Ryuichi Sakamoto solo before 1984:

compiled by Nicholas D. Kent
email: ndkent "at" optonline.net

Last updated 01.10.15

(*) means I don't own this album
(@) means I've listened to this album but don't own one

a couple odds and ends by Derek Higgins marked by "DH:"
and a few by Yosuke Morimoto ("YM:")
and some clarification by Jonas Wårstad who has his own discography
and some info from David McKenzie

-> to Sakamoto Albums since 1984-1994

-> to Sakamoto Albums since 1994

to the page on Sakamoto Live Albums

to the page on Sakamoto Collaborations and "Best Of" albums.


For some time Ryuichi Sakamoto has been a true international recording artist. Much of his work is based in New York. Since doing synth music in Japan was where he originally made his mark he certainly deserves a major place on these pages. While his music still uses many synthesizers, today, his style certainly can't be classified as just Japanese synth-pop.

Sakamoto often creates versions of his albums for Japan and "International" versions. While sometimes this entails songs sung in English, unfortunately they usually have fewer tracks all together. These versions and the differences are noted in the notes.

Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto (Sen no Naifu)

1978.10.25 Nippon Columbia/Denon DC-8571, lp:XY-7586, cd: C387137, Denon cd:35C38-7137, Plexus (Holland) lp: VR 22208

Sakamoto's first solo (aside from a rare jazz release). Takahashi plays drums and Hosono cameos, Matsutake sequences. Clearly influenced by German synth music of the past decade. A little primative but still quite interesting. If you like RS's synth work, you'd want to get this one and then skip to B2 Unit

Ivar de Vries writes:

1000 Knives is the first Ryuichi Sakamoto album to appear under his own name. It was released one month prior to the first YMO album, YMO being the band to which he would devote most of his time for the next 5 or 6 years. Kylyn was another band to receive some of his attention around this period, and a few of its members like Kazumi Watanabe participate here.
Although it gets better after repeated listening, it is clearly a starter's album by someone learning his craft, especially production, which tends to sound a bit flat. There's plenty of invention here and there but alas, also some laborious counter-point and the album lacks overall coherence, in contrast to most Sakamoto projects to come. However, he does show us his piano-playing skills in Grasshoppers
, which are quite good Sakamoto is one of the few in the electronic music field who can really play the piano. On this piece he's joined by Yuji Takahashi, who'd much later turn it into a 2-handed arrangement for Chitose Okashiro's album.
Island Of Woods
is a distinctly non-techno-pop sort of experimental piece, and sounds like maybe a leftover project from his student days.
Sakamoto's wacky sense of humour manifests itself in the track-titles why Japan would need a new national anthem is beyond me, especially as the End of Asia seems to be near. This last track would reappear some years later, in much twisted form, on that strangest of YMO albums: X00 Multiplies.

nick adds: I see some kind connection between Kraftwerk saying they were creating folksongs for modern times, Maybe Sakamoto is also kind of making light of Japan's "new folk"? movement in the earlier 70s and him doing a music in a German experimental style.

Axel Poque from Germany adds:

I think I can clarify a little issue with the track "Das neue Japanische Elektronische Volkslied". There seems to be a mix up between "Nationalhymne" - national anthem and "Volkslied" - folksong in the
sense of national (local) music. If you translate the title as "The new Japanese Electronic Folk Song / National Music", the connection to Kraftwerk becomes obvious.


Ryuichi Sakamoto and Kazumi Watanabe

Tokyo Joe

1978 Nippon Columbia/Denon DC-8586, 33C38-7580

Akiko Yano has a big presence on this album (sings, plays, composes) considering she does not get title billing. Early fusion stuff that I don't care for. The CD - * contains 2 tracks (15 minutes) from Thousand Knives that Watanabe played on. Kylyn was Watanabe's band. Sakamoto wrote songs and played guest synths for them. ** probably are from the album Kylyn. This is essentially a compilation - Tokyo Joe, seems to be unique. Though at least in the U.S. this wasimported at regulkar CD prices while the Kylyn albums were seldom seen


Summer Nerves

1979.6.21 CBS Sony lp:25AH 507, cd: CSCL 1307

A silly album includes a sort of tropical disco music. Akiko Yano writes 2 numbers including Sleep On My Baby later played on Media Bahn Live. Will probably dissapoint synth fans. (Although fans of tropical style music may like it)

War Head/ Lexington Queen

1980 .7.21 7": Alfa ALR-901, Island Records 12" 12WIP 6723 (UK) 7": Island WIP 6723 (UK)

Lexington Queen is a Tokyo nightclub. The Island 12" mentions the mix as "Long Version", thus the 7" is probably an edit. RS is spelled "Riuichi". Early slightly crude attempt at technopop. Plenty of vocoder. War Head is on Super Best of YMO Personal Works. Lexington Queen is currently unavailable on CD

DH: Alfa ALR-901 This is a limited edition purple vinyl version. It comes in a sleeve that folds out into a full size poster of Sakamoto wearing a snakeskin jacket.

B-2 Unit

1980.9.21 Alfa, lp: ARL-28003, SPV, Island Records ILPS 9656, Plexus (NL) KCD 7090684 , cd: Spalax (FR) CD14500

Hard edged electronics. Some of the percussion is a bit heavy handed. Riot In Lagos is one of my favorite RS tracks. I think Thatness and Thereness is the best song RS sings himself of all his self sung songs. Andy Partridge guests. Cover somewhat inspired by Soviet avant-garde artist El Lissitzky

The only 1990s overseas CD reissue was in France in 1996. I haven't seen these recently, might be out of print. Certainly still available in Japan, long out of print elsewhere.

Riot In Lagos / Iconic Storage

(*)1980 12": Island IPR 2048 (UK pre-release) , (UK), 12": Island 12 IS 139 (UK)

I remember seeing this single added as a bonus disk in the Dutch lp pressing, so I believe it to be an edit mix. I don't think it came out in Japan.

Riot in Lagos (5:40) / Thatness and Thereness (3:27)

(*) 1981 12 '' Rocktopus (Ger?) 600679

Riot In Lagos/Warhead

(*) Island IS-39. 1980/ UK 7"

DH: Has a nice red cover with a picture of Sakamoto in front of a mural of jumping tigers.

Riot In Lagos/Lexington Queen/Warhead

(*) Island 12-IS-139. 1980/ UK 12" (Same cover as 7")

Front Line/ Happy End

(@)1981.4.21 single Alfa ARL-730, Victor ALR-730 (UK)

Currently available on Super Best of YMO Personal Works. Front Line is a song. Happy End was re-recorded by YMO on BGM.

Left Handed Dream (Hidari ude no Yume)

1981.10.5 Alfa lp: ARL280025, cd: 32XA-148, Midi Gold CD, MDCZ-1092, lp: Epic (UK) EPC 25109, Plexus (NL) KCD 709226

Partially co-produced with Robin (M, Pop Music) Scott, an experience Sakamoto did not enjoy. To have this project complete you would want to get the Japanese edition and The Arrangement maxi. The U.K and U.S.version and UK version has 3 of the tracks from The Arrangement swapped for Japanese album tracks. The 3 pieces in question are the same melodies with different lyrics and Robin Scott vocals. The Holland pressing includes the Japanese album plus The Arrangement on a second 12" in the same package. Lots of Asian instruments on this album. One of Sakamoto's best. YT, HH and Adrian Belew are guests.

The Arrangement

1981 with Robin Scott. Alfa (ALCA-14)

The 4 track EP includes the three tracks mentioned above plus the title track. Nice production and memorable tunes. To complicate things The Arrangement Maxi CD now seems to be out of print. The 4 songs of the original EP are now coupled with the Field Work CD. The two additional singles are currently unavailable on CD. This coupling is out of print as the rights to Left Handed Dream were transfered to MIDI Records. Lexington Queen a rather superficial track, makes its only CD appearance here.

The CD contents: (* is from the original EP)

Once in a Lifetime/Kachakuchane

(*)1982 7" single: Epic EPCA 2837


see here for a later compilation including the entire The Arrangement mini album

Fotomusik (theme for Sound Street Tuesday,this is the B side of-- ) / Computer Obahchan

(@) 1981.12.1? (*) Toshiba EMI single: ETP-17271?

I've never seen this TV soundtrack single. Out of print. It's said to show up on Toshiba compilations also. Computer Obahchan (Computer Grandma) seems to be a Yuko Sakaitsukasa sung song

both can be found on the 1999 compilation Digita Love (P-Vine PCD-1487 [PCDZ-1678])

Kiyoshiro Imawano and Ryuichi Sakamoto

I-Ke-Na-I-Rouge Magic / Aka-Ru-I-Yo

1982 London 7" SO 7N 1001 cd-s PODH-1122

Sakamoto looks particularly glam on the cover.

DH: The single credited to Kiyosiro Imawano and Sakamoto is synth pop in an Erasure-cum-sixties vein. The a-side is forgettable but the b-side is much more Sakamoto style, similar to the sound on the Front Line single. Imawano is the fellow on HIS by Hosono.

- I agree - NK

The CD single includes instrumental versions of both pieces also. Kiyoshiro Imawano's hard rockin voice on the A side is unpleasant plus plenty of wailing guitars. The B side is clearly recognizable as Sakamoto. The vocals are bearable also.

both songs are on the 1999 compilation Heartbreak Taiyo-Zoku (P-Vine PCD-1488)

Danceries with Ryuichi Sakamoto

The End Of Asia

1982 Denon 38C38-7045, cd: C38 7045, lp: YF-7045

Sakamoto produced. Danceries are an acoustic ensemble which plays the music of Mideval Europe. They and Sakamoto adapt several of his pieces to this style. The rest of the album is Danceries alone. They both stress the similarities between early European and traditional Asian music. To be warned, only 4 tracks feature Sakamoto. The acoustic version of the title track is quite clever. On the other hand if you like early European music, you'll probably like this album.

David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto

Bamboo Music / Bamboo Houses

1982 Victor single: VIPX-1660,

I have this on the Forbidden Colors CD3. It sounds more in style like Sylvian's ex-band Japan than Sakamoto which is interesting since Japan was greatly influenced by YMO.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (soundtrack also known as "Furyo")

1983 London lp: L28N1008, Virgin (Ger) lp: 205 494-320, Virgin, Midi?, cass:Virgin TCV 2276, OVEDC 237 (UK), LP:VirginV 2276, OVED 237 (UK), CD:Virgin(UK) CDV 2276), Milan (US) 73138 35691-2, Midi 32MD-1036

This soundtrack made Sakamoto famous internationally as a solo artist. Won the British Academy Award. The title track is RS's most famous piece. Currently available on Milan (BMG). Milan seems to license the title music out on many compilations.

Ivar de Vries writes:
This is probably the best-known album by Ryuichi Sakamoto (alongside The Last Emperor) and rightly so, because the sound-design is excellent, a natural, coarse-grained sound. And although most tracks are on the short side, their overall combination gives the impression of one large balanced flow with a well thought-out ordering of slow/fast and conflict/resolution. Even the very Victorian 23rd Psalm fits in, which must be some achievement.
Of the main theme three versions are presented on this album alone, and a few more would follow on later (live) albums. The vocal version,
Forbidden Colours, is sung by David Sylvian and was also released as a single. Happily enough, this isnt the obligatory pop-song tacked on to original soundtrack albums nowadays.
In the actual movie the music doesnt play such a big role, but Sakamoto himself did, playing opposite prisoner David Bowie as a WW-II camp commander. Obviously, the acting didnt distract from the music making - the other way around, I wouldnt know.
For many, this album has proved to be good introduction to Ryuichi Sakamotos music, especially as its one of his more electronic albums. However, people will look in vain for another, similar sounding album in his oeuvre, as he never quite tried to repeat this early success.

Ryuichi Sakamoto & David Sylvian

Forbidden Colours

7": 1983 Victor VIPX-1697, Virgin VS 601 (UK), 12": 1983 VirginVS 601-12 (UK), CD3": 1988 Virgin CDT 18 (UK)

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence / The Seed and the Sower

(*)1983 7":VirginVS 627 (UK)


1983 London lp: L25N1016 cd: H30P20054, also as Gold CD, cd: Midi 32MD-1037, MDCZ-1124

Piano version of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. Came out first as a limited edition cassette with booklet called Avec Piano. The CD takes the contents of Avec Piano and adds the last two piano and synth tracks.

Two piano tracks later appeared on the compilation Piano One in 1985 (Private Music [USA] 1401)

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence / Japan

(*)1983 single: S07N 1017


(@)1983 -12 inch - YOU-01 (Nihonseimei Presents)

This is a promotion disk from Nihonseimei, and was not for sale.

Thanks to Kenji Mori for the track list. These may be from the Ongakuzukan sessions.This mini album was a holiday gift item from the life insurance company.

-> to Sakamoto Albums since 1984-1994

-> to Sakamoto Albums since 1994

-> to my page on Sakamoto Live Albums

-> to my page on Sakamoto Collaborations and "Best Of" albums.

There is a solid YMO mailing list on Yahoo (Unofficial and English language)

Thanks to: Kai Seidler, Yosuke Morimoto, Ross Clement, Yue Yaguchi, Wolfgang Wiggers, Kenji Mori, Otaku Bowler, David McKenzie for info.


see nick kent's YMO page for more links about Ryuichi Sakamoto



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