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.
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 No relation to the Tom Waits song of the same name and "Forever Young"note Not the Rod Stewart one. "Forever Young" didn't do well in the US charts, but since its release it has shown up in movie soundtracks and TV shows.The founding members were Marian Gold, Bernhard Lloyd, and Frank Mertens. Frank Mertens left the band after the release of their first album, Forever Young, and was replaced by Ricky Echolette. Alphaville released four more albums with the lineup of Gold, Lloyd, and Echolette, until Echolette left the band after the recording of the fifth album, 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 left Alphaville in 2003. The lineup as of 2010 is Marian Gold, Martin Lister, David Goodes, and Jakob Kiersch. Yes, they're still around. They still tour, although seldom outside of Europe.
Forever Young (1984)
Afternoons in Utopia (1986)
The Breathtaking Blue (1989)
Catching Rays on Giant (2010)
The Singles Collection (1988)
First Harvest (1992)
Forever Young and Other Hits (2003)
Alphaville provides examples of the following tropes:
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
Sixth Ranger: Rainer Bloss is not and never was an official member of Alphaville, but has contributed to every album since The Breathtaking Blue.
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.
Stage Names: Marian Gold = Hartwig Schierbaum; Bernhard Lloyd = Bernhard G÷▀ling; Ricky Echolette = Wolfgang Neuhaus; Frank Mertens = Frank Sorgatz. Martin Lister, David Goodes, and Jacob Kiersch go by their real names.
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, and eliminated the string ensemble at the end; "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.
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."