Thursday, 31 October 2013

Big in Japan

I just finished reading The KLF, Chaos, Magic and the Band who burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs.  It adds to the mystery, chaos and magic of Bill Drummond, James Cauty, King Boy D, Rockman Rock, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, the KLF, the K Foundation and all the rest.  I particularly liked the idea that Art = Magic, an alchemy producing gold from base materials.

Big Bill Drummond had been guitarist in a band called Big in Japan in Liverpool in the lates '70s.  One of the first times I saw them play was at a festival in Mathew Street, just down the road from where the Cavern had once been (at that time an NCP car park) and more importantly where Eric's stood. 

We used to sit outside Erics in the daytime waiting for something to happen, misdirecting the very few tourists who passed by looking for the Cavern.  There was a Four Lads Who Shook The World sculpture above Erics but no-one under the age of 25 in Liverpool in 1978/79 gave a toss about the Beatles. 

As Big in Japan finished their set with a rousing version of their classic single Big in Japan (Biiiiiiiiiiiiig, like the rising sun, Biiiiiiiiiiiiiig, yes we're number one, Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Ja Paaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn) the heavens opened and a wild eyed and heavily bearded Sigmund Freud grabbed me by the arm and shouted "the rain, the rain, it's because you're all sinners!"  Any other time and place this would have been an odd thing for Freud to have said but at the crossroads where Mathew Street met Button Street it seemed perfectly normal.  Freud leapt on stage (though he couldn't play) and danced with the Adorable But Jayne, Big Bill and the rest of them as the rain came down.

 Liverpool is the pool of life, replacement Jung bust (the original was nicked)

The occasion, the reason for the festival, was the unveiling of a bust of Carl Gustav Jung who had once dreamed about being in Liverpool, with rain and gloom all around, except for one spot, an oasis, a spring where five roads met.  Peter O'Halligan identified this spot . . . in a dream, he saw a manhole cover in a palce where five roads met . . . next morning he went to Mathew Street and found the drain cover, overflowing.  Incredible, huh!

manhole cover, Mathew Street, sandalled feet of thenewcornpoppy & family 

Bill Drummond wrote about a ley line, a cosmic force, that bounced from outer space, hitting the earth in Iceland, coursing through and under Mathew Street and leaving the earth in Papua New Guinea.  This explains why the Cavern and Erics were such important places.  Incredible, no?

A word about Echo, the Trickster.  Bill Drummond "managed" Echo and the Bunnymen in their early crystal days.  The cover of the first Bunnymen single on Zoo Records had a character that looked a bit like a rabbit . . .  Drummond named it Echo and identified it with the Trickster of mythology.  He didn't tell the band.

When the first album came out Drummond noticed that a tree on the cover appeared to be a rabbit's head.  Echo had reappeared! Surrounded by his bunny men. 
With a hip, hip hop we could watch the bunny men hit the top

Imagine my surprise a couple of decades later when I saw an aerial photograph of this part of the Hamble River, where I spent and spend so many of my days

This is the same spot featured in this postthis post and this one

and finally . . .

Eric's handbill, August 1978, note Dead Trout (I was a sometime member of Dead Trout) supporting The Id (later OMD), Doll by Doll featuring Jackie Leven and Big in Japan's final gig.  Not to mention Rezillos, PuniLux, John Cooper Clarke


  1. What part of the river is that ?? I was trying to find out the date of the Big In Japan gig in Matthew Street (my first gig) and found this blog! I also now spend most of my time round the area as moved from Merseyside to Netley. My first gig at Ericswas also Big In Japan when they supported XTC which was the first matinee they put on

  2. The Hamble River opposite Manor Farm Country Park.

    Funny, I was listening to XTC live at Eric's only the other day. Get in touch e5e45730 . . .