We don't have the power but we never say never.
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip.
The music's for the sad men."
— "Forever Young"

Alphaville is a German Synth Pop/New Wave group that gained international popularity in the 1980s. The band was originally named Forever Young.

They are best known for their two biggest hits, "Big in Japan" note  and "Forever Young,"note  both released in 1984. While "Forever Young" and "Big in Japan" managed to peak at 65 and 66, respectively, on the US's Billboard Hot 100, Alphaville have always been best appreciated in Europe, releasing a few top ten singles in several countries throughout the 80s. "Forever Young" has seen a new appreciation in recent years through several covers, remixes, and appearances in movie soundtracks and TV shows.

The founding members were Bernhard Lloyd, Frank Mertens, and singer Marian Gold. Frank Mertens left the band after the release of their first album, Forever Young, and was replaced by Ricky Echolette. This lineup produced the bulk of Alphaville's studio material, responsible for Afternoons in Utopia, The Breathtaking Blue, Prostitute, and Salvation. Echolette left the band during the production of Salvation. Alphaville existed for a while as just Bernhard Lloyd and Marian Gold, during which they released the anthology box sets Dreamscapes and Crazyshow. Lloyd officially left Alphaville in 2003note . The lineup for 2010's Catching Rays on Giant is Marian Gold, Martin Lister on keyboards, David Goodes on guitar, and Jakob Kiersch on drums. Fifth member, bassist Maja Kim, joined the band the following year. Martin Lister passed away in May of 2014. After his death, Carsten Brocker took over on keyboards. Maja Kim left the band in July, 2016.


Discography

Studio Albums
  • Forever Young (1984)
  • Afternoons in Utopia (1986)
  • The Breathtaking Blue (1989)
  • Prostitute (1994)
  • Salvation (1997)
  • Catching Rays on Giant (2010)
  • Strange Attractor (working title) (2016)

Compilation Albums
  • The Singles Collection (1988)
  • Alphaville (The Amiga Compilation) (1988)
  • First Harvest (1992)
  • Forever Young and Other Hits (2003)
  • So80s Presents Alphaville (2014)

Anthologies
  • Dreamscapes (1999)
  • Crazyshow (2003)


Alphaville provides examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: One way to interpret the setting of the "Forever Young" video. Survivors in tattered old clothes sleep in a ruined building, suddenly awakened by the music of three men with '80s Hair.
  • Album Filler: After their first album was released, Alphaville was asked to write songs for a play. They only got so far as "Jerusalem" before the project halted, and the song ended up becoming the last song they recorded for their second album.
  • Album Title Drop: Forever Young and Afternoons in Utopia have title tracks, The Breathtaking Blue is in the lyrics of "Summer Rain," and Salvation is in the lyrics of "Spirit of the Age." Prostitute and Catching Rays on Giant avert this completely.
    • If you count Crazyshow as an album, it has a title track on disc 2.
  • Ambiguous Gender: "The Jet Set": "If she's a lady / I'm her man / If she's a man / I'll do what I can!"
    • "Things will happen while they can / I will wait here for my man tonight, it's easy when you're big in Japan." Wait, so is this a man singing from a woman's point of view? If it isn't, then it must be a gay man singing.
  • Animated Music Video: Accompanied the limited edition "Forever Young Diamonds in the Sun Remix."
    • Song For No One features a cut-out animated Marian Gold being dragged through CGI environments made to look like dioramas.
  • Ascended Extra: After Bernhard Lloyd left Alphaville in 2003, the then-current members of the touring band (Lister, Goodes, and Kiersch) were, along with Marian Gold, the band's official lineup, and they began work on Catching Rays on Giant.
  • The Artifact: Ricky Echolette appears in the animated music video for the "Forever Young Diamonds in the Sun Remix," even though the video was released several years after he left the band, and he was not in the band when "Forever Young" was originally recorded.
  • Artifact Title: Prostitute was to be named for a song on the album of the same name. The song got cut, but the album title was never changed.
  • Audience Participation Song: Subverted on "C Me Thru." Marian invites the audience to "join the band and sing along" to the song. The very next line is backmasked.note 
  • Author Appeal: Alphaville seems to like bees. They may mention bees in their lyrics more than any other band.
  • Be Yourself: "The Impossible Dream": "And I don't need to be a poet / I don't need to be a hero / When all I need to do is keep on loving you."
  • Book Ends: Afternoons in Utopia does something similar to The Wall. The first track is an echo of the word "night". The last track is the limerick "There was a young lady named Bright / Whose speed was much faster, much faster than light / She departed one day / In a relative way / And returned on the previous...."
  • Call Back: "Faith" on Prostitute contains the line "cosmic meadows," which also appeared in "The Nelson Highrise Sector 2."
    • "Ivory Tower" is pretty much all call backs.
    • The mighty maomoondogs that first appeared on Afternoons in Utopia get mentioned again in "Ivory Tower" on Prostitute and then again in "Return to Paradise" (parts 1 and 2) on Crazyshow.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The subject of the song "Carol Masters." Carol stares out the window each night, listening for a call from "far beyond the atmospheres," which she believes will beckon her to Mars.
  • Concept Album: Afternoons in Utopia, With images repeated throughout, like the mighty maomoondogs, the Ivory Cityside, and the acrobats and comets; Carol, a character who appears in multiple songs; and the repeated idea of travelling and sending messages across outer-space distances. All this is to say nothing of the generally optimistic, peaceful outlook of the lyrics throughout, i.e. "We shall stop the wars on those afternoons in utopia."
  • The Constant: Marian Gold has been the lead singer for the band's entire existence.
  • Continuity Nod: The song "Ivory Tower" is full of references to previous Alphaville songs, including "Carol Masters," "Sensations," "Summer Rain," "Middle of the Riddle," "Fallen Angel," "Romeos," "Patricia's Park," "Anyway," "Forever Young," "Summer in Berlin," "Lassie Come Home," "Mysteries of Love," and "20th Century." The title "Ivory Tower" itself is a reference to a quote by Bernhard Lloyd which was printed in the First Harvest compilation.
  • Cover Version: On Dreamscapes: "High School Confidential," "Roll Away the Stone," "The Shape of Things to Come," and "Peace on Earth." On Crazyshow: "Do the Strand," "Something," and "Diamonds Are 4 Eva."
  • Demoted to Extra: Ricky Echolette left Alphaville during production of Salvation. As such, only Marian Gold and Bernhard Lloyd are presented in the liner notes for that album as the band members, even though Ricky is credited as a songwriter on every song.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Euphoria" spends over three minutes as an instrumental before Marian starts singing.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Feature in the video for "Big in Japan." In fact, when Rhino posted the video to their YouTube page, they slowed the video down significantly.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Oh Patti/Ivory Tower" on Prostitute, but most cleverly done with "20th Century/The Voyager/Carol Masters" on Afternoons in Utopia. Carol herself is referenced in "20th Century," then two tracks later has her own song. It's even possible Carol is the unspecified She in "The Voyager."
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "The Impossible Dream."
  • Foreshadowing: "I.A.O. (International Aquarian Opera)," track one of Afternoons in Utopia, is simply the chorus from track five, "Afternoons in Utopia."
  • Forever Young Song: "Forever Young", naturally.
  • Go Into the Light: At the end of the "Forever Young" video, Marian points to a painting and a diamond-shaped portal of light appears, into which the band's audience walk through one by one.
  • Grand Finale: Salvation ends with "Pandora's Lullaby," where Marian's vocals are supported by a sweeping orchestral background. The American release kind of spoils it with three bonus tracks.
  • Gratuitous French: "Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers." The verses are in English, the chorus is in French.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Two: First Harvest and Forever Young and Other Hits. All others are bootlegs.
  • Instrumentals: As far as studio albums go, "Patricia's Park" on The Breathtaking Blue. Dreamscapes and Crazyshow each contain a few.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Prostitute, even though the word doesn't appear in any of the song lyrics or song titles.note 
  • Lady in Red: Appears in the video for "Dance With Me." Complete with a black veil.
  • Live Album: Stark Naked and Absolutely Live, recorded during a concert in Salt Lake City.
  • Location Song: "Big In Japan", which has the message that Celebrity Is Overrated when you're famous in that country.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "Parade" from Prostitute.
  • The Movie: Songlines, a music video compilation featuring a video for every song on The Breathtaking Blue.note  Alex Proyas, Godfrey Reggio, and even Aleksandr Kaidanovsky directed videos for the movie, as did bandmember Ricky Echolette.
  • New Sound Album: The Breathtaking Blue, the first full album recorded in a brand new studio the band designed themselves: Luna Park Studios in Berlin. Klaus Schulze of Tangerine Dream co-produced the album. Yet, for an album made by musicians usually associated with synthesizers, the synthesizers exist mostly in the background, and is definitely a strong deviation from the synthpop style of Alphaville's previous two albums.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Fantastic Dream" and "Lady Bright," sort of. The first has the word "dream" but not "fantastic," the second contains the line "There was a young lady named Bright." "Ascension Day," "Parade," and "Phantoms" are straight examples.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Big In Japan" is about a couple trying to break their heroin addiction. Marian Gold said in an interview that the lyrics are so esoteric only he and Bernhard Lloyd actually knew what they meant.
  • One Woman Song: "Carol Masters," "Ariana," and "Oh Patti." Played with in that "Carol Masters" is more an abstract description of who she is than a tribute of love, "Ariana" is basically a derisive rant at a famous-for-being-famous socialite, and the singer in "Oh Patti" is actually trying to convince the listener, not himself, to love Patti.
  • Precision F-Strike: Alphaville's music had nary a curse word until "Zoo" on Crazyshow. "I'll be so fuckin' bored! I'll be so fuckin' bored with you!"
  • Regional Riff: "Big in Japan" uses a vaguely Asian-sounding scale, and also ends with a gong for good measure.
  • Sequel Song: "The Nelson Highrise" series of songs come in four sectors: The Elevator, The Mirror, The Garage, and Scum of the Earth.
  • Shout-Out: The band took its name from the 1965 film, Alphaville.
    • The album Prostitute includes the song "All in the Golden Afternoon," a slightly edited take on the verse by Lewis Carroll.
    • "Wonderboy" shouts out to David Bowie and Pet Shop Boys.
    • "Waiting 4 The Nu Lite" contains the melody from "Within You Without You" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
    • The animated music video for the "Forever Young Diamonds in the Sun Remix" shouts out to a bunch of classic movies—except, strangely enough, to Alphaville
    • The cover of the "Sensations" single is a shout-out to Citizen Kane.
    • Songlines is named in reference to the book by Bruce Chatwin. In fact the movie is dedicated to Chatwin, who died while it was being filmed.
    • It's really hard to make out, but Ricky Echolette is wearing a United Federation of Planets t-shirt on the cover of Afternoons in Utopia. Marian actually wore this shirt during a TV performance of "Red Rose."
    • Wolfgang Neuhaus's stage name, Ricky Echolette, is a shout-out to Klemt Echolette, a company that sold amplifiers, microphones, and various other types of music gear.
    • "Iron John" is a song inspired by the Grimm fairy tale.
  • Silly Love Songs: At least one per album, but "The Impossible Dream" from Prostitute really stands out, since the four tracks that precede it are more toward the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. It's then followed by a Lonely Piano Piece.
  • Sixth Ranger: Rainer Bloss has not generally been considered an official member of Alphaville, but he has contributed, in some capacity or another, to every album since Afternoons in Utopia.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The transition between "Ivory Tower" and "Faith" is of a radio host from South Africa's anti-Apartheid Radio Freedom station introducing Alphaville as a West German group.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: A lot of web sites list Robbie France as a former member of Alphaville, when he only spent a couple of years in the 90s touring with the band as a drummer. Other members of Alphaville's touring band from the same time period, such as bassist Alex Slavic and percussionist Shane Meehan, don't usually get listed as band members. France's status as a well-known music producer might explain the special treatment.
  • Stage Names: Marian Gold = Hartwig Schierbaum; Bernhard Lloyd = Bernhard Gößling; Ricky Echolette = Wolfgang Neuhaus; Frank Mertens = Frank Sorgatz. Martin Lister, David Goodes, and Jacob Kiersch go by their real names.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: The lead vocals on "Call Me Down" are performed by Martin Lister.
  • Surprisingly Good English: Marian's English is excellent, though he occasionally makes the "th" sound as an "s" or "z". This is exemplified in "Pandora's Lullaby," where he sings "I stop to breathe for a while," but it sounds like, "I stop to breeze for a while."
  • The Not Remix: Except for "Forever Young," all of the singles from Forever Young were mixed differently from the album version. "Big in Japan" removed the backwards gong intro; "Sounds Like a Melody" uses different, brighter-sounding synthesizers and a stronger reverb; "Jet Set" was rerecorded completely (after the album came out, no less), Marian's vocals sound less processed, and added the "Let's go to the moon!" mantra at the end.
    • This was clearly what the band had in mind with First Harvest, as many songs on the compilation are mixed differently from their original versions. Most of the changes are minor, such as the percussion coming in sooner on "Lassie Come Home," but "Sounds Like A Melody" is a completely different beast, with only Marian's vocals coming from the original recording.
  • This Is a Song: "Song For No One," which is "the song for no one but myself."
  • Word Salad Title: "Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers incl. The Nelson Highrise Sector 3: The Garage." Often referred to as "Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers," "The Garage," or "Nelson Highrise Sector 3."
    • Catching Rays on Giant is a nonsense phrase inspired by the caption of a photograph of Elizabeth Taylor that Martin Lister kept in his home: "Elizabeth Taylor catching some rays on the set of Giant."


There was a young lady from Bright
Whose speed was much faster, much faster than light.
She departed one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night!
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