In April 1984, an unknown band's first single pushed Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" off the top spot in the German music charts. Big In Japan
marked the beginning of Alphaville
's lengthy career.
When Marian Gold
, Frank Mertens Google Translate page
, and Bernhard Lloyd Google Translate page
first performed (as Forever Young), they only had a small handful of songs, many of which they would later record as Alphaville. After forming an artist collective in Münster and working on music in their off-hours, they finally renamed themselves as Alphaville and began shopping around their demo tape. WEA quickly signed them, and released Big In Japan in January of 1984. After the success of that single, the band quickly got to work on a full album, to be released later that year.
was a giant success, charting in most of Europe and making a minor splash in the US. The album's new wave synthpop was well received, and eventually yielded three more singles: Sounds Like A Melody
, Forever Young
(easily their most famous track), and The Jet Set
(video has odd synch issues).
Forever Young: A Victory Of Love, Summer In Berlin, Big In Japan (album version), To Germany With Love, Fallen Angel, Forever Young (alternate video), In The Mood, Sounds Like A Melody, Lies, The Jet Set (album version).
Bonus Tracks: Forever Young (1984 Dance Version), Sounds Like A Melody (1984 Extended Mix), The Jet Set (1985 Extended Version).
Alphaville spent most of 1984 promoting Forever Young and its singles across Europe, and by the end of the year, Frank Mertens was burned out and left the group. He was replaced by Ricky Echolette, and the band began to build their own studio and quickly went to work on their second project. While the first album had been performed nearly entirely on a Roland TR 606
, a Korg MS-20
, and an ARP Odyssey
, the band was determined to expand their sound. And also to expand their ambition -- while Forever Young was a collection of singles, the next work would be a cohesive work.
Afternoons In Utopia
began life as a double concept album, but after the studio balked, it was whittled down and finally released in 1986 as a single album length. A curious mystic journey across space and time, involving some of Timothy Leary's and John Lilly's concepts (specifically Space Migration-Intelligence Increase-Life Extension [S.M.I2
.L.E.] and dolphin communication), Afternoons In Utopia features nearly 30 guest musicians. It yielded five singles: Dance With Me
, Universal Daddy
(television appearance - not official video), Sensations
, and Red Rose
Afternoons In Utopia: IAO (International Aquarian Opera), Fantastic Dream, Jerusalem (album version), Dance With Me, Afternoons In Utopia (version incorporates IAO's acapella intro with main song), Sensations (album version), 20th Century, The Voyager, Carol Masters, Universal Daddy, Lassie Come Home, Red Rose, Lady Bright.
Bonus Tracks: Dance With Me (1986 Extended Version), Dance With Me (Paul Van Dyk Long Run), Dance With Me (Sebastian Komor Remix 2009), Sensations (1986 Extended Mix), Universal Daddy (Aquarian Dance Mix).
The cast of characters and recurring themes in Afternoons In Utopia played into Alphaville's desire to create a multi-media musical based on the project. This ambition never was fulfilled, as the band seemed to have already moved on toward their newest project -- a music based motion picture.
To date, aside from a New Years Eve concert before their career had even begun, Alphaville had not actually played any concerts. They were hoping to bypass the need to tour by taking a tip from the Beatles' playbook -- create a media event for fans to watch instead, allowing them to explore ideas they'd had since their days as part of the Nelson Project art collective. While they began the new album, a collection of tracks from their first two albums was released in East Germany, selected specifically to avoid any of the social commentary which was prevalent on both albums.
The Breathtaking Blue
was finally released in 1989, to very little fanfare. WEA refused to do much promotion for the album (beginning the band's long feud with their music label), and the distinct shift in style was a shock to Alphaville's fans. Producer Klaus Schulze
(of Tangerine Dream) worked with the band on a collection of tracks which were much more jazz influenced than anything on either of their first two albums. Recorded leisurely at Luna Park, the studio the band had finally completed, it again boasted a huge roster of guest musicians, and used a lot more "real" instruments than ever before. It was also one of the first albums
to be released in the short-lived CD+G format, with lyrics and panning images playing while listening to the album. The Breathtaking Blue featured three singles: Romeos
, Summer Rain
, and Mysteries Of Love
. It was soon accompanied by the 1990 collection of short films, Songlines
, with each track featuring a contribution from a different international director.
(One of these films, Middle Of The Riddle, would win the Best Animated Short Oscar™ in 1989
with a different edit and soundtrack
.) Songlines enjoyed a short cinema tour around Germany in early 1990, and was later released on VHS and Laserdisc.
The Breathtaking Blue: Summer Rain, Romeos (album version), She Fades Away (album version), The Mysteries Of Love, Ariana, Heaven Or Hell, For A Million (album version - edited video from Songlines), Middle Of The Riddle, Patricia's Park, Anyway.
Alphaville was beginning to feel the strain of lack of studio support and flagging sales, and the band began to pursue individual interests. In 1992, Marian Gold released his first solo album, So Long Celeste
(And I Wonder
, One Step Behind You
, Sweet Needles Of Success
), and the greatest hits album First Harvest 1984-92
was released, featuring original tracks and single mixes from the first three Alphaville albums.
After a five year break, Alphaville was back with 1994's Prostitute
, the last album they would record at Luna Park Studio. Their most political and musically-diverse album, it received zero promotional support from WEA, which led to the band eventually breaking ties with the label. Prostitute both puzzled and thrilled fans, some of whom were alienated by the continuing departure from the band's synthpop roots, and others who delighted in the musical and lyrical breadth the album achieved. It featured two singles, Fools
and The Impossible Dream
Prostitute: The Paradigm Shift, Fools, Beethoven (not available), Ascension Day (fan video), The Impossible Dream (less-than-ideal sound quality), Parade (fan video), Ain't It Strange (not available), All In The Golden Afternoon (not available), Oh Patti / Ivory Tower, Faith, Iron John (fan video), The One Thing (fan video), Some People, Euphoria, Apollo.
Bonus Track: Fools (1994 Twelve Inch).
In 1995, well over a decade after Forever Young's New Year's Eve concert, Alphaville finally embarked on their first actual tour. Their live band at first only included Marian Gold from the studio line-up, although Bernhard did begin touring with the band shortly. Ricky didn't tour for personal reasons. The three-year long tour took the band all over Europe and parts of Asia and gave them a presence they had never had before, and they were soon performing new material intended for their next album.
Meanwhile, Marian released another solo album, United
(fan video); Feathers And Tar
; Say It Ain't So, Joe
(Murray Head cover); Five Years
(David Bowie Cover), Cosmopolitician
(fan video) ).
By 1997, Ricky Echolette had left the band to pursue private interests, and the remaining duo of Marian and Bernhard released their fifth album, Salvation
in 1997 (1999 in the US). Released on the band's own NAVIGATOR label, the album was a return to Alphaville's synthpop roots, and coupled with their lengthy tour returned the band to popularity in many countries. Three singles were released from Salvation: Wishful Thinking
, Flame (fan video)
, and Soul Messiah
Salvation: Inside Out, Monkey In The Moon, Guardian Angel, Wishful Thinking, Flame (fan video), Point Of Know Return (not a Kansas cover), Control, Dangerous Places, Spirit Of The Age, Soul Messiah, New Horizons, Pandora's Lullaby.
Bonus Tracks: Life Is King, Wishful Thinking (Physical Mix).
In 1999, the band released Dreamscapes
, an 8-CD collection of remixes, demos, b-sides, and unreleased tracks. An unprecedented box set, it pulled together tracks from across Alphaville's history, and contained a whopping 9.5 hours of material. [Ed. note -- much of this material can be found online, but I will not include it here.
] It yielded one single (Elegy
[fan video]) and fleshed out the band's development for fans and kicked off a 17-country tour and was documented in their live album and video, 2000's Stark Naked And Absolutely Live
, recorded mostly in (of all places) Salt Lake City, UT. Soon followed a companion album to Dreamscapes (another 4 CDs in 2003 under the name of CrazyShow
, and a remix album (2001's Forever Pop
). Alphaville continued to tour relentlessly, mostly in Europe, feeding their continuing fan base that has been with them for over twenty years at this point.
Bernhard has left the band and the name Alphaville continues with Marian Gold. The story of Alphaville continues with the October 2010 release of their new album Catching Rays On Giant. The first single has been making the rounds in Germany already. Here, finally, is the current single I Die For You Today
Bonus Reading: Cosmic Meadows - The Alphaville Encyclopedia
(featuring lyrics for songs, all personnel and groups associated with Alphaville, etc), Those Were The Days - 20 Jahre Alphaville
(extensive German .pdf history of the band), Moonbase
(Official Alphaville website -- very flash intensive)